Renewable ENergy Open Innovation Platform

RENOIP: Renewable ENergy Open Innovation Platform

This idea was submitted for 2011 Echoing Green Fellowship by Manu Mayank.

Describe your idea for social change in one single sentence.

 Our idea for social change is to facilitate and promote disruptive innovations in green technologies to create sustainable futures, by harnessing the capabilities of Web 2.0.

Describe your idea for social change in one single paragraph.

RENOIP aspires to become an open platform for the promotion of innovation in renewable energy and preferred purchasing for enterprises in the fields of renewable energy, with a view to helping enterprises to improve faster and better. The aim is to support all forms of innovation, improve competence, build a robust knowledge repository, and promote entrepreneurship in the field of renewable energy, focusing on tackling the great societal challenges of today for sustainable tomorrow.

What specific problem in the world are you trying to solve?  Where possible, use statistics and references to identify the size and scope of the problem. 

Meeting future energy needs in a sustainable way requires innovative breakthroughs to efficiently generate, store, and transmit energy. Innovation expertise is scattered and there’s no common platform for sharing new developments that could be widely used, especially in developing countries. There’s a sub-optimal exploitation of scientific research results and rarely get translated into market innovations. Renewable energy requires innovation-based-growth that is open for applications globally.

What, specifically, will be your programs or products?  Who will you work with? 

RENOIP is a platform being developed to handle innovation and preferred purchasing in the green energy domain. It will use existing social networks to involve new people and problem-solvers to apply their abilities on solving interesting problems. RENOIP will focus on integrated innovation through (i) a wiki- based knowledge management system, (ii) strong workflow-based problem solving and innovation system that will allow problem owners and solvers alike to interact throughout the life-cycle of a  new project or problem solution, (iii) consolidated directory of relevant experts and enterprises, (iv) product directory and development of a technology that will recommend products and innovative solutions to problems thus saving experts from reinventing the wheel, (v) Information dissemination through e-magazine that will feature resource driven by the community around green energy to keep everyone updated and in sync with the latest technologies.

Describe the impact you hope to achieve.  In what time frame? What specific metrics will help you determine whether your work is making a difference?

The innovation both in technologies & systems to harness renewable energy will thus create a progression of spin-offs affecting fields as diverse as agriculture, real estate, space exploration, and social policy. It will also produce secondary social and economic benefits. RENOIP aims to solve at least 100 issues for enterprises in the field of renewable energy in its first year of operation, and will attract 250 users and 20 enterprises monthly to join the platform. We intend to collect feedback of the end users through a variety of channels including social media, and physical feedback gathering through enterprise partners. We also intend to support social enterprises with resources to measure direct and indirect socio-economic impact of implementing the innovative practices. We are working on developing a set of indicators to map solutions, innovations, usefulness, and turn around, etc, which could be used to measure the impact of RENOIP in quantifiable terms.

How does this approach represent bold innovation versus the status quo? 

RENOIP plans to create a bridge between demand for and supply of green solutions in renewable energy sector by addressing specific technology problems and market failures that still hamper the wider take-up of energy innovation. It will support the emerging renewable energy markets by strengthening the innovation capacity of SMEs and Social Enterprises by bring global innovation capacity and knowledge through an open platform.  RENOIP has the ambition to become the foremost platform for enterprises, incubators and market facilitators, industry professionals, technical research centres, innovation experts, and investors, which will enable them to discuss, develop, and exchange ideas and better practices and to contribute to a better understanding of the innovation patterns in renewable energy sector. It will contribute to the creation of an environment in which new renewable energy enterprises can start, grow and thrive, thus supporting the sustainable development of the sector.

How much money will this organization need in the next 12 months?  In the year after?  How much have you raised so far?  From whom?  How do you plan to get the rest?

We intend to operate on a lean budget, and require $25,000 for the first 12 months, with majority of the money being spent on development of the platform, and the rest budgeted for marketing the platform. In the second year of operations, RENOIP will require around $60,000 towards marketing & PR, technical maintenance, and personnel costs. We haven’t started fundraising yet. We are developing a ‘bird-eye-view’ prototype of the OIP and intend to use it for fundraising.  

Your interest in starting this organization makes you unlike most people.  What in your personal, academic, and/or work history compels you to dedicate your life to this idea at this time? 

