In early October, I had the honor of sitting down with Anna-Karin Hatt, Sweden’s Minister for Information Technology and Energy, to game out a plan to advance cross-border business and innovation, especially pertaining to renewables and bioenergy. Minister Hatt visited California this past summer to explore ways to achieve sustainability through the use of new energy technologies, with a view to what could be transferable to Swedish conditions. She obviously enjoyed her trip, and commented that she especially admires the American competitive spirit that results in the development of the innovative technologies she viewed in California.
I think she identified a key component of American success. Both Europe and the U.S. have excellent research facilities, scientists and engineers. Where American does have an edge, I believe, is in its entrepreneurial spirit, the sense of drive and competition that underlies the best of American enterprise. This has resulted in the commercialization and refinement of some of the core technologies of the past one hundred years. From manufacturing to transport to information technology, the harnessing of the competitive drive has resulted in some major technological developments.
One such way to do this is through the X Prize Foundation, which is a non-profit organization based in California that designs and manages public competitions intended to encourage technological development that benefits mankind. Xprizes have focused on everything from suborbital space flight to oil spill cleanup and attract investment from outside the sector to take new approaches to difficult problems. They award technological advancement, such as Sweden’s own Nobel Prize Committee, and in the process stimulate innovation and research in a number of fields.
The Swedish government is also looking at new approaches to use competition to stimulate innovation. This summer, the Swedish government initiated a special assignment for the Innovation Agency (Vinnova) to set up a competition for contracting authorities to drive demand for new approaches of environmental-friendly technologies and services. The competition starts in the fall of 2013 and the first winner may be identified in the summer of 2014. The completion is complementary to the assignment which has been given to the Innovation Agency and the Swedish Energy Agency to enhance competence for innovative procurement in Sweden. Both assignments have been brought forward as part of the Government strategy for cleantech.
Sweden and the United States are also actively participating in the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) initiative on super-efficient equipment and appliances deployment initiative and has in particular contributed to the SEAD (Super Efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment) awards. The SEAD awards are one way in which member states of CEM can cooperate to support the development of environmental-friendly technology by awarding the most efficient products in the world.
Sweden’s commitment to advancing innovation in clean energy technologies is second to none. By working together, the U.S. and Sweden can have an incredible multiplying effect, applying best practices and technology to increase investment in innovation and sustainability.