Tag Archives: China

Winds of energy change blow through Germany and China

By David Bicknell

Change in government priorities and policies can drive structural change that generates significant investment and growth. That is now particularly the case in energy production projects in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster.

From this article on Business Green, it appears that Germany  is set for a significant investment in wind power with the setting up of a number of offshore wind farms with new hydroelectric power plants in the offing too.

German energy companies and investors are ready to plough up to €60bn into overhauling the country’s power infrastructure, following the government’s pledge to phase out nuclear reactors.

The energy and water industry association BDEW issued a report on the first day of the Hanover industrial fair revealing that plans are underway to build or modernise 84 power stations with a combined capacity of 42GW.

As Business Green says, the report also provides one of the most detailed insights to date on how the German energy sector plans to cope with the government’s commitment to phase out nuclear capacity in the country post-Fukushima.

Another recent article shows that China is making similar investments in wind energy, spending the equivalent of £4bn in the North-Western Gansu region.

As Jonathan Watts reports, “Wind turbines, which were almost unknown five years ago, stretch into the distance, competing only with far mountains and new pylons for space on the horizon. Jiuquan alone now has the capacity to generate 6GW of wind energy – roughly equivalent to that of the whole UK. The plan is to more than triple that by 2015, when this area could become the biggest wind farm in the world.

“Although it is the world’s biggest CO2 emitter and notorious for building the equivalent of a 400MW coal-fired power station every three days, it is also erecting 36 wind turbines a day and building a robust new electricity grid to send this power thousands of miles across the country from the deserts of the west to the cities of the east.

“It is part of a long-term plan to supply 15 per cent of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2020. Most of that will come from nuclear and hydropower, but the government is also tapping the wind and solar potential of the deserts, mountain plateaus and coastlines.”

Meanwhile, Britain could pump £13bn into the economy and create up to 10,000 jobs by upgrading its power distribution network with smart grid technology, according to a Reuters report.

The technology has the potential to transform the way electricity is generated, distributed and consumed just as the Internet transformed the way the world communicates.

The idea is to create a communication network to maximise efficiency in supply and demand and to cut costs for homes and businesses.

Related Reading

UK smart grid could create jobs, help economy

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Innovation and change: a world tour

By David Bicknell

With innovation and change in mind, I was interested in this blog by a French writer, Francis Pisani, who is undertaking a ‘five continent tour’ taking in innovation worldwide.

He’s been in Australia, South America, and India in April, before heading to Africa (South Africa, Rwanda and  Israel) in May, then Eastern Europe in June and July, and finally the Far East in August and September.

Here is his interview on his travels in India with Raveev Suri, an old contact from Infosys who is now a CEO and entrepreneur based in Bangalore.

Related Reading

UK technology firms spurn BRICS deals in favour of home investment

UK technology firms spurn BRICS deals in favour of home investment says Grant Thornton report

By David Bicknell

Medium-sized UK technology companies are forgoing demonstrable investment opportunities in the BRICS economies in favour of domestic deals, according to new research from audit specialist Grant Thornton. 

The research shows that three-quarters (75%) of medium sized UK technology companies have no plans to invest in new markets in the next 12 months.

The study reflects trends over the last five years for mergers and acquisitions in the technology market, which show that domestic investment continues to be the number one priority for ICT businesses. 141 UK to UK deals were completed in 2011,  a higher volume than with any other market.

In terms of outbound investment from the UK technology sector, mature markets such as the USA, Australia and Germany have consistently remained at the top of the league in comparison to other emerging markets. 

Wendy Hart, Head of Technology at Grant Thornton UK, is calling on investors in the UK’s technology mid-market to think beyond traditional investment regions and seize opportunities. She says: “Over the last five years the volatility of the global market has inevitably had an impact on the volume of cross-border deals taking place.

“Traditional, mature markets such as those in the G7 remain attractive to UK firms because of a familiar business environment, language commonalities and greater access to highly skilled employees. In contrast, outbound investment into fast-growing, tech-friendly economies such as India, China, Brazil and Israel is still relatively low.”

To help highlight the opportunities available, Grant Thornton has produced an ‘expansion index’ guide, which compares existing UK investment markets such as the UK, the USA, Germany, France and the Netherlands with emerging economies. The data demonstrates that the markets with the biggest opportunities are also the markets that present the biggest challenge for investors.

Wendy Hart continued: “The sheer volume of information that a business has to get to grips with before making an investment into an unfamiliar market can be daunting. There are three key stages that are vital foundations for a market entry strategy: full assessment of the opportunity available; thorough preparation so that a business is ready for execution; and management of the actual execution itself.”

