Last post was entirely dedicated to General Electric as a serial collaborator company and one of the still scarce but increasing cases where collaboration goes beyond a particular case and need and has been embraced as a key and essential element of a company’s general strategy. The number of such initiatives in the case of GE was enough to leave one aside, avoiding to make the post too long. But a list of GE collaborative programs wouldn’t be complete without mentioning partnerships as a key element of GE Ecoimagination strategy.
Ecomagination is GE’s growth strategy to reduce environmental impact at a global scale through commercial solutions. Implemented to emphasize energy efficiency and ecologically friendly products, a new program was designed for GE to double up on its investment in clean tech and make it a strategic imperative for the company. The new strategy was announced in 2005, generating not a small amount of skepticism if not a widespread assumption that the announcement of Ecoimagination was basically a PR trick.
Ten years later, the program has proved the skeptics wrong. When Ecoimagination was announced a decade ago, the company’s CEO was not shy about the business case behind the eco-friendly mission. Now, GE has not just cut its own water usage and greenhouse gas emissions by 42% and 31% saving $350 million in the process, but also generated a total of over 200.000 million dollars in sales that can be directly attributed to the program.
New more collaborative phase
Coinciding with its 10th anniversary, Ecomagination received a new boost last year with a new program with collaboration at its core. Dubbed as “Transforming Tomorrow: Partners for Global Impact”, the program is a partnership initiative that includes eight global, like-minded companies to co-create and commercialize transformative solutions to the world’s most pressing energy and water challenges.
Partners and aims for this global impact are Statoil (oil and gas solutions with reduced environmental impact); Masdar (decreased energy intensity in wastewater treatment operations; Walmart (accelerate commercial adoption of efficiency products and solutions); Total (industrial clean energy in emerging markets); MWH Global (increase rate of water reuse and reduce water scarcity); Bhpbiliton (reduce the energy intensity of mining); and Intel(digital technology to reduce water and energy waste in manufacturing).
The partnership is working so far with different collaboration models for each company and project, generally with GE working for one company at a time instead of working with all partners as a group (although it has been stated that there will be opportunities in the future for cross-collaboration aiming for the “network effect”). The collaboration with GE involves in some cases a co-development project. In other cases, partners limit their participation to use GE technology and help to achieve scale.
Some collaboration initiatives already in place
For instance, GE is already working with Ecoimagination partner MWH Global on the implementation of technology for wastewater reuse, as well as an energy-neutral wastewater treatment project. The new technology is developed in collaboration with a company acquired by GE and piloted by Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company and also a partner of the program.
Ecomagination 2020 Partnerships program is not just interested in the transition to a clean-energy paradigm, but also in helping older energy systems to reduce their level of environmental impact. In another example, a partnership with the energy company in oil and gas production Statoil aims at reducing energy and water usage as well as emissions in oil and gas operations. As the first output of the collaboration, both companies are working together exploring the possibility of economically substituting CO2 for water in fracking operations.