An innovation with a proven track record is hardly an innovation.
Any innovator is familiar with the conundrum of bringing new products, processes and services to the marketplace. By definition, innovation is new, so it suffers from one distinct disadvantage compared to established technology – it lacks the commercial legitimacy that attaches to yesterday’s developments. The EU Environmental Technology Verification (ETV) scheme addresses this conundrum – its objective is to foster the development of “disruptive” green-tech in Europe.
ETV’s aim is to help innovations reach the market by providing credible information on industrial green-tech performance and demonstrating environmental value added. Accelerating the acceptance and use of improved, greener technologies responds to the global environmental crisis whilst nurturing a European economy centered on knowledge and innovation (think “innovation union”).
As part of Hannover Messe (“the world’s leading industrial technology showcase”) in April, the ETV pilot program will mark its first anniversary with a stakeholder meeting during which the first “statements of verification” will be handed out. So it is probably worth briefly reviewing the dynamics of this scheme.
Firstly, the ETV is primarily about fostering business to business technology uptake. It is not a product certificate but is complementary to eco-labels (which are carried mainly by end products) and applicable where there is no relevant standard or where standards are exceeded.
The idea is that an independent verification body (nine “verification bodies” have thus far gained accreditation) confirms that the new product or process “does exactly what it says on the tin”. By generating trust, these verified performance claims allow producers to more easily deploy their innovation into the market by:
- Leapfrogging “market signals”. Giving prospective users reliable information allows the innovation to be modelled against competing alternatives. In the event that the innovation turns out to be useful, its adoption can proceed rather more quickly than if users were to await “market signals” of process optimization.
- Unlocking finance. ETV is aimed at small and medium enterprises which have traditionally been the incubators of innovation yet are often reliant on external funding. By giving investors and financiers a clear picture of the innovation against which to assess their financial decisions, verification can unlock funding and hasten the journey of the idea to the market.
The Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter understood the market as a “process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes” and resolved that the market economy’s central tendency was “creative destruction”. The ETV scheme is a mechanism to turbocharge these market driven mutations. Trusting that human creativity can deliver a radical technological shift, it aims to disrupt the presently ecologically destructive economy.
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