The Eco-Innovation Challenge

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The Eco-Innovation Challenge

Material efficiency

seems to be an area

in which the NICs are

especially building up

their knowledge base.

Emerging economies

are actively addressing

the business

opportunities of

resource efficiency

and will soon become

strong competitors on

these markets.

Dynamic developments

in eco-innovation are

happening in many

economic sectors

of emerging and

developing countries.

58

Emerging economies are increasingly aware of those opportunities. The TEEB (2010)

reveals that business in Latin America, Africa and the Asia Pacific region is more concerned

about biodiversity losses as a threat to their business growth potentials than their European

and Northern American competitors. Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia, India and

Chile now offer general capabilities for sustainability innovation that can be compared with

OECD countries (Peuckert 2010). In most Newly Industrializing Countries (NICs), the world

trade shares for sustainability technologies are considerably higher than the patent shares.

According to Walz (2010a + b) this indicates that these countries are quite active in exporting

sustainability relevant technologies, though based on a domestic knowledge base that is still

below average. In more detail, Brazil, Malaysia, Mexico and South Africa focus on patenting,

while China, South Korea and Argentina specialize on exporting eco-innovative technologies.

Within these technology fields, material efficiency seems to be an area in which the NICs

are especially building up their knowledge base. Almost all NICs show positive patent

specialization here. Different rationales may explain such patterns: For Brazil, Malaysia

and Argentina, the natural resource factor endowments and the related export potential

encourage further build up in the knowledge base of associated technologies along the value

chain. However, other technological areas are also contributing to the knowledge build up,

e.g. recycling in Brazil and South Africa. Singapore and South Korea, on the other hand, are

already highly successful in various manufacturing fields, but put a below average emphasis

on material efficiency. India and China both still show a negative trade specialization. The

positive patent specialization is more likely to be explained by the efforts made to build up

domestic knowledge competences, in order to augment the strategies of securing access

to raw materials from abroad with additional options to reduce the demand for these raw

materials. Interesting to note, a global sustainability indicator developed at the University

of Wuppertal (Welfens et al. 2010; composed of genuine savings rates — covering also

depreciations on natural capital —, the international competitiveness of the respective

country in the field of environmental (“green”) goods and the share of renewable energy

generation) also delivers the strong ‘green’ position of some emerging economies.

Despite these differences it seems that emerging economies are actively addressing the

business opportunities of resource efficiency and will soon become strong competitors

on these markets. Perhaps this competition will act as ‘process of discoveries’ to leapfrog

strategies for resource efficiency towards a green economy.

5.3 | Eco-innovation in practice: focus

on developing and emerging economies

With the growing awareness of environmental problems, emerging and developing

economies have an enormous potential for developing markets for eco-innovations and clean

technologies. Following the economic crisis, many countries in Asia, in particular China and

the Republic of Korea, pioneered an economic and employment recovery plan based in part

on significant investments in a ‘green economy’ (see for example Barbier 2010).

Although no systematic assessment of eco-innovations in developing and emerging

economies has been carried out so far, this should not blind us to the high innovation activities

in those countries. Evidence suggests that dynamic developments in eco-innovation are

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