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Case from journal
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Reference no. 320-0186-1
New product
Authors:
Published by:
The Case Centre (2020)
 
in "Case Focus - The Journal of Business & Management Teaching Cases, Middle East and Africa Edition"
Length:
18 pages
Data source:
Published sources

Abstract

Power is one of the world’s most pressing issues. A switch to renewable energy (including wind energy) is becoming a necessity to meet the growing challenge of climate change. Wind and solar energy have emerged as the energies of the future. However, while wind energy is one of the clean and renewable sources, it remains dependent on its industrial development and its economic efficiency. To deal with the major downsides of wind energy (intermittency and cost), important resources are implemented by companies in the energy sector as well as university research groups (supported politically) to make wind power a more reliable and economical source of energy. The Tunisian start-up Saphon Energy (founded in 2011) has developed the technology 'zero-blades'. This innovation relates to a non-rotating system without blades and equipped with a high-performance process superior to that of conventional turbines. The technology was patented on September 22, 2010 and has been published on March 29, 2012 under the reference WO/2012/039688. The inventor Anis Aouini and his business partner, Hassine Labaied, are trying to commercialise the new technology called 'Saphonian', which they say could revolutionise the energy industry. Drawing inspiration from the design of the sails of a ship and combining energy, economic and ecological efficiency, the Saphonian (in its second generation prototype) is 2.3 times more efficient and almost half the price of conventional wind turbines. The Saphonian is a very ambitious project, which all Tunisians can be proud of. Smaller, more efficient, safer and allowing better integration into the surrounding landscape (rural or urban), it holds so many promises that some skeptics think it is too good to be true! Although wind energy experts are eager for new solutions, some of them still remain skeptical about this innovation. It seems that between 'winning the prize of innovation for Africa' and 'making money in the global energy economy' there is certainly some way to go. Entering a market as lucrative and strategic as the wind market (estimated at USD100 billion) is a real challenge. After filing patents in 70 countries around the world in 2012, Saphon Energy began seeking a partnership with a manufacturer to promote the technology around the world. A strategic alliance was signed with Microsoft on the sidelines of the 5th World Entrepreneurship Summit, held from 9 to 21 November 2014 in Marrakech. This proves that the Saphon Energy has got their hands on something interesting, something that arouses the interest of a Global Player like Microsoft! Fernando de Sousa, Chairman of the Microsoft 4Africa initiative, said 'Microsoft is confident that Saphon Energy is a true African innovator' and that Microsoft is committed to supporting such talent. Since this point the voices of the skeptics have subsided and mocking comments have become rare. Innovation is an extremely important first step. The second step, is how to transform the invention into a marketable product? This is where many projects fail, especially since the two entrepreneurs had never asked for government support. They invested their own money and sought out sources of funding from people who believed in their project and their boundless passion. Since then, the startup has started negotiations with a number of international companies that produce renewable energy technologies to finalise the process. Having all the chances of becoming an African, Arab and world success story, Saphon Energy must, to arrive there, be able to commercialise its new technology. The big challenge now is how to market it?

Teaching and learning

This item is suitable for undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

Topics

Invention; Innovation; Technology; Management of technological innovation; Breakthrough / radical innovation; Strategic choices; Targeting strategy; Market segment; Wind energy; Bladeless wind turbines market

Setting

The events covered by this item took place in 2017.

Geographical setting

Region:
Africa
Country:
Tunisia
Location:
Tunis

Featured company

Company name:
Saphon Energy
Type:
Privately held
Industry:
Wind energy

Featured protagonists

  • Anis Aouini (male), Saphonian’s Inventor, Co-Founder & Chairman
  • Hassine Labaied (male), Partner & Co-Founder

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