The India Sweden Innovation partnership is based on the mutual commitment to drive prosperity and address global challenges such as climate change and sustainable development through innovation. Financial Express Online exclusively spoke to Robin Sukhia President, Sweden-India Business Council SIBC around India Sweden Innovation Day themed ‘Accelerating Green Transition-India Sweden Innovation Partnership’. He talked about green transition, sustainable development goals, transportation, energy transition and Bilateral Collaboration between India & Sweden. Excerpts from the interview:
Tell us something about Sweden Indian Innovation Day.
This is one of the most inspiring days of the year, where the Swedish and Indian ecosystem in innovation meets to discuss, network, and create the very foundation to collaborations, and also report on progress of existing collaborations. We ensure to involve large companies, startups, government, universities, incubators, and others. The day has become a symbol for the many engagements Sweden and India has in Innovation. The Sweden India Joint Declaration for Innovation on a Sustainable Future lies as foundation guideline involving Ministers and Government agency funding among other things.
How can India and Sweden set the benchmark for sustainable industrial development on the global platform?
The Leadership Group for Industry Transition (LeadIT) gathers countries and companies that are committed to action to achieve the Paris Agreement. It was launched by the governments of Sweden and India at the UN Climate Action Summit in September 2019 and is supported by the World Economic Forum. Sweden and India were asked to take lead on this initiative by the UN Secretary General and it’s going really well, the very idea is that the results of the work will be shared with the world.
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What are the existing challenges and bottlenecks in India in moving towards green transition and sustainable development?
Actually India has strong environemntal laws already. Enforcement is a challenge, but one that can be overcome with resources and incentivization’s. We see a strong will by both the government and Industry to move forward in this area so that is very positive.
The fourth industrial revolution (industry 4.0) will lay a strong emphasis on environmental sustainability and green production. What are your views on that? What measures do we need to adopt for its success?
Large international Indian companies like Tatas, L&T and Bharat Forge, are doing a great job here already, and leading the way in many ways. As Sweden is on the forefront of environmental technologies, processes, and tenders, joint collaborations can play a huge role here, especially in mining, ‘green steel’ and in transport. Swedish companies in India, such as Epiroc and Volvo Group (trucks and construction equipment), are truly pushing sustainable production and operations of their products. Collaborations such as Volvo Eicher shows joint collaborations for sustainable future works. Digitalization in industry will have a large impact in sustainable businesses, from using less energy to various measurable efficiency aspects. Companies are already looking at the best sustainable energy sources for their needs, and solar is in the center of it, which India has plenty of and a great government push for.
The issue moving forward are to incentivize the larger base of mid and small cap companies to move in this direction as well. The will of the people is there, but perhaps not the incentives on a broader scale yet. We do see movement in tender processes, but to have a larger impact, all government tenders, large industrial projects, new and old manufacturing plants should ideally have new rules containing sustainability requirements.
How can a green economy strategy ensure job creation and rapid innovation in both the countries?
I must give the Prime Minister Narendra Modi a round of applause here. His personal interest and push for renewable energy, keeping in mind coal and economic growth, is really encouraging. Asking India to be fully renewable in the short run is not realistic, but if the commitment with the Paris Agreement is there, we will see progress in all environmental areas. This push means that funding will be available, and one can already see lots of innovation from agriculture to other small industries, which will generate new jobs. Perhaps not on the scale the government wants, but the cleaner and more sustainable the country becomes, the more tourists will come, and here, is where the largest job creation possibilities lie in my view. Pre-Covid India had about 10 million foreign tourists, while Dubai had 16,73 million. It’s an untapped gold mine for India thanks to environmental measures being worked on now.
How do you see the emergence of revolutionary technologies like Artificial Intelligence in enhancing production efficiency and promoting green transition?
Super interesting. I would add 5G here as well and how faster and more stable mobile broadband will improve efficiency and broadened the scope of things to be measured, among them energy efficiency. Today you have companies like Ericsson working heavily with industry to support such solutions, but also construction companies such as Atlas Copco with compressors being monitored remotely and using 30-40 % less energy, and Indian startups like Utvyakta working on IoT (Internet of Things) solutions for remote monitoring of energy efficiency functionality. The data collected in any of these solutions is collected and using data analytics, AI solutions are a possibility and of interest to all. These companies and technologies therefore work in a natural symbiosis for a better environment.
What can Indian firms learn from their Swedish counterparts in terms of efficiency, sustainability and productivity?
There are two interesting parts here. Firstly, there are Indian startups in Sweden with entrepreneurs having worked with large Indian engineering or IT giants in Sweden with Swedish clients, where they have both added and gained significant experience. Realizing and acting on new business ideas, they leave and create a company, like Data Analytics startup Cuelebre, and its founder, who then created plenty of jobs through a subsidiary in India, with a clear knowledge transfer model in both directions. Secondly, the Swedish approach is more overarching and integrated in not only code of conduct, but throughout the business offering itself, from supplier, transport and manufacturing to final product and its distribution. In our dealings with Indian companies, sustainability is only seen as a CSR issue, important, but not overarching.
How do you see the government and industry collaboration shaping up between India and Sweden in the coming years?
The foundation is set so that it can only grow. Governments support with funding for co-creation of innovative products and solutions is a strong way to make things happen. The Swedish Innovation Agency – Vinnova and the Department of Science and Technology has several successful funding calls, and the latest and largest is in Circular Economy. This model for co-creation proves the success of the innovation program and the interest from companies to collaborate. We also see Government, Academia and Corporate collaboration in Traffics Safety consisting of 15 organizations working together on various innovative solutions for road safety, also partly funded by the organizations above and industry. This so-called triple Helix approach is also a factor for success. I only see this relationship growing year by year and wider and deeper because it’s based on respect and common needs.