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Biological material is an alternate to produce renewable energy called Biofuel. Biofuel offers a possible alternative to petroleum-based fuels or fossil fuels. The explosive and healthy growth in the biofuel market has constantly been catching eyes over the past decade.  The main goal to embrace biofuel is to break the rusty chain of environmental pollution and importing oil adding to the county’s economy, subsequently, it will lend an eager hand in replacing the dependency of nonrenewable resources, mitigating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and patronizing economic development. Biofuel is playing a significant role in sectors like aviation, navy or maritime transportation, etc. which is leading to expansion in consumer demand. A glimpse of biofuel advancement is started from corn starch, sugarcane, rapeseed, soy, etc. as a first generation biofuel, and followed by non-lignocellulose feedstock as second generation biofuel. Feedstock such as Jatropha oil (third-generation biofuel) and genetically modified microorganism (fourth-generation biofuel) are trigger point in cutting edge technology for increasing the biofuel production. Overall, the third and fourth generation biofuel technology will unlock an opportunity to bring forth a large-scale production potential across the globe.  The article will be witnessing the curve of market outlook and forecast, Jurisdictions ladder, competitive landscape in the biofuel market.

The global biofuel market spike has been predicted to jump up at an approx. rate of 2.24 percent over 10 years between the years from 2016 to 2026. Accordingly, an estimation to touch USD 11.59 trillion by the year 2026 owing to the hint of how it will be rapidly growing. Feedstock like coarse grain and vegetable oils are expected to be highly used in biofuel production. The global consumption of biofuel reached about 153.4 billion per liter in 2016, further it has been projected to increase modestly by the period of 2026, which might be around 173.5 billion per liter at the growth rate of 1.2 percent. Factors strengthening biofuel market are:

  • Biomass-based fuels for transportation has a great potential to cut down on emissions produced by vehicles
  • Price is lower than any other nonrenewable resources
  • Sustainability in biofuels as their various uses or applications have increased for the past years as a way to increase energy self-sufficiency
  • Reducing net trade costs, biofuels is getting a grip on several industrial sectors.

The eye-catching healthy rapid growth has become the strategic focus for many business firms for gaining profits over the past decade. It can be noticed the concrete proof of a drastic increase in the biofuel market in terms of its use in aviation, marine transport domains.

Sustainable fuel mostly drives the demand for bioenergy in the transportation domain across the world. It has been studied that biofuel consumption in most of the countries will be interlinked to local or domestic demand. Additionally, in regards to Biofuels Renewable Energy Directive, the policy framework in the European Union has already mentioned that the consumption of renewable energy including non-liquids would jump up to 10 percent of total transport fuel consumption in 2020 on an energy equivalent basis. Also, as per Fuel Quality Directive, fuel producers would require to reduce the greenhouse gases (GHG) intensity of transport fuels.

Europe is continuously holding the top position in biofuel production, while on the flick side, the US is capitalizing on a great deal of raw material availability and playing a dominant inning in the market. The two countries – US and Brazil are the key ethanol suppliers. Brazil is emerging as the main producer of biofuel energy followed by Argentina and Indonesia showing prominent growth. The policies in all these countries influence the biofuel production patterns.

In the European market, biodiesel rules the fuel segment. The biodiesel is certainly preferred over ethanol, diesel and petrol due to the existing energy taxation policy, which brings about a heavy dependence on biofuel indicating around 70 percent of its transport fuel market. Therefore, biodiesel accounts for 80 percent whereas ethanol stands at 20 percent of the biofuel market. Europe, the leading producer of biodiesel, is constantly tightening the grip on the biofuel market among the key players like Brazil, the US, Argentina, and Indonesia. In the current year 2020, European biodiesel production has been expected to have a substantial rise in production.

The leading US biofuel market is expected to be growing at a rate of 4.6 percent and will reach around USD 7336 billion by the end of the year 2026. The industry analysis reports portrayed a different picture, it is speculated that the US market might not come to amply fulfill the biofuel requirement, and the compliance gap could stand out till the year 2030. The US lays great emphasis on the EISA (The Energy Independence and Security Act) Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) policy. The policy aims to boost the required volumes of renewable fuel being used in vehicles.

Major key players like GEVO, POET, DuPont, Neste, and Bluefire are producing biofuel to fulfill the global demand of fuel. Australia based Algae Tec company cultivates algae for the production of biofuel, for which the company is using marginal land or industrialized locations. Furthermore, it is more productive as oil and hydrocarbons per landmass than any other terrestrial crop. The US based company Butamax Advanced Biofuels has invented bio-isobutanol production technology with reduced production cost in order to provide a high-value drop-in biofuel for transportation fuel supply.

