Exporting eco-innovation

Exporting eco-innovation

The “green technologies accelerator” known as GreenEvo is designed to select Poland's best environmental technology companies and support them as they expand into foreign markets. The programme enables the international transfer of technologies that address pressing environmental issues.

A Polish programme to promote the country's environmental technologies abroad will enter its fourth year in 2013, with a portfolio of 40 companies offering environmental solutions in the areas of air quality, biodiversity protection, energy efficiency, renewable energy, waste management, and water and wastewater management.

The companies participate in a “green technologies accelerator” known as GreenEvo. It is designed to select Poland's best environmental technology companies and support them as they expand into foreign markets, thus helping realise the international transfer of technologies that address pressing environmental issues.

GreenEvo was set up after Poland hosted the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change summit in Poznan in December 2008. The programme was designed to implement a strategy for technology transfer that was agreed at that conference.

To join GreenEvo, companies must pass through a competition and be selected by a jury chaired by the environment minister. The selection procedure is rigorous. In 2011, for example, 36 applications for GreenEvo status were made, with 21 technologies, proposed by 19 companies, selected in a first round. However, after training courses and further “deliberations and analysis of documentation,” according to the Polish Environment Ministry, these were whittled down to 17 technologies offered by 17 companies.

The reward for the companies was the GreenEvo label, and a range of government support services. GreenEvo winners are given:

  • The right to use the GreenEvo brand: this acts as an independent badge of quality for environmental technologies, adding credibility to export sales pitches.
  • Advice on marketing: GreenEvo laureates receive expert input on how to move beyond the technical details and promote the benefits of their innovation.
  • Participation in export missions: GreenEvo companies can receive some funding for sales trips abroad, and can join Polish trade missions. Recent missions have encompassed Russia and Chile.
  • Specialist training: for example in drawing up business plans for foreign expansion.
  • Expert advice on operating in foreign markets, and dealing with administrative barriers and local laws. Companies are also helped to find partners and can benefit from Polish overseas investment and development aid.
  • Support from the Patent Office of the Republic of Poland over protection of intellectual property.

Small but effective

Marcin Korolec, Poland's Minister of the Environment, acknowledges that GreenEvo is small alongside similar programmes in Western European countries, but says it has nevertheless been successful in promoting Polish eco-innovation abroad. In a speech in London on 15 November, he said: “I know it is not the scope and scale some countries are doing things,” but GreenEvo demonstrated that “we also realise in Poland that technology development and deployment will be the key to a sustainable future”.

In addition, Poland's green innovators may have an advantage over their Western European or North American counterparts. In the introduction to a review of GreenEvo, published in September 2012, Korolec wrote that because of “relatively low labour costs in our country, advanced technologies from Poland are more competitively priced than similar solutions from foreign suppliers. GreenEvo participants know how to use this to their advantage”.

The Polish government is pleased with what GreenEvo has achieved so far. Beata Jaczewska, the Under-Secretary of State in Poland's Ministry of the Environment, says that, in the last year alone, GreenEvo participants have increased their overall revenues by an average of 30%, and their export revenues by nearly 60%. Nearly a fifth of companies – 18% – have opened new facilities, and 57% have invested in research and development to improve their green technologies. “Over half of the companies have increased employment,” Jaczewska says. “I expect that the final results will be even better. We are still waiting for the results of the third [2012] edition of GreenEvo”.

The government is committed to the programme, and will select new GreenEvo winners in 2013. An expansion of the support that the programme offers is also under consideration, though this has yet to be defined. “I see this programme as a great success and as a sign of the potential of green technologies,” Jaczewska says. In addition, GreenEvo delivers its benefits at relatively little cost to the Ministry of Finance. “From a government perspective, it is great value for money. I am a great fan of this programme,” Jaczewska adds.

GreenEvo laureates

With the help of GreenEvo, Polish companies are having an influence far beyond Poland's borders. Jaczewska says that “we are trying to find those markets where there is a potential in the field of green technology, but it is not just about selling Polish technology. There should be long-term benefits for all sides”. She identifies countries as diverse as Algeria, Armenia, Chile, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine and Vietnam, among others, as potential markets.

One of the programme's stars is Biogradex, which offers a process that adds an extra step to wastewater treatment, resulting in the more efficient separation of sediment and sludge from wastewater. Because the process is relatively rapid, sludge can be more quickly removed from wastewater, meaning that treatment plants require 25-35% less area than standard treatment plants. The process also reduces energy consumption by a fifth, according to the company.

The Biogradex technology is in use in Beijing, China, and in Tartu, Estonia. An agreement has been signed for its implementation at one of the largest wastewater treatment plants in Stockholm, Sweden. An implementation in Greece is also underway.

Another GreenEvo laureate, PROTE, based in Poznan, offers a technology that can be used to remediate lakes and reservoirs affected by excessive build-up of algae, which causes eutrophication, or oxygen starvation. PROTE's technology stirs up sediments in water bodies and uses a chemical-based process to bind and remove the phosphorus that increases algal growth.

The method combats eutrophication, improves water clarity and returns ecosystems to a more natural balanced state. The technology has been tested in the field in a project supported by the EU LIFE+ programme. In two test lakes, phosphorus content was reduced by more than 90%, and increases in the prevalence of aquatic plants and fish were seen.

In Poland, a significant market opportunity awaits for such technology. According to PROTE, a survey of about 1250 Polish lakes and reservoirs showed that 30% were degraded and in need of remediation, while a further 30% were at risk of degradation. Beyond Poland's borders, the company will also surely find many opportunities.

The Polish strategy of picking the winners through the GreenEvo programme has led to the identification of many other potentially winning technologies. The September 2012 GreenEvo review notes that investment in environmental protection and green technology was a part of its economic transition after communism, and many lessons were learned. Poland is now sharing these with the rest of the world.

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