EcoTourism-Finland to set up Innovation Centre in Delhi

Helsinki, Sep 11 (IANS) Out to prove that there’s more to Finnish technology than Nokia handphones, Finland is seeking collaborations with India in biotechnology and nanotechnology and will also set up a Finnish Innovation Centre in New Delhi.

The tiny but energy-efficient Scandinavian country also wants to work with India in healthcare, ecotourism and environment protection.

High-level delegations from the two countries will meet here in October to discuss plans for business and joint research and development. The Finnish delegation will be led by Foreign Minister Elina Kalkku.

“I can see a lot of future in the Indian market and we are looking forward to increasing research and development in sectors like science and technology, telecommunication, healthcare, ecotourism and clean technology,” Seppo I. Keranen, senior consultant, Finpro, told a group of visiting Indian journalists.

Finpro is an organisation under Finland’s Ministry of Employment and Finance. It has over 560 Finnish industries as its members.

Finland is also looking forward to setting up a Finnish Innovation Centre (called Finnote) in New Delhi by next year under a science and technology agreement signed between the two countries in 2008. Finland already has four such innovation centres in Japan, China, Russia and the US.

“Under the project we will put together researchers from both the countries and work jointly on developing new technology in various fields. The countries have great potential to work together and cater to third countries,” said Keranen, an expert on the Indian economy.

“India has highly technology-efficient people and we have high technology knowhow. So both the countries can work together in various sectors. India is a very important market for Finnish companies,” he said.

In healthcare, Finland has tied with India’s Department of Biotechnology to set up diagnostic centres in villages.

“We are in talks with some 10 healthcare companies in India to start telemedicine facilities for rural parts of India as providing better health facility continues to remain a key issue,” said Keranen, who worked as commercial counsellor at New Delhi’s Finnish embassy for five years.

Finland is also in talks with the Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand governments to start ecotourism in the states.

“The climate in northern hilly regions in India is more or less similar to that in

Finland. We are in talks with both the state governments to build ski resorts and energy efficient buildings as we have highly efficient technology that can keep buildings warm in even several degrees below zero,” Keranen said.

There are around 75 Finnish companies working in India while 29 Indian companies are active in Finland. The volume of business between the two countries is over $1 billion a year.

By Richa Sharma – richa.s@ians.in

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Water Innovations Include Generating Electricity from Rainwater

A number of innovations are being highlighted at the Stockholm World Water Week event, some of them the result of corporate prizes.

I’ll start with the prize closest to my heart – the Stockholm Junior Water Prize (full disclosure: the global sponsor is ITT).

Eighteen-year-old Ceren Burçak Dag, of Nisantasi, Turkey, won the prize for one of the coolest projects I’ve seen (of course, I say that every year): Dag’s research may show us a way to harness rainwater to produce electricity. Seeing Dag on stage, along with the 50 other young nominees from 29 countries, was both moving and inspiring.

Some of the other projects were as well: Eileen Jang, of North Carolina and the U.S. winner, figured out how mercury builds in our water, which promises to help us better understand how it enters the human body. Mzwakhe Sifundo Xulu and Njabubulo Sihle Mbata, of South Africa, developed an inexpensive Auto Mechanical Tap that captures water from community faucets that would normally be wasted due to spillage. This promises to be a valuable tool for rural, arid communities, including their native South Africa.

One of the memories I will take away from this year’s Junior Prize is standing in front of one young nominee’s project and telling him it was very good. “Do you mean brilliant?” he said. I could only smile in response, so let me answer him now – yes, I meant brilliant.

We also heard from the 2009 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate, Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh Sanitation Movement in India. Since 1970, Dr. Pathak has worked to change attitudes toward traditional (and unsanitary) latrine practices in slums, rural villages and urban areas, and developed inexpensive toilets that have helped millions of Indians live better, healthier lives. Just as important, he is waging a campaign to abolish the traditional practice of manual “scavenging” of human waste from bucket latrines in India, while also championing the rights of former scavengers and their families.

If there is one thing I have learned from my more than 20 years of work in sanitation, it is that water, in this context, is fundamentally about dignity. So I also applaud Dr. Pathak and his work to promote this most basic of human rights. I can think of no better recipient of the award. It was an honor to meet him.

In other news, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) launched a report -”Water for Business: Initiatives Guiding Sustainable Water Management in the Private Sector“- which helps businesses find and use different tools to better manage water usage as well as measurement and communications techniques. This paper addresses an interesting challenge for those of us in the private sector: keeping track of all the groups participating in the water debate – as the WBCSD puts it, “who does what.”

The paper provides a side-by-side comparison of major initiatives, including, for example, the CEO Water Mandate and the Water Footprint Network. If you are interested in learning more about who is doing what, I suggest this is a good place to start.

Bjorn Von Euler, director of corporate philanthropy for ITT Corp., attended the World Water Week proceedings in Stockholm, Sweden. He is writing a series of reports on the event for Environmental Leader.