South Africa lags in clean technology innovation



Posted on 27 June 2014
The Global Cleantech Report found South Africa lacks general innovation and early-stage entrepreneurial activity.
© Richard McLellan / WWF
South Africa has scored well below average in the second edition of the Global Cleantech Innovation Index which looks at the ability of countries to create the right environment for entrepreneurial start-ups developing clean technology.

Cleantech Group and the World Wide Fund for Nature released the results of the latest survey this week. The index looks at why entrepreneurial companies, developing sustainable innovations, seem to spring up in certain geographies, and which economic, social and environmental conditions cultivate hotbeds for such innovation.

This year, South Africa ranked 29 out of 40 countries, scoring below average on all factors. The report found that South Africa lacks general innovation and early-stage entrepreneurial activity, resulting in a weak general innovation driver score.

It scored Israel, Finland and the United States as providing the best conditions for clean technology start-up creation.

The index identifies three country archetypes in the cleantech innovation landscape: the Start-Up Generators, the Strong Commercialisers and the Laggards:
  • All the top 10 countries in the index (Israel, Finland, USA, Sweden, Denmark, UK, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, and Ireland) are good at early stage cleantech development but share a common challenge in increasing commercialisation rates. They share the country archetype of being good cleantech Start-Up Generators.
  • While countries like China and Brazil currently fall outside of the top bracket of start-up generators they are Strong Commercialisers of cleantech in terms of investing in scaling business, job creation and attracting investments for deployment on large domestic markets.
  • The Laggards in the index, such as Saudi Arabia and Russia, are behind the competition but showing increasing support structures for sustainable innovation being built up in terms of ambitious renewable energy targets being set and cleantech being prioritised in key national innovation incubators respectively.
However, owing to supportive government policies, South Africa does slightly better in Cleantech specific drivers but lacks a public research and development budget and access to private finance. While China and Brazil currently fall outside of the top bracket of start-up generators they have a strong ability to commercialise cleantech , and even the laggards, such as Russia and Saudi Arabia have shown a significant move towards clean technology over the last few years.

The index demonstrates that countries get ahead if they:
  • Are able to adapt to the growing demand for renewable energy (at home and abroad);
  • Are connecting start-ups with multiple channels (e.g. multinational corporates, public procurement) to increase their success rates; and
  • Are increasing international engagement to spur widespread adoption of clean technologies. 
The Global Cleantech Report found South Africa lacks general innovation and early-stage entrepreneurial activity.
© Richard McLellan / WWF Enlarge