Greenbang is today launching a report on some of the UK’s most impressive clean tech start-up companies.
The study reveals that some of the UK’s major innovators in this space could move offshore to attract investment.
“There is a danger that some very smart technologies could move offshore to places like the US where investors are happier to take a risk,” says Greenbang Editor Dan Ilett. “Some of the companies we selected for the index said they had to jump through hoops to get investment in the UK, particularly to grow from small to mid-size. It shows that while there is a lot of noise about around clean tech and green business, innovators in the UK are simply not getting the cash they need.
“While there are some universities and government departments helping companies, the research showed that not all companies are finding it easy to get such support. Saying that, the research highlighted some inspiring clean-tech business ideas in the UK. The range of ideas and the potential for some of these companies is astounding.”
The Greenbang Clean Tech Start-up Company Index, a snap-shot of the UK’s clean tech market, profiles young companies innovating in carbon, construction, energy, resources, technology and transport markets. It also asks how these start-ups think businesses and consumers could cut their dependency on fossil fuels.
Green innovation and business news website Greenbang produced the Index, which was sponsored by the University of Bath and PR company Hill & Knowlton.
Other major findings include:
- Getting seed capital from investors is relatively straightforward but moving products from the prototype phase is tricky
- Transparency around new technology is key to avoid greenwash
- Alternative energy technology is the way forward, people are unsure of the carbon cost
- Energy security is essential – another driver for looking at alternatives
With global temperatures and the price of fossil fuels showing no signs of cooling, a target has been set to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by between 26 – 32% by 2020 in the UK. Combined with the growing awareness of an environmentally savvy consumer, there has been an explosion in innovation, which is a crucial step forwards for the environment.
Currently the UK leads the way in tidal and wave energy research, but it could risk its current advantages to overseas enthusiasm. Aquascientific, a two-year-old company which designs tidal turbines commented on the threat, “We are focused on environmentally attractive and reliable designs which give a high return on investment. As we can see from this report, the UK is home to some great innovators in the cleantech space. However, growing overseas commitment to tidal energy in particular, means without greater funding in the UK, we are in real danger of attracting technology away from the UK.”
Political and regulatory uncertainty was found to be a risk and a deterrent for investors. High capital expenditure puts off investors even though the cost of renewable energy is falling as oil costs are rising.
Some investors have been quick to realise this. One example of success in the index is Onzo, a start-up that produces real-time energy displays.
Joel Hagan, Founder of Onzo, comments: “Scottish and Southern Energy were impressed by our products and services and placed a £7m order to secure exclusive distribution rights in the UK and Ireland. The simplicity of the design means that it can fit through a letter box for delivery and return for recycling, and has the sort of interface anyone can understand.”
Universities remain keen to help move the clean-tech industry along. Simon Bond, Director of the University of Bath Innovation Centre said, we are excited about collaborating with start-up clean tech companies – the UK has a strong research base in this sector and, with the proper support and funding, we have a real opportunity of taking this world class technology into global markets.”
Amanda Groty, Hill & Knowlton, Global Client Services Director & Vice President of Technology in EMEA, comments on how communication is vital for these innovators. ”For start-up companies in general, but especially those in a relatively ‘new’ industry like clean tech, PR and marketing is crucial. Targeted communications helps these companies raise funding, drive awareness of environmental issues, influence government regulation and supports the overall business plan for growth. Clean Tech is a priority area for H&K and we have built up considerable experience working for clients such as Better Place, BrightSource Energy, Poweo and Solar Century. It is an exciting area to be working in.”
But the question is how much does the UK want to lead in this?