Universities and non-profit organisations have long expounded the benefits of collaboration in green technology to achieve a common goal but the spread of intercorporate projects has been less widespread. Kris Gopalakrishnan, executive co-chairman of Infosys, the Indian information technology consultancy, says: “Companies can educate each other, supply funding, help boost a supply chain and push the project towards its goals. But concerns over privacy, intellectual property and the compromise of commercial viability must all be tackled when two or more companies decide to throw in their lot together on a green technology project. However, these issues can and have been overcome, as SSE, the British energy company, proved with a carbon capture project at its Ferrybridge power station in West Yorkshire. Initiated late last year, the project was set up to capture 100 tonnes of carbon dioxide per day from the emissions of a five megawatt coal-fired power plant. The green technology – often touted as a way of cleaning up after “dirty” fossil fuel power plants by preventing CO2 from being released into the air – captures the gas and pipes it to storage deep beneath ground or sea. The Ferrybridge project was a collaboration between SSE, Doosan Power Systems, which builds, maintains and extends the life of power plants; and Vattenfall, the Swedish energy company. SSE’s rationale was simple: the collaboration achieved the desired result faster than if it had gone ahead alone. “The power of collaboration lies in bringing together companies who are real specialists in their respective fields to form a creative force that is greater than the sum of its parts, allowing them to achieve technological enhancements that may not otherwise have been possible,” said SSE. “We’ve also found a good cultural fit between organisations is crucial to the success of any collaboration.” As well as corporate partners, the project benefited from £6m of public funding and had the co-operation of the Northern Way, the body set up to bridge the productivity gap between the north and south of England, as well as the Technology Strategy Board, the UK innovations agency. Although bringing so many partners together could have strained the scheme, the carbon capture project – one of the first of its kind in the UK – has proved to be a litmus test for not only the green technology, but also corporate collaborations. The project has provided valuable information for industry regulators, such as the Environment Agency, and SSE is considering broadening its collaborations into a larger scale operation at its gas-fired power station at Peterhead in Aberdeenshire. The benefits of corporate collaboration in green technology have not been restricted to power companies. This year, Eco Plastics, the Lincolnshire-based recycling group, created a joint venture with Coca-Cola to increase the pace of development in the UK’s recycling infrastructure. In May, they opened the £15m Continuum Recycling plant, which has more than doubled the amount of bottle grade recycled plastic that was previously created in the UK. The plant processes plastic packaging and turns it into materials that Coca-Cola can use to make drink bottles. The turnround time from collection to a new bottle appearing on the shelves is as little as six weeks. The partnership has created a template for Coca-Cola in other countries, with similar projects lined up for other markets, including France. Other recent collaborative projects can be found in the US, where Heinz teamed up with Coca-Cola, Ford, Nike and Procter & Gamble to speed the development and use of plant-based plastics. All use the plastic PET polyethylene terephthalate in products such as plastic bottles, clothing, shoes and automotive fabric and carpet. Through the creation of the Plant PET Technology Collaborative, the five pooled their technologies and resources to increase the amount of plant-based plastics used in consumable bottles. The group said: “PTC members are committed to researching and developing commercial solutions for PET plastic made entirely from plants and will aim to drive the development of common methodologies and standards for the use of plant-based plastic.” The role of government as an initiator of such corporate tie-ups should not be overlooked, Mr Gopalakrishnan points out that the state plays an important role throughout each stage of the development of green technology. He says: “Government should work as a catalyst by helping to fund new technology, then by spreading best practices, then by acting as a regulator.”