In the report, Grant Thornton has also called on technology investment experts from around the world to provide detailed insight about key technology markets, both traditional and emerging.

Nick Farr, Head of China Britain Business Services at Grant Thornton UK, said: “One of the reasons that UK technology businesses are reluctant to enter China is a fear of copying or reverse-engineering of their products. Whilst this is still a risk, as China’s patent system evolves there are increasing opportunities for businesses to protect their intellectual property (IP). These opportunities are being noticed. Recent research by the China-Britain Business Council showed that 59% of UK businesses with a presence in China want to increase their R&D activity there.”

Some snapshots from the report:

China

“Grant Thornton’s Technology Expansion Index ranks China second for economic growth and third for infrastructure and technology. On the flip side, China is one of the lowest ranked markets for political and legal landscape and has one of the most complex systems in the world for business start-ups. It is this dichotomy, paired with the complexities of Chinese culture, that best explains the lack of UK businesses looking to enter the Chinese market.

“However, great returns are never easily achieved. The opportunity in China is huge, not just in terms of salary arbitrage and tax incentives. Despite the recent slowdown in China, growth is still upwards of 8% and this high growth potential means that those companies able to access the Chinese market will be better at meeting consumer needs and faster to market, leaving those who shied away from early investment trailing in their wake.”

Brazil

“At 8.5 million square kilometres, Brazil is the size of a continent, and currently accounts for 40% of Latin America’s economy. IMF GDP growth forecasts through 2013 are strong at 4%, potentially underpinned by the impact of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games, which will drive technology investment. The domestic market for IT in Brazil is now the seventh largest in the world. $165.7bn was spent on ICT in 2010 with only $2.4bn of services exported.

“Brazil is a potential technology investment hotspot because of its large, stable, growing economy; a modern financial system that has largely escaped the global financial crisis; a strong base of local investors; and robust capital markets and a middle class of almost 100 million people aspotential technology consumers.”

India

“The Indian Government’s new ICT policy aims at speeding up development, including plans for fibre optic cable installation and aggressive broadband implementation.

“A strong driver for IT investment is India’s own Generation Y who are primed to become hungry consumers, particularly of IT, consumer technology and social media. India’s consumermarket, currently the world’s thirteenth largest, is expected to become the fifth largest by 2025. Its telecommunication industry, the world’s fastest-growing, added 227 million subscribers duringthe period 2010–11.” 

UK

“According to our survey, 18% of UK technology companies plan domestic investment in the next 12–18 months. Despite the economic downturn, or perhaps because of it, many technology companies are still lookingto consolidate and strengthen theirpresence at home rather than seeking out riskier, but potentially more rewarding climates.

“There is a trend in the UK technology market where large corporates are increasingly looking to acquire companies that provide specialist services or offer some innovation that addresses a niche they want to reach. Importantly, the current state of the overall market means that these companies can be acquired more cheaply than might have been possible pre credit-crunch,” says Wendy Hart.

For more details or for a hard copy of the report, which also features case studies on a number of UK technology companies, including Galleon Holdings, Ideal Industries, Mobile Tornado, Kelkoo, and Tessella, contact Emma Ap-Thomas at Grant Thornton. Tel: 0207 728 2348 or emma.ap-thomas@uk.gt.com

Grant Thornton UK website

Fast-growing BRICS countries face IT challenges, says economic think tank

Much has been written about the economic potential offered by the BRICS countries: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

And yet, despite improvements in many drivers of competitiveness, the BRICS still face important challenges to more fully adopt and leverage IT, according to the latest  Global Information Technology Report 2012: Living in a Hyperconnected World, published by the World Economic Forum.

Despite efforts over the past decade to develop information and communications technologies (ICT) infrastructure in developing economies, a new digital divide in terms of ICT impacts persists,  the Forum says.

Even for the fast-growing BRICS, an insufficient skills base and institutional weaknesses, especially in the business environment, present a number of shortcomings that stifle entrepreneurship and innovation.

It’s not unreasonable to argue that they may have something to learn about delivering successful IT projects too, as developed countries have had to do. Alternatively, they may have some insight to pass on.

When it comes to leadership in IT adoption and usage, it is the usual suspects, Sweden (1st) and Singapore (2nd) that top the rankings in leveraging information and communications technologies to boost country competitiveness.

Switzerland (5th), the Netherlands (6th), the United States (8th), Canada (9th) and the UK (10th) also show strong performances in the top 10.

