Reflections from Business in Clean Tech & Environment Summit – Barcelona

March 11th, 201010:40 am @ f3 fund it

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Reflections from Business in Clean Tech & Environment Summit – Barcelona

We attended the BiCE summit this week at ESADE and overall we would say the event was a successful one, some interesting talks, some interesting companies, one that we’ll be covering sooner than later in our Startup Saturday series even.

However what we believe was the most interesting part of the whole thing was the panel of Angel, VC (venture capital), and PE (private equity) investors into the clean tech space, as well as a discussion on the development of clean tech in the CEE region. The low point – a long winded forum of government officials talking about sustainability and efficiency and elaborating on the need to create overly complex programmes to work together with the private sector and banks. So let’s start there -

Government and Clean Tech

Clearly one of the more important roles if any of government is to set policy, and provide incentives for enterprise in it’s own market. This is all good and well, and in our most humble of opinions this is simply something that needs to be done via tax abatement. After all, the stakeholder mentality is undoubtedly focused on the bottom line.

So what’s the problem? There should be none, government should have instituted tax abatement programmes for clean-tech initiatives a long time ago, the same for energy efficiency etc… etc… not only to offset the cost of installation, but also to create incentives for non eco-knowledgeable business to implement eco-friendly methodologies and practices into its day-to-day operations.

But @ BiCE, these governmental entities failed at promoting just that, instead they discusses large bogged down in bureaucracy initiatives, that lacked any sort of clear vision. Notwithstanding what really stood out – in terms of the negative – were comments made by various government individuals that “each case is different” and that a “different programme needs to be established for different companies”. Socialist, sure, but worse that that it screams of 1. Inefficiency, and 2. Higher Taxes. After all someone’s got to pay for all these new programmes.

What’s the solution, simple, Ockham’s Razor – entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily. Create an initiative that fosters the implementation of Clean Tech and Enviro-Friendly practices, give tax breaks to those who participate in the programme, and that’s pretty much all you need.

Clean Tech & Energy in the CEE

Elena Yordanova an investor in the clean tech area with Astra Capital spoke on this topic and although it was brief, it was also very informative. The region as a whole has huge potential for clean tech implementation, specifically in the area of en energy generation.

The SEE is rich in sunshine, there are various opportunities for hydroelectric as well as the north, i.e. Poland, and the Baltics can capitalize on coastal wind farms. Barriers to entry are still fairly low, and the region has massive growth potential across the board, however certain markets such as Romania already have met 2020 targets and over 30% of their energy production coming from renewable sources.

Investment Outlook for Clean Tech

This is a tricky one, as we all well know – investors want a high margin quick return. Clean tech companies however are not suited for this model, time to market may often be ten years or more, and investments are typically very capital intensive.

At the same time, the industry or sector is as a whole very new, and there is very little if any PE activity within the clean-tech space.The good news however is that you’re starting to see VC’s grouping their funds together for truly large scale capital investments into new technologies that otherwise without this money could not be realized. This is a good thing, the bad thing is the lack to BA’s in the field and their reluctance to throw money at clean tech startups – after all, there needs to be a call to a social cause when investing 500k-2m and expecting generally lower returns over a longer period of time.