Every 26th April, we celebrate World Intellectual Property Day to learn about the role that intellectual property (IP) rights play in encouraging innovation and creativity.
WIPO’s 2020 campaign puts innovation at the heart of efforts to create a green future. The campaign celebrates the individuals who are working on cleaner alternatives to legacy fossil-fuel-based technologies, and better and more sustainable food and natural resource management systems. It also aims to highlight how inventors can use the IP system to support their work and its uptake and use in society.
We saw this as an opportunity to ask three of our own clients in that space what motivated them to create greener solutions for the planet. Soizic-Arzhele Peyrusse, Head of Marketing and Business Development at AA Thornton, reports.
AA Thornton: Many thanks Ahmed, Fanya and Andy for speaking to me today. Could you tell us what you do?
“Odqa stands for Oxford Dymanic Heat Transfer (Q) Applications. The world is still relying on fossil fuels for the majority of its base-load and peak electricity demand. Concentrated solar power (CSP) solves this issue by integrating cheap, durable, and long-lasting thermal energy storage, which can be used to generate electricity after the sun has gone down. Our integrated University of Oxford graduates team combines two MBAs with five doctoral-level researchers/engineers to deliver a solution to the provision of clean energy at the cheapest cost and scales. We are currently developing a new CSP system by applying aerospace technology to build a state-of-the-art solar receiver.”
“At SGMA Sol-Gel Materials & Applications, we deliver solutions to global challenges. In particular, we offer practical, sustainable solutions to addressing today’s accelerating global plastic problem. Our barrier coating for fibre-based packaging provides a complete solution to replace single-use plastics and eliminates confusion among users and customers. Completely free from micro plastics, our technology also fits seamlessly into the recycling infrastructure of any country by providing a solution that is biodegradable, compostable and recyclable.”
Fanya and her team at SGMA.
“Our work is oil waste cleaning and fossil fuel pollution control. Since 2012 we have effectively been reducing 80% of the particulate emissions from a fossil fueled power station in a heavily residential area of Lebanon. We have also been carrying out environmentally compatible “in-situ” cleaning to recover oil from sludge accumulations in large crude oil tanks, to avoid material being dumped needing further cleanup, and for more than a decade we have been cleaning oil pits and lagoons to recover oil, and removing the pits to restore the areas to a more natural state.”
AA Thornton: Ahmed, you are a mechanical engineer and MBA graduate, who worked for many years in the oil and gas industry in Egypt. Fanya, you’ve got a PhD in chemistry which focused on the creation of Sol-gel platforms for designing sensor technology. Andy, you are a former oil trader, having worked at places like Shell and Enron. What led you all to leave your respective careers and make the green jump?
“Odqa story started as a result of a heated debate in the Said Business School of the University of Oxford on how we can solve the climate crisis! I was studying at Oxford University for a MBA when I met with Gediz Karaca (now CEO of Odqa) who was also studying for a MBA there. Our interest in science and how to solve the energy crisis led us to approach Prof. Ireland from the University (now CSO of Odqa ) to discuss Gediz’s novel idea… and this is how Odqa story started. I have always believed that the role of engineers is to develop technologies to help make the world a better place. After working for nearly a decade in the oil and gas industry in my home country, Egypt, and while it is still a vital source of energy, it was clear to me that a solar energy revolution is needed for countries like mine and have always been determined to help countries with extensive solar resource to make better use of it. We are told that EIA projects world energy consumption will increase by 56% by 2040, mainly from non-OECD countries. To fulfil this energy demand in a sustainable manner, electricity generation must increase the use of renewable technologies.”
Concentrated Solar Thermal Plant Tower in the Mojave desert, California.
“I HAVE ALWAYS BELIEVED THAT THE ROLE OF ENGINEERS IS TO DEVELOP TECHNOLOGIES TO HELP MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE.” – Ahmed Refaat
“I was horrified by the amount of toxic chemicals pushed to the market in the form of what called “product”. I started to design the molecules theoretically followed by proof of concept when I came across the plastic pollution and the impact it was having on the environment and marine life. It was then that I shifted my focus to replace the plastic barrier by a coating solution that leaves the coffee cup and packaging completely biodegradable, compostable and recyclable while it remains 100% plastic free. I am extremely proud that our work was recognised last year when I won the “Women in Innovation” 2019 award by Innovate UK for inventing a paper coating to replace plastic in coffee cups and food packaging.”
“My story is quite different to that of Fanya or Ahmed I suppose. My relation with the environment has been like forming a relation between two people, where respect grows over a period of time when in close proximity. I did not expect when leaving behind a remunerative career as a “Wall Street” commodity trader in London, with little interface with the environment save for some coloured bins, to some years later be sitting on a three legged plastic chair in 40 degree heat, watching steppe eagles eating trash from an unofficial dump the opposite side of the road. In 2006, after many years of working in the oil trading business, I started off a joint venture with a few others that is now known as EPIQ. The idea was to look across the Middle East and North Africa initially and meet the growing need for safe and practical technology that could be used to solve oil-related environmental problems, and we began in Amman cleaning refinery waste oil pits. As part of our work, we clean oil contaminated sediments and soils, to levels which are considered environmentally benign. It is greatly satisfactory to know you that you have contributed to making the environment a little a bit safer and a little bit cleaner.”
EPIQ’s technology cleans up oil as pictured in this satellite before and after image
While it is great to see more and more of our clients carving a pathway to a greener future, this surely does not come without its challenges! Whether it is about managing to raise the necessary investment to move onto the next stages of your company development, or obtaining the necessary patents to minimise risk and secure further investment, or in Andy’s case having all your equipment stolen by ISIS and being caught in Sudan and Lebanon revolutions (!) the green path is not always an easy path. In our next article we will explore how IP has helped Ahmed, Fanya and Andy grow and secure their business.
In the meanwhile… do not hesitate to get in touch to discuss how we could help you!