It is equally perhaps no great surprise to find that ICT readiness in sub-Saharan Africa is low, with many countries showing significant lags in connectivity due to insufficient development of ICT infrastructure, which remains too costly.

Even in those countries where ICT infrastructure has been improved, the Forum suggests, ICT-driven impacts on competitiveness and well-being trail behind, resulting in a new digital divide.

China

At 51st place in the rankings, China leads the BRICS countries. Yet, the report says, “this should offer little consolation in light of the important challenges ahead that must be met to more fully adopt and leverage ICT.

“China’s institutional framework (46th) and especially its business environment (105th) present a number of shortcomings that stifle entrepreneurship and innovation, including excessive red tape and long administrative procedures, lofty taxation amounting to 64 percent of profits (124th), uncertain intellectual property protection—it is estimated that almost 80 percent of installed software in China is pirated—and limited or delayed availability of new technologies (100th).”

In terms of readiness, the country ranks only 87th in terms of its infrastructure and digital content, mainly because of its underdeveloped Internet infrastructure.

In terms of actual ICT usage, although the figures remain low in absolute terms, they should perhaps be considered in light of the sheer size of the country.

ICT usage by businesses is significant (37th). China is becoming more and more innovative and this in turn encourages further and quicker adoption of technologies. The Chinese government is already placing significant hopes in IT as a catalyst for future growth, because more traditional sources of growth are likely to dry up.

The efforts of the government in promoting and using IT are reflected in China’s strong showing in terms of government usage (33rd). For the time being, though, the overall impact of IT on the economy remains limited (79th).

India

However, contrast China’s position with India and you find that India, ranks nearly 20 places behind in 69th position.  India delivers a very mixed picture, with encouraging results in some areas and a lot of room for improvement elsewhere, notably in the political and regulatory (71st) and business and innovation environments (91st).

Extensive red tape that stands in the way of businesses and corporate tax is among the highest of all the countries analysed by the Forum. For instance, it typically takes four years and 46 procedures to enforce a contract in India. Starting a business is longer and requires more paperwork than in most countries. Other variables fare better, such as the availability of new technologies (47th), the availability of venture capital (27th), the intensity of local competition (31st), and the quality of its management schools (30th).

One of the weakest aspects of India’s performance lies in its low penetration of ICT. The country ranks 117th in terms of individual usage, with 61 mobile subscriptions for every 100 population, a relatively low figure. Only 7.5 percent of the population uses the Internet; just 6 percent of households own a PC and broadband Internet remains the privilege of a few, with less than one subscription per 100 population.

“The big story is how India is falling behind in relative terms as far as its overall measure of technology and competitiveness is concerned,” says Soumitra Dutta, Roland Berger Professor of Business and Technology at INSEAD, a co-editor of the report. “A few years ago, India was ahead of China.”

Brazil

Another member of the BRICS, Brazil, positioned in 65th place, benefits from  strong levels of business ICT usage (33rd). These, combined  fairly advanced levels of technological capacity (31st) in particular segments of its industry, allows the country to achieve one of the strongest performances of ICT-enabled innovations in the Latin American region, both in terms of new products and services (29th) and more efficient processes (34th).

However, despite these strengths, its overall business environment with burdensome procedures to create new businesses (138th) and high tax rates (130th), in addition to its high mobile phone tariffs (133rd) and poor skills availability (86th), hinder the potential of the Brazilian economy to fully benefit from IT and shift toward more knowledge-based activities (76th) at a faster pace.

That said, Brazil is now the seventh largest ICT market in the world, with £106bn spent in 2010.

World Economic Forum Global IT Report

Australia bars China’s Huawei from competing for broadband project

By David Bicknell

There is an intriguing row Down Under about the Australian Government’s decision to bar the Chinese telecomms company Huawei Technologies from competing for work on its national broadband network (NBN) project.

Australia told Huawei, one of the world’s largest telecomms equipment providers,  that it could not tender for NBN contracts because of security concerns about cyber attacks emanating from China.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she regarded the NBN as a crucial national infrastructure project.

”You would expect, as a government, we would make all of the prudent decisions to make sure that infrastructure project does what we want it to do, and we’ve taken one of those decisions,” she said, when asked about the Huawei decision at the ongoing nuclear security talks in Seoul.

The Australian Opposition said it regarded the government’s decision to ban Huawei from taking part in tenders as ”clumsy, offensive and unprofessional”.

Huawei’s spokesman Jeremy Mitchell said Australia was still getting used to privately owned Chinese companies, but Huawei would not give up on tendering for NBN projects, which are being managed by the Australian government-owned NBN Co Ltd.

