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Innovating For A Low-carbon Age
Green Futures, 19 Mar 09
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By Peter Madden

As five climate change innovations vie for a $75,000 prize, Peter Madden asks you to vote for which will make the biggest contribution to saving the planet.

Today Forum for the Future announces the finalists in their global competition for innovation to tackle climate change. It's an exciting mix and they're asking you to help them choose the winner.

Five projects have been shortlisted out of nearly 300 entries from around the world, and now they’re asking the public to vote for the scheme that could have the biggest impact. The winner will receive a $75,000 prize – sponsored by technology giant HP – to help develop their product or service and bring it to market.

  • Kyoto Box – a cheap, solar-powered cardboard stove for use in rural Africa which can be flatpacked and distributed by lorry in its thousands. It will halve firewood use and carbon credits will earn families money from the first month. (Kyoto Energy Ltd, Kenya)
  • Carbonscape – a giant industrial microwave which ‘fixes’ the carbon sucked out of the atmosphere by trees by turning wood into charcoal. This can be buried, used as fertiliser or burnt as a highly-efficient fuel. (Carbonscape, New Zealand/UK)
  • Deflecktor – an inexpensive, lightweight aerodynamic cover for lorry wheels which reduces drag. It can cut fuel consumption by 2% on an eight-wheel lorry and trailer. (ADEF Ltd, USA)
  • Mootral – a feed additive, derived from garlic which cuts the methane produced by cows, sheep and other ruminants by at least 5%, and up to 25% with optimum dosage. Methane from ruminants is estimated to be responsible for 20% of global warming. (Neem Biotech, UK)

  • Evaporating Tiles – an indoor cooling system which works by using exhaust air to evaporate water within hollow tiles built into a false ceiling. It halves the energy use of air-conditioning systems and can be used as a standalone. (Loughborough University, UK) 

Click here for more details and to vote. 

This competition shows that there are solutions to climate change and that money can be made from them. The call was for new ideas which had moved off the drawing board and demonstrated their feasibility but which hadn’t yet received substantial funding. Crucially, they had to cut carbon and be scalable.

There were a few James Bond-style giant mirrors in space, but mostly they were smart and easily implementable ideas for transport, heating and lighting, ranging from technological fixes to reduce energy consumption, to interaction to deliver behaviour change, and new business models. Amongst them there were at least 50 ideas investors would like to get their teeth into.

The twelve sharpest prospects were then presented to our eminent panel of judges, including Dr Rajendra Pachauri, the Nobel prize-winning chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, and HP chief executive Mark Hurd. They then selected a shortlist of five with the greatest potential to contribute to tackling climate change.

All our finalists, along with the long-listed projects which nearly made it, will now be publicised in the pages of the Financial Times or its website. This will give exposure to a worldwide business audience that could be at least as valuable as the prize money.

We hope that this initiative will help overcome some of the barriers that can prevent great ideas delivering their full potential – lack of funding and visibility to potential investors – and, by showing what can be done, encourage yet more in the way of creative responses.

At Forum for the Future we’re constantly looking for practical solutions to help us live more sustainably. We’re a not-for-profit and we advise governments and some of the world’s top businesses on how to be sustainable. Through our futures and scenarios work, we open up the potential opportunities and then help organisations – ranging from local governments and health services to Unilever and Akzo Nobel – to innovate and develop low-carbon products and services.

We know that we need to harness new forms of energy. For millennia, humankind has derived warmth, light and then mobility from burning things. And for the last 100 years, hydrocarbons – often used very inefficiently – have been the fundamental basis of our economic wellbeing. If we don’t want to do irreparable damage to our planet, this has to change.

We have to decarbonise our economy by 80-90%. It is time to enter a new age of clean energy derived from renewable sources, where we use a fraction of the power to provide for our needs. For example, the sun provides enough radiative energy in a single hour to power the whole world for a year. And the other solar-derived energy resources – such as wind, wave, hydro and biomass – have enormous potential.

That’s why we hope this competition will raise the profile of innovation. We need innovators to come up with the ideas which will create the low-carbon economy and we need investors, businesses and governments to help take their ideas to scale, quickly. The faster we can make the transition to a low-carbon future, the better for humankind.

So, where would you invest your cash for a good return and to save the planet? Have a look at the five finalists in our competition and cast your vote.

Green Futures is published by Forum for the Future and is one of the leading magazines on environmental solutions and sustainable futures. Its aim is to demonstrate that a sustainable future is both practical and desirable – and can be profitable, too.

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I'm really worried about the solar stove project. Very very often, solar stove projects fail simply because people in developing countries don't like using them -- solar stoves don't cook the food the way they like it. You can't fry things, it takes a long time, they like the way smoke from wood makes the food taste, etc. There are some solar stove projects that work -- in places like Tibet where fuel is so scarce people don't have many options.

I really hope the inventor did his homework first and actually took the stoves to people who are going to be using it and got feedback from them. I can't find his contact info anywhere on the site or on Google...

Posted by: Laura Stupin on 20 Mar 09

How about planting more trees? Wouldn't that do the job?

Posted by: Claude Gelinas on 24 Mar 09

mm... good one ))

Posted by: Mokneosse on 22 Apr 09

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