Monthly Archives: December 2009

The ABC of aircrafts

A-B-C,  one-two-three… With this simple line you are basically looking at the future of large commercial aicrafts: Airbus, Boeing and soon Comac hope to share equally the market for 170-190 seater aircrafts.

The C919 – the number 9 stands for long-lasting – will be produced by the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China. Comac was set up in 2008 to develop a large Chinese airplaine. It already markets the ARJ21, the country’s first regional jet. This time the focus is a bit different since the aim is not to conquer the domestic market but to compete with the Airbus 320 and Boeing 737 on international markets.

Akin to what happens in many other industries, the aim is to develop a new aircraft with as much Chinese intellectual property as possible. So far, a lot is borrowed from technologies developed abroad. For instance, the ARJ21 is built using tooling originally provided by McDonnell Douglas. Likewise the C919 will benefit from European and American technologies as Safran (a French company) and GE have entered a JV agreement to build the engine.

So will the C919 seal the end of the duopoly? Not in the short term at least. In the first years Comac’s production capacity will hardly be able to serve the growing demand for domestic aircrafts – it expects to sell 2000 units over 20 years with an estimated demand of 4000 planes for the same period. In addition, the first pilot flight is scheduled for 2014 and the commercial version is expected in 2016.

So, it will probably take a bit longer until Air France or British Airways order their first C919!

Google is #2 (for once)

Believe it or not but there is one market where Google is not #1. Not the smallest market either. According to Analysys its share of search engine revenues in China is around 30%, or less than half of Baidu - the leading Chinese search engine, now considered as the 3rd biggest search property on the Internet.

Even more surprising is the report released this week by Google in which we learn that the most searched term among Mainland Chinese users of Google is … Baidu.  Two explanations come to mind: “googling” has already permeated the consciousness of the Chinese netizens so well that they don’t realize they are using Google to search for another search engine. A second explanation could be that Baidu uses robots to enter “Baidu” on the Google website so as to increase its ranking.

In any case, the battle between the two giants promises to be interesting!

P.S.: For those wondering, the most searched terms in 2008 were about the Sichuan earthquake, the Olympics opening ceremony and substandard milk powder…

Green China

Even McDonald did it… Surfing on the wave of green-washing, the fast food giant took the bet to rebrand itself. The most visible aspect of the campaign has been the greening of its logo. Green McDonald
So, should China attempt a similar move? The country currently sources 70% of its energy needs from coal and, despite notable improvements in efficiency, absolute CO2 emissions are bound to go up for quite some time. To be fair, Beijing has already signaled its commitment to the environment – a White Paper on climate change published in 2008 even set out eco-priorities. Green China
The Copenhagen Summit is of course more than marketing. It is a great opportunity to work with the international community towards a global deal. China, together with other emerging nations, come to the negotiating table with solid arguments to ask for a fair deal: industrialized nations have a historic responsibility for the rise of greenhouse gases (GHG), they currently emit more GHG on a per capita basis and they are the consumers of most goods produced in China. Green UN
Self-enlightened interest should come to the rescue of diplomatic and political games. In the short-run, developing countries will likely suffer most from climatic/environmental degration. But it won’t take that long until the whole community shoulders the burden – a rather classic prisoner’s dilemma where everybody is better off if all cooperate but also with [very limited] room for free riding. It doesn’t take too much thinking to see why the US and the EU should intensify clean-technology transfer to China (and other developing economies), nor why industrialized nations should show moral leadership by “concrete” reduction in their own emissions. In the end, the trade-off between growth and environment really depends on what type of growth the world wants.

From grassroot to global innovation

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to tap into a repository of innovative solutions from developing countries to solve the problems of a billion farmers in the rural areas?

No need to go further than the Honeybee Network. The National Innovation Foundation – an NGO affiliated with a number of top-level research institutions – has been building a database of innovations from the “grassroots”. So, if you are looking for an innovative way to store sweet potatoes or a way to ease pedalling uphill, that’s the place to go. Innovations are collected from 545 Indian districts and patents are sold at the national or even international level.

A team of scouts is on the lookout for innovative answers to daily challenges in the rural areas. All propositions are screened and evaluated. Competitions are also organized to tap into young minds’ unbridled approach to problem-solving.

For sure, Honeybee won’t solve all the problems of rural development but it reminds us that innovation happens all the time and everywhere. The rest is just a question of diffusion.