Asia’s largest harbor, Victoria Harbour, offers
world-famous panoramic views of Hong Kong’s
glittering skyline. Its water, however, is breath-taking for entirely different reasons.
Even after a decade-long effort to improve
sewage treatment, about 25 percent of Hong
Kong’s wastewater is still dumped, untreated,
into the harbor. As a result, the bay’s E. coli
levels occasionally hit 50 times the recommended maximum. The other three-quarters
of sewage goes to landfills that are fast approaching maximum capacity.
To solve the problem, Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department launched
a project with surprising benefits: It’s now
building a waste-to-power incinerator that will
burn the sewage and use the resulting heat to
fuel electricity-generating turbines.
The US$580 million project is scheduled
for completion this year. Once it’s running,
the incinerator will eliminate 2,200 tons of
sewage sludge per day. It will also generate
enough electricity to power both the sewage
facility and a seawater desalination plant
that will produce more than 42,000 gallons
(159,000 liters) of potable water every day.
Hong Kong joins a small but growing
number of cities turning to similar projects to
deal with wastewater problems. “This is not a
pipe dream on a drawing board for us,” Dennis
Wherrell, CEO of Earth, Wind & Fire Technologies, told Scientific American. The company
has so far launched sewer-to-energy projects
in China and the United States and a test facility in Germany.
continue to climb in the next year. “We have seen an uptick in interest in both commercial and multifamily projects,” Mr. Knezovich says.
Market players believe passive building is prime to be adopted in emerging markets, as well. For instance, China’s middle-class explosion and a climate that requires
both air conditioning and heating make it ideal for this type of construction, says Mr.
Cohen. “The country is going to see a huge amount of new infrastructure and buildings,” he says. “The real opportunity for passive projects is in China.” —Elizabeth Ecker
PHOTO COURTESY OF INNOSPRING
Chinese investors—eager to nurture homegrown start-ups expanding abroad and to
entice more U.S. companies to launch projects in China—are building massive tech
centers across the United States.
InnoSpring, a business incubator devoted to U.S.-Chinese business partnerships,
opened its doors to start-ups in Santa Clara, California, USA in mid-2012. Hanhai
zPark, an 80,000-square-foot ( 7,432-square-meter) tech incubator backed by Chinese
investors, opened last June in San Jose, California, USA. In addition to renting lab and
office space to Chinese companies eager to do business in the country, Hanhai zPark
will invest directly in some of its tenant companies through a US$5 million angel
fund, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.
The buzz-worthy project is only the opening act: Hanhai Investment Incorporated
is on track to open a second biotech incubator—twice the size of the San Jose space—
in nearby San Francisco, California, USA in the next few months. A third incubator,
devoted to clean-tech companies, will open in 2014. And the organization recently
announced that it’s scouting for additional spaces in Boston, Massachusetts and other
All told, investors from China spent US$6.5 billion buying U.S. properties and
companies in 2012, a 17 percent increase over 2010, according to financial research
firm Rhodium Group, New York, New York, USA.
“Many U.S. companies don’t have the necessary experience to deal with doing
business in China and doing business with Chinese companies,” Victor Wang, president of Hanhai Investment, told the Silicon Valley Business Journal. By creating these
incubators, his company hopes to help U.S. project leaders connect with Chinese
partners to support technology alliances in both countries.
Victoria Harbour from Tsim Sha
Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Investment in Chinese-backed incubators is fueled in part by surging demand for tech
services and solutions in China, says Thilo Hanemann, a research director who tracks
Chinese investment at Rhodium Group. “As the Chinese economy matures, technol-
ogy innovation becomes more important,” he says. “You can’t clone the Bay Area in
Beijing or Chengdu. The key difference that the U.S. tech industry brings to the table
is human talent, especially when it comes to radical innovation.”
At the same time, the relaxation of Chinese policies around outward capital flows
has made it easier for investors eager to seed projects abroad to get their money out
of the country. Total Chinese direct investment in the United States—from advanced