Archive for November 4, 2009
Ethiopia – Sossina Haile The Power Behind Cooler, Greener Energy
Sossina Haile created a new type of fuel cell by default. In the late ’90s, the Caltech scientist had an idea that she thought might dramatically improve fuel cells, the clean technology that converts chemical energy to electricity to power cars, buses and power plants. Haile’s idea was to employ an entirely new type of “superprotonic” compound that might help supply power at dramatically lower cost. But when fuel-cell makers balked at revamping their entire systems to try her solution, Haile decided to fabricate the world’s first solid-acid fuel cell in her lab. Early in 2008 a Pasadena, Calif., start-up called Superprotonic—founded by two of her former grad students—will ship the first commercial prototypes to energy-systems makers. The output is barely enough to power a 100-watt bulb, but hopes are high that the small start will someday produce powerful fuel cells for commercial use. “This is potentially a breakthrough technology,” says former senator Bill Bradley, who sits on the Superprotonic board. She’s hardly alone in seeing the promise of fuel cells, which produce energy through chemical reactions; their chief emission is pure water. (To prove that point, Haile once drank the tailpipe emission of a fuel-cell car on camera.) Not only do we need to find carbon-neutral fuel sources to slow global warming, but the world’s energy needs will continue to grow—by an estimated 50 percent by 2050. Today, small fuel cells power a few cars and buses (Honda will begin leasing a fuel-cell FCX Clarity next summer), while large ones produce electricity at some factories and universities. They are expensive, but Haile’s fuel cells may be cheaper and more durable. Haile, a mother of two, has never followed a conventional path. Her family fled Ethiopia during the coup in the mid-’70s, after soldiers arrested and nearly killed her historian father, then settled in rural Minnesota before Haile, now 41, went to MIT and grad school. Superprotonic launched in 2003, with Haile as science adviser. Haile’s discovery may someday fill a need for a fuel cell that generates power at midrange temperatures. Low-temperature cells (20 degrees to 100 degrees Celsius) require costly platinum catalysts to speed the reactions; superhot “solid oxide” fuel cells react easily, but require expensive ceramic materials that can withstand operating temperatures of 600 degrees to 1,000 degrees Celsius. Finding a material that operates well in a midrange “is quite important,” says Jack Brouwer, associate director of the National Fuel Cell Research Center at the University of California, Irvine, though he adds that it’s too early to say if Haile’s cell will be commercially viable. Haile is confident it will, but she’s also busy “tweaking” high-temperature systems to increase power output and lower costs. For her, the race to find new energy sources is fascinating. She says, “There’s nothing better than being able to combine an intellectually exciting topic with the knowledge that it will be beneficial. To me, that’s just glory.”
About Professor Sossina Haile
Sossina Haile received her B.S and Ph.D (1992) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and M.S. from the University of California, Berkeley. Before joining the Caltech faculty in 1996, Haile spent three years as an assistant professor at the University of Washington, Seattle. Haile has received the NSF National Young Investigator Award (1994-99), Humboldt Fellowship (1992-93), Fulbright Fellowship (1991-92), and AT&T Cooperative Research Fellowship (1986-92). The Humboldt and Fulbright fellowships supported her research at the Max Planck Institut für Festkörperforschung [Institute for Solid State Research], Stuttgart, Germany (1991-1993). She is the recipient of the 2001 J.B. Wagner Award of the High Temperature Materials Division of the Electrochemical Society, the 2000 Coble Award from the American Ceramics Society and the 1997 TMS Robert Lansing Hardy Award.
By Marie-Claire Ross
Breaking into the international marketplace can catapult a company into increased profitability and growth more rapidly than when selling to a domestic market.
But how do you market your company successfully to overseas buyers? What can you do to provide the right information to prospective clients that are informative and engaging? How can you stand out from the crowd?
The most common promotional approach is to provide brochures. While brochures do play an important role, they can be uninspiring and ill-equipped to convey a real feeling for what an organization does and how they operate. Furthermore, when brochures are translated into other languages it is commonly agreed that even the best translations are cumbersome and not reflective of how that particular language is used. This often means that international prospects feel less inclined to read brochures in-depth.
So how do you show prospective clients how your product is made? What can you do to highlight your product range and its associated benefits? A proven promotional method is corporate video production. The combination of moving vision with sound, allows complex messages to be communicated in a far superior way to that of any written information.
Research has found that video can be up to four times more effective than a printed brochure. Given that 80% of the information we recall is visual, it is understandable why audiovisual materials are so successful in getting messages across to viewers. The best investment companies can make is by providing prospective clients with their corporate video on a VHS tape or a menu driven DVD disk or CDROM disk (which is like the menu option on a movie DVD).
CDROMs are particularly flexible as they can include video, brochures, documents and website links. They can even be produced as CD business cards which are perfect for travelers who wish to reduce the amount of marketing materials they need to carry. Corporate videos can be downloaded from websites, which not only saves money in distribution costs, but provides 24 hour worldwide access.
A further advantage of corporate video is that it allows for voiceovers to be translated into a variety of languages. As visual cues are used in conjunction with the voiceover, the language sounds natural and appealing. The winner of the 2002 Regional Exporter of the Year Awards, the Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory, strongly agrees with the use of corporate video production to boost export sales.
John Williams, Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory’s marketing manager, says “We are very proud of our Factory and our picturesque location. It makes a lot of sense to show our best attributes to their advantage and the way to do that is through a corporate video.”
“We’ve found corporate video to be extremely flexible. I can travel overseas and show a DVD quality video to potential clients on my notebook computer”. “We had a short promotional video created that was slotted into our PowerPoint presentation which we presented to a large Japanese dairy importer. It really gave us the competitive edge and helped us win a large multi-million dollar contract”.
Justin Howden, an International Marketing specialist from Marketing and Investment Partners, also advocates using corporate videos when marketing overseas. “For companies that are undertaking trade marketing, corporate video is critical. It is vital to get trade onside when marketing overseas and corporate video is irreplaceable when trying to get distributors involved,” he says.
“A successful corporate video is created by finding out what are the most important pieces of information that your target market wants to know. You need to unearth what 20% of information will give you an 80% kick in marketing terms. Once you’ve done this, you then need to focus on these important points in the promotional video”. Corporate video production is a powerful, convenient and cost-effective way for overseas buyers to see what you have to offer. It is an innovative method that can encompass video, brochures, documents and website/email links into one small CD business card.
By using a combination of the right promotional tools and a creative approach, the time-consuming and often difficult road to breaking into the global marketplace, can be made much easier.
(c) Marie-Claire Ross 2003. All rights reserved
|There might not seem to be anything extraordinary about an apple – until you witness how income from growing the fruit can help lift people out of poverty.
In 2006 Self Help Africa brought root stock for 3,800 apple trees from Spain and distributed them to farm producers in upland project areas of two existing area-based projects in the Oromia region of Ethiopia.
More than 40 individual and community nurseries grafted the fruit, while lead farmers in project areas were provided with technical training and assistance to pilot apple production on their farms.
Since then several hundred households in the area have planted apple trees, while efforts are underway at a wider level to secure new markets for the product, particularly in the markets and tourism businesses of the capital, Addis Ababa.
A father of eight children, Abara Gashawe is one of more than 60 farmers in the Huruta area who has been rearing apple trees.
The young trees have yet to reach maturity, but Abara is optimistic that within the next year or so he will be collecting a valuable bounty from his small orchard.
A mother of two, Kebebusa says that she has already been selling the fruit that she harvests from her 32 apple trees in local markets, but that when the co-operative begins marketing on their behalf, they will be able to sell to fruit markets and other institutions in the city.