”We’re not used to companies coming from China that are leading in technology and also global – 70 per cent of our work is outside of China,” Mr Mitchell said. “We see this as a setback. We’re obviously disappointed. But through looking at what we’ve done overseas, looking at what we’ve done in the United Kingdom, we can put in place measures that help the Australian government consider us as a partner in the NBN.”

Other Links

Australian Financial Review: China’s Huawei banned from NBN

BBC Business News: China’s Huawei barred from Australia broadband deal

Will the BRICS learn the lessons from developed nations’ limp track record of IT project delivery?

By David Bicknell

There’s not much doubt of the hot spots for IT spending over the next few years:  the BRICS.

According to this piece on ZDNet, while Europe remains transfixed viewing a Greek tragedy, other countries, notably the BRICS, are pushing ahead in terms of IT spend. 

Research firm IDC suggests that total IT spending will grow 5 percent in 2012 with emerging markets, smartphones, storage and software at the head of the pack.
 
Although European IT spending is likely to remain weak for the foreseeable future, spending in BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China – this seems to exclude ‘the S’ of South Africa) will see double-digit growth rates:
 
  • Brazil IT spending will rise 9 percent;
  • Russia will increase 11 percent;
  • India will  be up 16 percent;
  • And China’s tech spending will jump 15 percent

That spending means we can expect large increases in new IT projects – or perhaps I should say business projects delivered through IT.

Will the BRICS do a better job of the project management and delivery of these IT projects than we’ve managed in the developed world? Well, let’s just say there’s plenty of useful best and worst practice for them to take on board.

Links

Russia last in BRICS for faith in business

Can Brazil drive innovation?

A few suggested blog posts – on change at Kodak, the rise of Splunk and a culture clash in China

By David Bicknell

Browsing over the weekend, I came across a few posts about change management and cultural change that caught my eye and are worthy of passing on.

A couple are from the Harvard Business Review, and one is taken from IT-Director.com.

The Harvard Business Review items cover the innovation and transformational change issues involved in the continued demise of Kodak and the cultural issues that anyone who has plans to do business in China may have to get to grips with. The IT-Director article covers the growing reputation of Splunk, a real-time operational intelligence specialist that collects and indexes machine data and which has potential in the growing ‘Big Data’ marketplace.

Cloud specialist claims China public sector IT success

By David Bicknell

It’s not too often you see a press release announcing the successful conclusion of a public sector IT project.

But it’s perhaps a sign of the times that there is such an announcement, and that it comes not from the West, but from the East. It’s in China.

China Intelligence which provides virtualisation technology application and cloud computing related consulting services, products, solutions and implementation service in China says it  has completed the third phase of a datacentre virtualisation project for the Hebei Maritime Safety Administration of China.

‘Hebei MSA’ is a governmental agency which oversees all matters related to the safety of the sea, including shipping, of  Hebei Province in the north of China. The project which began in October 2010 was completed in November 2011.

I have to admit I didn’t know too much about China Intelligence, but apparently, it’s a virtualisation and cloud computing specialist and a VMware partner  with a string of Chinese clients, including  the State Grid Corporation of China, China Unicome, China Southern Power Grid, China Life Insurance Group, China Huaneng Group and China Power Investment Corporation.

I have at this stage no way of verifying whether the virtualisation project was as successful as has been claimed, but it’s rather interesting that a Chinese IT services company announces a successful project on PR Newswire.

Perhaps it’s looking for overseas business.

Lord Digby Jones: telling some harsh truths on the challenges facing British business

It’s not often you can truly say you’ve heard a tour de force of a keynote speech at a conference. But  Lord Digby Jones certainly delivered one at the Trustmarque Solutions customer conference in London a couple of days ago.

Lord Jones, a former director-general of the CBI and more recently Minister of Trade and now a cross-bencher in the House of Lords, outlined the challenge facing British businesses – and indeed Europe as a whole – from the economic rise of Asia, painting a picture of the Chinese raising living standards for their 1.3bn strong population, with the subsequent impact on European and US business, with a cautionary tale about the fall of the Roman Empire along the way.

Lord Jones, whose energy and delivery fully engaged his audience of Trustmarque customers and partners and left them scarcely daring to sneak a look at their Blackberries and iPhones mid-speech, also told a moving tale of his Royal Navy career and the importance of teamwork.

Lord Jones currently has a book out: Fixing Britain: The Business of Reshaping Our Nation. If it’s half as good as his Trustmarque speech here, it will be quite a read. And from Trustmarque’s point of view, it was equally quite a coup to land a heavyweight keynote speaker with added clout and bite.