Export of environmental technology requires collaboration

Export promotion by the Swedish government is useful, but action that truly promotes collaboration and networking, both within Sweden and in the export markets, is required if the export of environmental technology is to take off. This is the conclusion of Wisdom Kanda’s doctoral thesis.

Tekniska verken, Linköping

Sweden is a leader in the use and development of environmental technology, and this technology is urgently required in other parts of the world where the environmental challenges are significantly more serious than they are in Sweden. Swedish export of environmental technology, however, remains at a stubbornly low level. In his doctoral thesis, Wisdom Kanda of the Department of Management and Engineering at LiU examines why this is the case, and points to possible paths forward.

Networking essential

He has studied several types of company: both small and large, and both private and publicly owned. His results show that export becomes possible when collaboration and networking are well-established, not only in the originating country but also in the country or market to which sales are targeted. And it is beneficial if both private and publicly owned companies are involved, in order to gain stronger legitimacy in the new market and to combine the strengths of these company types. Publicly owned companies have extensive experience of using environmental technology, while private companies may be more competitive and more flexible.

Wisdom Kanda, Division of Environmental Technology and ManagementWisdom Kanda, Division of Environmental Technology and Management Photo credit: Monica Westman“The new market must be prepared to accept both the company selling the new technology and the new technology itself. It is important here to be able to demonstrate proof-of-concept, and to provide examples of facilities that function in a similar context.”

A functioning waste-treatment plant in Linköping with its 150,000 inhabitants is not very impressive if you are claiming to be able to deal with the waste in one of the world’s megacities with more than 15 million inhabitants, for example.

New market

It’s also important to find partners active in the market you are aiming to penetrate.

“You can’t, for example, sell a system for waste management to a country or on a market without collaborating with those who are currently managing the waste. This is true even if the waste is simply placed into enormous landfill sites,” states Wisdom Kanda.

What distinguishes the export of environmental technology from that of other technology is that the field in itself is subject to large amounts of legislation and ordinances, and these differ from one country to another. Obtaining information about the new market is a fundamental requirement for successful export. A further factor is that the installation of new environmental technology provides benefits to society, and has major economic and societal consequences. This, in turn, means that it may be necessary to involve the leaders of cities or countries in the process.

“Collaboration between private companies and the municipal or national authorities is in this case extremely important, not only in the exporting country but also in the new market,” says Wisdom Kanda.

Specific investments

However, Swedish environmental technology does not currently receive much support. The export support that is offered is offered equally to all.

“There are many fine aspects of Swedish export support, but the export of environmental technology requires more specific investment,” he says.

Wisdom Kanda points also to differences between publicly owned and private companies when it comes to drivers and challenges. Publicly owned companies are most often driven by demand from a customer abroad, while private companies are more interested in expanding their markets, growing, and increasing profits. The largest challenge for a municipal company is to understand how different markets function, while the largest challenge faced by a private company is not to lose too much money.

“It is, however, seldom that obstacles to collaboration arise: it is possible for them to both collaborate and compete with each other,” says Wisdom Kanda.

Wisdom Kanda defended his thesis, for which Professor Olof Hjelm had been principal supervisor, on 29 September 2017.

Stimulating the diffusion of environmental technologies through export, Wisdom Kanda, Department of Management and Engineering, Linköping University 2017.


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