As partners, we share a passion for Greentech, innovation and application of technology for development. We both hold graduate degrees from premier universities. Manu holds degrees in Economics, and Planning & Development (UQ, Australia), and has worked in the fields of Environment & Economic Development for over ten years spanning Asia, Oceania, and Africa. Since 2006, his focus area has also included renewable energies (Bioenergy and solar), and he thinks that there’s an acute need for innovation that is openly available for creating wider impact from renewable energy projects in developing countries like India. Manu also has experience developing a wiki-based Knowledge Platforms on NTFPs and Bioenergy. Dipankar holds degrees in Computer Science Engineering (IITDelhi), and has founded or worked-with several brilliant technology and social startups. He has created innovative platforms like ‘Kwippy’, which had over 20,000 users & ‘ElectroSocial’, a social media platform and co-founded along with Manu ‘Green venture camp’ to promote cleantech startups, and STIR-e to promote youth social entrepreneurs in India.

What skills or experiences demonstrate that you will be able to attract money, people, and other resources to your idea?

Our combined extensive skills and experiences in technology, Greentech, startups and fundraising makes us a unique team for generating both financial and non financial resources for our idea. We also have a brief but relatively successful history of being startup entrepreneurs, promoting new ideas, and have built a strong network of experts. Manu has successful experiences in raising several million dollars for environment and development through international donors and corporations like IFAD and Ikea.  Dipankar has built a good network and rapport with angel investors inIndiawho are interested in innovative, web-based startups solving real-world problems.  We already are in discussion with six highly-esteemed experts to come on board of advisors for RENOIP. We are confident that we will be able to raise required resources for our idea to make it real and successful.  

What evidence do you have of your ability to overcome challenges and adversity?

While working with rural communities in different parts of Indiafor building their sustainable livelihoods through the use of bamboo, Manu tackled and overcame everyday challenges of terrain, language, and resources through his patience, acumen, and communication skills to help build successful rural enterprises benefiting thousands of rural poor and especially women. Dipankar having lost his father at a young age, has always worked with the odds stacked up against him due to lack of support, but still managed to get through the toughest technical school in India and has carved out an entrepreneurial career for himself, which is inspirational. For last three years we have faced many business and financial challenges and have overcome them through our team efforts, resilience, and a small but dependable social network. Our past experiences of dealing with life’s and work’s challenges & adversities has prepared us to evaluate the situation and take rational decisions to minimize it’s impact if not negate it.

Social Trading Platform India

The idea is to provide a capital market for social good. This can bring about social consciousness to the global financial markets. It holds the potential to increase access to capital for enterprises with a social mission. On a bigger scale, it will help social enterprises further develop the professionalism of their operations and create a whole ecosystem around it to support social enterprises. This will become India’s first social trading platform, providing a trading platform and an efficient capital raising mechanism for Indian Social Enterprises (SEs), including both for-profit and not-for-profit entities with a social mission. The Platform will connect these SEs with impact investors seeking to achieve both a social return and an economic return on their investment while providing capital to fund innovative social businesses. This platform will also enable philanthropic donations.

Such an exchange will bring all the relevant players in the ecosystem together, speaking the same language and assisting one another in creating greater social good. It will encourage the governments, civil societies, academics, investment banks, research companies, auditing bodies and social enterprises to agree on a framework to measure social value, common terminology, transparency, and social and financial goals.

Social enterprises seeking to list shares or bonds on the exchange will go through proper social and financial auditing (third party validation) and report regularly to investors on both their social and financial results. Investors purchasing shares and bonds on the exchange will be attracted by the transparent disclosure of social returns and will evaluate companies based on both their social and financial returns. They will understand that a social enterprise may not maximize its earnings due to the cost associated with fulfilling its social mission. And they will be willing to accept a limited financial return in order to support this mission. Of course, given the current dismal state of the market for profit-maximizing businesses, any economic return topped with a social return may feel like a windfall to an investor.

The Platform will push the envelope on the existing socially responsible investing, bring forward social enterprises and social purposes companies (in addition to microfinance) in energy, water/sanitation, media, fair-trade, health, education, and cottage industry and bring to the attention of these investors a whole new set of enterprises which would not have been noticed otherwise.

Such a platform/exchange cannot be created overnight. It will take years before The Exchange is a robust trading platform. However, with the proper assistance and support from other members of the social investing ecosystem, it can become the cornerstone of a potentially very large social enterprise economy.

Note: I am working on its operational model, and will post it once am done.

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