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India could possibly overachieve its Paris Agreement goals: Sébastien Hug, CEO and Consul General, swissnex India

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Sébastien Hug, CEO, swissnex India
 

By 2030, India plans to generate 40% of its total energy requirement through renewable energy sources. “The Government of India has planned to increase its renewable energy capacity target to 225 GW by 2022, much ahead of its initial target of 175 GW. Overall, up to 8.5 GW of renewable energy capacity is expected to be added in 2018-19, and will result in India overachieving its Paris Agreement goals,” said Sébastien Hug, CEO and Consul General, swissnex India.

swissnex India is a platform within the Consulate of Switzerland that promotes networking between academicians, researchers and corporates through startup advisory and market access enabling stakeholders with institutions and topics, bring relevant partners together, and create the best outcome.

Hug talked to The CSR Journal during Cleantech Week 2018. swissnex has organised Cleantech Week between December 10-14 spanning across Bengaluru, Pune and Mumbai. The idea is to encourage knowledge share between India and Swiss experts, clean energy enterprises and academics to help identify gaps in the Indian clean energy sector and create a sustainable model of growth for the future. Hug opened up about more Indo-Swiss collaborations to come.

swissnex India is an initiative of the Swiss Government dedicated to connecting Switzerland and India in the fields of education, research and innovation. Could you elaborate on the various programs in these fields?

Our programs are primarily focused on the academic and entrepreneurial communities in Switzerland and India. We engage with a diverse set of players within these two communities, identify people and institutions that could benefit from collaborating, and bring them together. We have curated several programs to facilitate engagement between our stakeholders.

Amongst our current programs for the entrepreneurial community, the key ones would be the ‘Innosuisse Market Validation and Entry Camps’, whereby, we support Swiss startups in their market assessment and entry into India through curated exploratory visits: and the Academia Industry Training Program that enables researchers to take an entrepreneurial leap by building a bridge between academia and industry.

Similarly for the academic community, we have the India Industry Internship program that provides internship opportunities for Swiss students in the fields of robotics, AI, digital health, etc, in innovative startups and SMEs in India. We also open doors for Indian students to Swiss academic institutions by promoting key scholarship opportunities such as ThinkSwiss Research Scholarships and Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.

Tell us about your journey so far.

My journey started in the second coldest capital of the world, in Ottawa, Canada, where I worked for almost five years at the Swiss Embassy as a Science Counselor. I moved south to Massachussets, USA, to work for swissnex Boston as a Project Leader. Not only were the winters a little better, but I also gained an insight into one of the world’s leading technology hubs, which was a life changing phase for me.

After the birth of our first daughter, we wanted to be closer to family and moved to Bern, where I worked at the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Education, in charge of coordinating the swissnex Network. This gave me yet another inside perspective on the swissnex Network. After four years, I was looking to go “on the field” again and, so here I am, very excited and curious to dive into another leading global innovation hotspot!

So far, for me and my family, it has been a wonderful journey of learning and discovering the diversity and opportunities of India; from visiting places such as Hampi, Jodhpur, Lucknow and Goa, to tasting the large variety of Indian cuisines, and diving into the thriving startup ecosystem of Bengaluru. India’s economy is changing rapidly, and to witness that and be part of this transformation is a fascinating experience.

Where does India stand right now when it comes to renewable energy?

The Government of India has planned to increase its renewable energy capacity target to 225 GW by 2022, much ahead of its initial target of 175 GW.  In 2017-18, India added 11,788 MW of renewable energy capacity and in April-July 2018, the numbers rose to 1,832.26 MW (grid interactive and off-grid). Overall, up to 8.5 GW of renewable energy capacity is expected to be added in 2018-19, and will result in India overachieving its Paris Agreement goals. By 2030, India plans to generate 40% of its total energy requirement through renewable energy sources.

What is the upcoming Cleantech Week about?

Cleantech Week India 2018 is a platform curated by swissnex India to enable the key players from Switzerland and India’s energy sector to interact with one another, and find synergies. 16 participants from Switzerland’s academic institutions, startups, SMEs and the government will arrive in India, visit three cities – Bengaluru, Pune and Mumbai, and meet prominent members of India’s energy sector through knowledge exchange sessions, one-on-one meetings and networking gatherings.

How will the multi-city event explore connections in renewable energy?

A great deal of thought and attention has been given into the curation of this program to enable meaningful conversations and exchange of ideas.

The visiting delegates have been grouped into four primary focus areas – energy storage, mobility, energy efficiency and photovoltaics. We have identified the important players in India in these segments. Sessions have been tailored to cover topics relevant to the visiting delegates and their Indian counterparts. One-on-one meetings have been curated to identify the best possible match for each of the Swiss delegates. Open sessions such as networking dinners have been planned to invite multiple stakeholders who could provide diversity in perspective and insights.

How does swissnex plan to accelerate scaling and growth in India?

We help Swiss startups entering the Indian market by advising, coaching and connecting them with potential partners, clients and investors as well as peers to provide some feedback and insights into the Indian market. The key to successful acceleration in India is to adapt the business model and define the right market entry strategy.

What will be the shape of the Indo-Swiss government collaboration in the future?

At swissnex India, we believe that opportunities for collaboration lie particularly in four areas, namely: HealthTech, Sustainable Cities, Renewable Energy and Deep Technologies, such as Blockchain, AI/ML, etc. Moreover, there is a lot of interest in deepening Academia-Industry relations, that is, pushing for partnerships between Universities and Industry players in Switzerland and India.

Last, but not least, we will continue and further develop activities with Swiss startups looking to enter the Indian market.

Thank you for reading the interview until the very end. We appreciate the time you have given us. In addition, your thoughts and inputs will genuinely make a difference to us. Please do drop in a line and help us do better.

Regards,
The CSR Journal Team

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