The UK has a thriving cleantech sector addressing a wide range of global development issues. We have world-leading expertise in areas such as offshore renewable energy, bioenergy, low-impact buildings, energy efficiency, low-carbon transport, waste management, and ‘cleanweb’ technology.
The 2012 Cleantech Group report: The Global Cleantech Innovation Index 2012 ranked the UK tenth in the world for emerging cleantech and highlighted the lack of domestic commercialization of cleantech as the main drag on the score. Certainly there are some countries where adoption of cleantech is happening at a faster rate thanks to strong investment and government policy.
A large proportion of the companies active in cleantech in the UK are highly innovative small and medium enterprises (SMEs), many of which have technology particularly suited to fast growing overseas markets. Accessing these markets is a particular challenge for small businesses. Learning about the market, what is takes to do business there; getting to meet the right contacts and understanding the culture are all difficult to do with limited resources and reputation.
To help overcome these hurdles and speed up overseas market entry for high-growth potential SMEs the Technology Strategy Board (an advisory body reporting to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) runs Entrepreneur Missions in partnership with UK Trade and Investment (UKTI). The aim of these missions is to use the collective energy and noise of fifteen to twenty exciting young companies to open doors in overseas markets and help them make the connections they need as potential customers, suppliers, agents and investors. Going on a mission is a competitive process and the winning companies are selected by a panel of expert judges. The mission companies benefit from tailored sessions to improve their communications, hear ‘warts and all’ from real innovators in the overseas market and get to spend time with entrepreneurs in similar situations to themselves.
From 2008, with partners, the Technology Strategy Board have run a number of such missions (increasing each year to the four planned for 2014) in areas such as health, digital and clean technology. The next cleantech Mission, know as Clean and Cool will be run to the U.S. at the start of 2015. Over 70 companies have participated in the last four clean tech Missions, raising in excess of $415 million in growth funding through a combination of direct investment and project grants.
Two Clean and Cool Missions were run in 2013: one to Colorado with a strong energy technology focus and the other to Brazil concentrating on the needs for their growing economy. In Colorado the mission focused on learning more about the prominent clean energy innovation ecosystem. The state has over 300 cleantech and 1600 support companies and is now 3rd for U.S. cleantech venture capital financing. Mission companies have solutions in smart grids, energy storage, energy efficiency, system integration, and renewables.
Companies on the Brazil Mission reflected UK strengths in water, waste, renewable energy, agriculture, and urban innovation technologies. These matched national challenges in access to water, wastewater treatment and energy alongside highly concentrated urban areas such as the mission destinations Rio de Janerio and Sao Paolo. The mission looked to build partnerships and help the companies understand what it takes to do business in Brazil, where previously it has been a challenge.
Earlier Missions to the U.S. have centered on San Francisco and the considerable cleantech business and investment community based there. Nearly all the previous U.S. mission companies now have U.S. customers and around half have U.S. partners. Moreover 40 percent have achieved investment since the mission, with some deals as high as $67 million. Between them they have also won around 100 awards, including one Guinness World Record. The quality of companies that are selected for Missions has attracted a number of partners and co-sponsors over the years, including Shell Gamechanger, The Long Run Venture, and the Cleantech Group. These organizations do not simply offer money but advice, resource and time to the mission companies. There are opportunities to be involved in any of the missions.
The next Mission will take place towards the start of 2015 and return to San Francisco. U.S. companies with an interest in UK cleantech should get in touch. The links we build on the missions often go in both directions and are a great way to build partnerships into the UK.
For overseas companies wanting to innovate in the UK there are many opportunities. At the Technology Strategy Board we recognize the attraction of the UK’s strong research base and dynamic small businesses. We support collaborative business R&D in areas of UK strength and global need through competitive project grants and through our networks. In particular our Knowledge Transfer Network can connect companies and academics across the innovation landscape and advise on funding support. These include European mechanisms such as Horizon2020 and can be an excellent way to establish collaborations in the UK and European markets.
The Catapults are also funded by the Technology Strategy Board. The Catapults are technology and innovation centers that create critical mass in important areas for innovation which require expensive and large-scale facilities and the experts who know how to capitalize on them. The Technology Strategy Board has set up Catapults in High-Value Manufacturing, Cell-Based Therapies, Satellite Applications, Offshore Renewable Energy, Connected Digital Economy, Future Cities, and Transport Systems, with more in the pipeline. The Catapults represent $1.65 billion of public and private investment. These centers are an excellent first port of call for companies wishing to bring new technologies and ideas to market quicker in the UK.
Developing global solutions also requires development in the target market, which is recognized in our International Strategy and led to us establishing co-funding agreements with countries such as India and China. These allow inter-country projects where each country’s agency funds the companies in their part of the project.
To learn more about the Technology Strategy Board and see the best of UK innovation why not attend our InnovateUK 2014 event taking place at Old Billingsgate, London, on November 5-6, 2014? Go to www.innovateuk.org/-/innovate-uk to learn more.