Public support to environmental technology companies in some European countries
The focus of this report is on examples of public policy measures to promote the business development of small and medium-sized environmental technology companies, on a national and/or international market. Examples have been chosen to highlight questions deemed critical in the support of the business development of these companies, including inter alia the following:
What importance does time horizon have? German policy initiatives have often been in place for a long time, which according to experts has contributed to their good results. The Eco World Styria cluster in Austria has developed its activities during ten years.
How can policy measures be designed to meet the needs of companies? For example, an extensive survey in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia shows the importance of networks. Half of the companies would like to participate in cluster activities. In Austria, the WIFO research institute has moved further, from surveys towards deeper analysis of environmental technology companies, including obstacles on foreign markets.
Can demonstration programs help small innovative companies to reach commercial markets, and in that case, how should such programs be designed? Germany has a national program for environmental technology innovation dating back to 1979, and also supports pilot projects in other countries. Similar programs exist in a number of German states, for example in Bremen. The Danish program for development and demonstration of environmental technologies, MUDP, has supported 285 projects with a total of 262 million Danish crowns during the period from 2008 to 2013. The region Midtjylland also has a demonstration program, CleanTEKmidt. Denmark has a number of other instruments to support markets introduction of new products and services, including The Market Development Fund, The Green Transition Fund and the Green Entrepreneur House.
What is the importance of cluster initiatives to promote successful “eco-systems” for environmental technology? A number of such initiatives exist, inter alia in the Austrian states of Styria and Upper Austria, as well as in Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany. A well thought through strategy and good relations to the national level are described as success factors. Germany has a specific program, go-cluster, which inter alia gives financial support to the clusters in different parts of the country. Upper Austria supports the co-operation between clusters financially.
How can the “greening” of the business sector in general contribute to increased demand for environmental technology products and services? Germany has chosen a broad approach in changing the environmental impacts of the business sector. One example is the comprehensive initiative to improve resource efficiency. This initiative includes a number of support schemes for research, development, demonstration and skills development aimed at all types of companies, not only those usually defined as belonging to the environmental technology sector. The Danish program Green Business Models supports companies planning to move their business in a more environmentally friendly direction.
In which ways can initiatives for match-making be useful? A number of experts emphasize the importance of encouraging small companies to develop contacts with partners. It is important to go further than the establishment of databases and registers. For example, Cluster Oberösterreich is actively contacting companies, and establishes meeting points. The Matchmaking Facility in the Netherlands supports foreign companies interested in finding Dutch partners.
How important is the quality of policy initiatives? Go International in Bavaria uses retired executives with deep experience of foreign markets in a coaching program for small and medium-sized companies. Eco World Styria offers its member companies qualified analyses of future markets for environmental technology.
What support schemes for internationalization exist and how are they designed? Upper Austria, Bavaria and other states have extensive programs helping small and medium-sized companies with certification, relations with authorities, education, marketing and participation in trade fairs, among other things. In some cases specific areas or countries are prioritized within the support schemes, in other cases the support to companies is not dependent on the choice of foreign market or technology area.
Why do joint offers seem to be a successful method in growth markets? German Water Partnership, Netherlands Water Partnership, German partnerships for biogas (coordinated by DENA) and for recycling (coordinated by ReTech) are some examples discussed in the report.