Recent patent filing trends support the market growth of biofuel, wherein patent filing originating from European countries take first place across the globe, followed by US. Also, it has been noticed that innovation is more focused on genetic development for enhanced biofuel production through using different microbial strains. Apart from the genetic development, other secondary areas of innovation cover enzymatic hydrolysis process, waste to biofuel, etc.

In conclusion, it seems biofuel is emerging area that will lead automotive and renewable energy sector. Biotechnological advancement, waste management, strict environmental regulation for gas emission, high demand of electric vehicle, rise in patent activity are the key driving factors that will support the biofuel market to tremendously grow in near future.

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Emission from the transport sector has major contribution to climate change. It forms about 15% of annual emissions which also includes non-CO2 gases as well. 72% of the global transmission come from road vehicles. The top 10 countries with largest transportation emissions in 2014 were: United States, China, Russia, India, Brazil, Japan, Canada, Germany, Mexico and Iran. These countries in conjugation form 53% of the global transport emissions in 2014. Therefore, an eco-friendlier energy is required for the transport sector.

Electric vehicles i.e. vehicles which use electric motors or traction motors for propulsion. They provide a better substitute for petrol/diesel vehicles. An electric vehicle can be powered through various self-contained power collectors like battery, solar panels, fuel cells or an electric generator as well. Fuel cells have greatest energy density as compared to others. According to U.S. Department of Energy’s February 2019 report, the number of fuel cell vehicles on the road in America grew to 6,500 from 4,000 in 2015.

A fuel cell is an electrochemical cell that converts the chemical energy of a fuel (often hydrogen) and an oxidizing agent (often oxygen) into electricity through a pair of redox reactions. There are various fuel cell combinations which have high energy density like: Silicon-air, aluminium-air and other metal-air fuel cells. Since, fuel cells have large energy density, higher charge can be stored and can be used for variety of applications from large scale to small scale which is also evident from the patents landscape application areas as shown in figure. Such as:

  • Stationary fuel cells can be used for primary and backup power generation in commercial and residential uses.
  • Fuel cell electric vehicle have high efficiency between 42-59% with only 10% degradation. A fuel cell that runs on hydrogen produced natural gas could use about 40% less energy and emit 45% less greenhouse gasses than an internal combustion vehicle. The scope can be extended to buses, trains, boats, submarines, airplanes etc.
  • Portable fuel systems can be made with micro fuel cells primarily for phones and laptops.

Additionally, due to the fact that hydrogen fuel cells emit only water and heat, they emit less pollutants as compared to combustion engines. Due to lesser moving parts, less heat is generated and a quieter engine operation is obtained.

Since 1932, GE has been adding to the development of fuel cell. General motors developed Chevrolet Electrovan in 1966, which was first fuel cell road vehicle. Advancements in Fuel cells have come a long way. The first commercially produced hydrogen fuel cell automobile, the Hyundai Tucson FCEV, was introduced in 2013, Toyota Mirai followed in 2015 and then Honda entered the market.

Strengthened by the beliefs of the growth in this field. The application area has been extended to Submarines, Aircrafts, Ships and buses.

  • “HY4” is the hydrogen fuel cell powered passenger aircraft which was launched in 2016.
  • “Forze VII” is a student made racing vehicle made in 2016, which competes against petrol powered cars with a LMP3.
  • “Energy Observer” is a first of its own kind. It can generate and be powered by hydrogen. It was launched in April 2017 for a world tour lasting 6 years in order to optimize its technologies.

What future landscape holds?

A significant surge in total in number of patents filed can be seen in above mentioned graph. Also, it is clearly visible that Toyota has been a major player in the formation of the today’s landscape of Fuel cells, whereas GM has lost its roots.

Toyota and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced plans for a hydrogen fuel-cell lunar rover – Toyota lunar Cruiser. Toyota said the rover would be able to operate on the moon for up to six weeks, with a range of 1,000 kilometres (about 621 miles) per tank of hydrogen. Solar panels will provide supplementary electricity.

NYK Line, Toshiba Energy Systems & Solutions Corporation, Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd., Nippon Kaiji Kyokai (ClassNK), and ENEOS Corporation will develop an about 150-ton class (passenger capacity approximately 100) high-power FC vessel that will function as a medium-sized tourist ship.

Toyota & Honda have partnered on fuel cell bus mobile power generation venture to supply electricity in disasters. It can be used to supply power during disaster such as typhoons and rainstorms. When a power grid is damaged people suffer from an interruption in the supply of power to their homes and evacuation centres this bus will provide electricity in an affected area.

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Author: Hitesh Dhiman

Effectual Knowledge Services Pvt Ltd.

