Wanwu One Year on

With its catchy name and high aims, Sophie Loras spoke to Austrade Trade Commissioner David Dukes in Beijing on the organisation’s Wanwu China green initiative, 12 months on.

In Chinese, Wanwu is a Daoist expression meaning ‘universe’ or ‘1000 things’ – but for David Dukes, who heads up the Australian Trade Commission’s China green tech team, it is a project, that one year on, is progressing along nicely.

In the last 12 months, the organisation has provided 1000 services to over 100 clients in the China green technology sphere, almost 10 times what it was able to provide a year earlier and a figure Mr Dukes credits to the formation, over the past 12 months, of an 11-man strong green focussed team spread across China and Hong Kong.

The initiative aims to increase awareness throughout China of Australia’s green technologies, and acts as a marketing and investment platform for members of its directory. The bonus is that any Australian company with an interest in the green tech and sustainability sectors can join for free, provided “they are ready for export to China.”

It has been a big learning curve for the team.
“We’ve been really, firstly, astounded by the opportunities in the Chinese market and we are very proud to keep learning more and more about Australian capabilities in this sector,” says Mr Dukes.

He says Australia already has enormous capabilities to offer the Chinese green technology sector due to similar ecological, industrial and environmental similarities between the two countries.

Like China, Australia has also had to overcome issues relating to its huge resources sector such as finding ways to overcome soil and water contamination from heavy metals, or similar environmental challenges, including desertification and lack of water and drought conditions.

This means that Australia has significant expertise to offer China in the area of heavy metals and contamination remediation.

“In the clean tech sector, we have similarities rather than complementarities,” says Mr Dukes. “Both countries have large arid landscapes and both need to fix the challenging environmental problems associated with big mining industries.”

Mr Dukes says there are several key areas where Australian technologies are in a prime position to benefit from opportunities in China’s green market.

These include:

Heavy Metals and Contamination Remediation.

Water – everything from planning, treatment, drinking water and waste. 
Green building – energy savings and emission reductions are key policy drivers for the Chinese government. A new building code, promulgated by the Chinese government in 2006, requires new buildings to reduce energy by 50-65 percent.

The Green Building Council of Australia has played an active role assisting China in the establishment of its own green building council, and is showing China the world-leading features of Australia’s 6-star green building rating system.

The Australian government has also signed memoranda with the municipal governments of several key cities including Changsha and Wuhan. The Changsha MoU signed in October 2009 was to enhance the involvement of Australian companies in a billion-dollar sustainable urban development project and already has a number of Australian companies on board including Woods Bagot, GHD and Page Kirkland Group. The MoU has also served as the basis for cooperation in heavy metals contamination treatment.

Austrade has also looked at ways to involve its green building clients in its overall clean tech strategy for China in more tangible ways, such as inviting Wanwu Initiative members to seek expressions of interest in participating in a new Beijing green belt project, so that Australian expertise could be passed on to the local government in the preliminary planning phase. 

Renewable Energy – in areas such as the sale of IP rights and operation and maintenance expertise.

Industrial Efficiency – providing Australian systems to Chinese factories to improve energy efficiency.
 
One of the initiative’s key objectives is to encourage Australian companies to work together in obtaining contracts in China instead of working in competition with each other.

Wanwu’s initiatives throughout 2010 have been largely Expo focussed and run in conjunction with various trade missions. While these missions have provided some excellent business matchings for Australian companies, many projects remain in the initial “discussion” phase.

“Business success will not come overnight in a sector like clean tech with a heavy infrastructure and high tech component. Our focus in the first year of Wanwu has been to find out about and inform our Wanwu members of the main market opportunities, advise the market of our comparative advantages and bring Australian companies to those opportunities,” says Mr Dukes.

“There are many opportunities in China – it is up to Australia to prove itself,” says Mr Dukes. Using China as an investment source is one of the ways forward he says.

“The Chinese are saying that in China ‘we have got the money, but what we need is the technology.”

* The Wanwu Advisory Panel, consisting of clean tech investment funds, will be inaugurated at a meeting at the World Expo Australian pavilion in Shanghai on October 29.  It will facilitate investment into Australian clean tech projects, both in Australia and China.

For more information on the Wanwu Initiative visit: www.austrade.gov.au/Wanwu/ 

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