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Young innovators on world stage

Praveen Bose & Bibhu Ranjan Mishra  |  Bangalore 

includes three Indian companies in global list of 25 ‘Pioneers’.

The (WEF) has nominated three Indian companies --Attero Recycling (Noida), First Energy (Pune), and FINO (Mumbai) -- as 'Technological Pioneers', also termed by WEF as “visionary companies in the fields of information and new media, energy/environment and life sciences/health” for 2011. The nominated companies are part of the 25 such “innovative young” companies from across the world “whose cutting-edge technologies are transforming business and society”.

The year 2011 recognises as looking at ways to preserve the world. Hence, it was the crucial issue of water management and its treatment that was in focus. In 2010, the WEF Technology Pioneers Programme looked at ways to weather the crisis, similar to the one the world faced the previous year, during the biggest recession in a century.

Born from a need to recognise and support organisations dedicated to research and development, and the eventual development of new technologies, the Technology Pioneers Programme is WEF’s means to identify and integrate top innovators into the forum’s activities. It is WEF’s attempt to bring on one platform and help connect and partner leaders from academia, business, government, civil society and media.

While identifying companies that are pioneering in various fields of technology, the WEF selection committee looks at the level of innovation these companies have brought in and the impact those would make. “It also looks at the innovations they have promised for the future,” says Saurabh Srivastava, chairman of CA Technologies India and past chairman of Nasscom, the industry body that represents the software services companies in India.

The year 2010 must have particularly been challenging for WEF to find technology pioneers as the world had just been through the ‘Great Recession’ that saw many of the well-accepted technologies from the yesteryears proving to be not so helpful in dealing with the crisis such as the ‘Great Recession’ of 2008-09. So, what seemed to be the need of the times was something to disrupt and arrest the free-fall that had characterised the previous year.

“As far as India is concerned, entrepreneurship and innovation are continuing to grow. While there is a slowdown globally, it has been minimal in India which is still growing at 8 per cent. A lot of the innovation in India has also to do with the cost effective innovation which is ideal during a slowdown. I think Indian companies will continue to innovate and make their impact felt strongly globally,” said Srivastava, who was also a selection committee member in 2010 for the WEF Technology Pioneers Programme 2011. In 2010, it was about “entrepreneurship, innovation and technology”, which have always played a key role in shaping and improving society. New companies were already planting the seeds of recovery and for the next wave of growth and progress. Having laid the seeds for them to germinate, what next? Hence, in 2011 it was about empowering people and transforming the society.

Biocartis, Switzerland
Diagnostics for All, USA
3 Tethys BioScience, USA
1366 Technologies, USA
Attero Recycling, India
Driptech, USA
Electro Power Systems, Italy
First Energy, India
Joule Unlimited, USA
Picarro, USA
Protean Electric, USA
Solazyme, USA
Altobridge, Ireland
Appirio, USA
Cloudflare, USA
DoubleVerify, USA
Dropbox, USA
Financial Inclusion Network and Operations, India
Kickstarter, USA
Lending Club, USA
LivingPlanIT, Switzerland
Mocana, USA
Palantir Technologies, USA
Tabula Digita, USA

The companies selected in 2010 were active in important fields in the main categories of energy and environment, health and information technologies, telecommunications and new media. They are developing products and services that can help meet the promises of sustainable energy; for bridging the digital divide; for treatment and improved monitoring of various health conditions. They are also redesigning businesses and societies with their disruptive innovations. Disruptors by definition rethink and redesign, be it business models, innovation paradigms or societal progress. By integrating the Technology Pioneers into the initiatives of WEF, “we are certain these disruptors will also live up to the challenge of contributing to rebuild and improve the state of the world,” says the programme.

How can individuals and corporations benefit even more from the 24/7, ubiquitous connection to the internet – and prevent the resulting reputation and security risks? What new approaches to treating rare and neglected diseases will emerge and save lives in the coming years? How can technology help modify behaviours to optimise energy use and bring us closer to a low-carbon economy? The 25 start-ups selected as the World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneers 2012 programme innovatively address these and other challenges to have a critical impact on how business and society work.

“One particular aspect to highlight this year is the large number of companies that are focusing on having a social impact, such as providing health or financial services to under-served populations, while revolutionising the business paradigms in their industries,” says Olivier Schwab, Director, Head of Technology Pioneers, “This year’s companies showcase the diversity in which innovative technology can be deployed to benefit business and society.”

The technology pioneers for 2012 are drawn from diverse fields, including information technology and new media, energy and environment, and life sciences and health. Their many diverse activities range from drip irrigation to small farms to high-precision greenhouse gas measurement; providing financial services to under-served, rural populations; and developing photosynthetic biofuels or molecular diagnostics.

The US dominates the 2012 programme with 18 innovative companies in the list of 25. The list also includes two Swiss companies and one each from Italy and Ireland. The number of Indian companies in the WEF Technology Pioneers Programme for 2012 has improved to three from the previous year’s one. Vortex Engineering, the only Indian company that figured in Technology Pioneer 2011 list provides innovative cash dispensing method enabling financial inclusion.

“First of all, it is an indication of the innovations that are happening within the company in the technology front and appreciation of the fact that Attero has spent a lot of energy and time on R&D for leveraging technology. I think it is an acknowledgement of the innovations Attero has brought into the area of e-waste management which is a cause of great concern not only in India, but also across the world. This will motivate our team further,” said Nitin Gupta, founder & CEO of Attero Recycling.

Agrees Srivastava of CA Technologies India: “It will broaden the horizon of the Indian companies. It will make them more aware and give more self-confidence to do what they wanted to do.”

First Published: Fri, September 02 2011. 00:21 IST