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The Role of Intellectual Property Rights in Technology Innovation

Intellectual Property (IP) is a term which refers to intangible creations that arise from human intellect. There are many types of IP recognized by law, and each type provides some form of protection to a person who has made the creation. The basic idea behind various types of IP is to provide an incentive to the owners to disclose the idea to public, so that others can further develop the technology, and therefore, it leads to an overall growth of science and technology. As logical as this may be, it has been criticized by many – people who follow an opposing school of thought propose that IP rights serve as a tool to provide monopoly to large corporations, and it’s difficult for smaller players to invest in R&D as much as bigger companies, eventually, strict implementations of IP laws kill the innovation and thus it defeats the sole purpose. Let’s examine this with help of history –

The Indian Pharma sector

The Indian Patent Act was enacted in 1970, at that time, the lawmakers did not allow protection to pharmaceutical products (i.e. medicines) under the act, but only afforded protection to “methods” of making pharmaceutical products. This allowed the Indian pharma industry to reverse engineer the drugs made by international companies, and manufacture them using alternate methods, i.e. they could make same API (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient) using different methods. Needless to say, that the exercise of researching an API is more capital intensive, than researching for an alternate method to produce the same API – and thus, came the rise of Indian generic drugs.

Looking back, it seems like the lawmakers might have done this intentionally, to preserve and promote the domestic pharma industry, as they knew that the domestic pharma industry probably did not have the necessary means to innovate back then. The result – India became the world’s largest provider of generic drugs, and we primarily became “imitators”and not “creators”.

The laws have since then been amended multiple to be TRIPS compliant, and since year 2005, India allows patenting of Pharma products. The industry reacted to this positively and domestic firms, since then and even prior to that, have slowly been investing more money into their R&D programs or have formed alliances to tap into these opportunities. Back then, when the patent law was enacted, the Indian pharma companies might not have been very capable of innovating and competing against international pharma giants, but today, we have companies like Biocon and Dr. Reddy’s – who rely heavily on R&D and have filed numerous patents across the globe, and are already competing against international pharma giants.

The Chinese example –

China is without doubt the manufacturing base of the globe, and Chinese products are synonyms for counterfeit for many. However, like India, Chinese patent laws are evolving and are moving towards a stricter IPR regimen – a brief review of the history of IP laws in China reveals this fact. Chinese patents act was enacted back in 1984 and thereafter, there have been three main amendments – the 1992 amendment, the 2000 amendment and the 2008 amendment. The 1992 amendment was made in accordance with “Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the United States and the Government of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Intellectual Property.”. The 2000 amendment was made in anticipation of China becoming a member of World Trade Organization (WTO). Both these amendments aimed to create a stricter IP regime, which was more in compliance with the developed countries across the globe. However, the 2008 amendment, which was also directed to creating a stricter IPR regimen and to promote patent filings, was purely voluntary and was done without any external pressure.

The result – China overtook US in 2011 in terms of patent filing, which was the leading country in patent filings till then. Since then, the China patent filings have remained more than double of US (Source: WIPO IP Statistics Data Center).

By encouraging the patent filings, and imposing a stricter IP regime, China aims to move from being a manufacturing hub to more of a research hub. It is not surprising to note Huawei among the top companies conducting active research and filing patents in 5G space.

The case of Robert Kearns –

Innovation not only stems from R&D labs of big companies but also from companies that start from a garage –key examples being companies like Apple and individuals like Robert Kearns. Robert Kearns was an inventor made famous by his patent war against automobile companies in US during 1978-1992. He was an inventor of intermittent windshield wiper, which was useful in light rain or mist, and held a patent for the technology. He tried to license his technology to General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler but each rejected his proposal. Even though the proposal was rejected, Ford and Chrysler went on to implement his technology in the cars they manufactured. Thus ensued the most interesting patent infringement cases that ran years, and finally the courts decided in favor of Robert, and the auto giants had to pay damages to Robert.

Conclusion –

From the standpoint of IP, the countries across the globe can be divided into two broad segments – Developed & Innovating and Developing & Imitating. The Developed and Innovating have well defined and well understood IP laws that impose a stricter IP regimen, which leads to innovation. Then comes the second segment – of which countries like India and China are a part, which are gradually moving to an ever stricter IP regimen, albeit with some temporary intentional delays recorded in India.

Stricter IP laws do seem to have a positive impact on driving innovation, at least in a longer run, and in the countries in which the industry has potential, and is capable of innovation. It seems that the hypothesis – “strict implementations of IP laws kill the innovation” might not be correct after all, and is more focused in short sighted goals. In fact, if it were not for a solid IPR regimen, it become easier for bigger companies to steal the idea from a genuine individual inventor – as we see from the case of Robert Kearns.

It is safe to assume that India does have a lot of potential of innovation, and with initiatives like “Make in India” every industry in India will react to become more and more innovating, and eventually, the legislation and the courts will enforce a stricter IP regimen in India as well.

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