It was with great joy that I stepped into the office on December 2nd. I had checked my e-mails before going to work that morning and I knew that we had broken the record! 107 companies had applied to Nordic Cleantech Open, up from 92 last year and 84 the year before that.
Nordic Cleantech Open is a business competition for start-ups. Its purpose is to find, upgrade and showcase the most promising ones. The applicants are just the tip of the iceberg. The number of cleantech companies coming out of the Nordic innovation systems increases every year, and they are often more innovative, solve real industry problems to a higher degree and are run by younger, more energetic teams than their forerunners. Nordic cleantech also has a great image internationally. Cleantech Scandinavia, for example, is experiencing increased interest from international investors and companies in industry.
This is all great, but there are challenges. Firstly, the markets are sluggish. There seem to be many reasons for this, ranging from a lack of economic incentives and fear of big, risky investments to a lack of awareness and knowledge. Weak business models and poor sales capabilities in the cleantech companies can also be added to the list. Secondly, international competition is becoming fierce. Many countries around the world are putting a large amount of resources into becoming the next leaders in cleantech. Below are a few areas where I think we could improve our position in the Nordic countries.
Establish public/private funding solutions
It is a fact that private investments in Nordic cleantech companies have gone down. Many of the investors that where active a few years ago have announced that they will refrain from investing in early stage cleantech. At the same time, an increasing number of companies are receiving public funding for product development. Very little money is available for market expansion activities. This is choking cleantech start-ups today, and there is a risk that a generation of promising Nordic cleantech companies will go bust before they even enter the market. A public/private funding solution devoted to investments in the market expansion stages could be part of a solution. Why not a Nordic one?
Initiatives for faster deployment of cleantech
Industry has become a more active player in cleantech. However, investment activities are not always connected to the needs emerging from the organisation and therefore do not reach their full potential. It is also noticeable that new innovative cleantech solutions struggle to be included in public development projects. Initiatives to help open up these market opportunities would be most beneficial.
Build a stronger Nordic cleantech brand
The Nordic countries are a very suitable geographical area for any investor looking for investment opportunities. If public and other initiatives could be coordinated on a Nordic level we could strengthen the brand without sub-optimizing resources.
This column was written by Managing Director Magnus Agerström from Cleantech Scandinavia.
Cleantech Scandinavia runs an internationally established network of investors, industrials and public actors, all with an interest in Nordic Cleantech. During six years in business Cleantech Scandinavia has become a trusted source of cleantech-related investment opportunities, business intelligence, investment statistics and a renowned provider and promotor of Nordic Cleantech. Today Cleantech Scandinavia has some 70 members from the Nordics, Baltics, China, Great Britain, Belgium, Germany Spain and USA. Some examples of the network’s members are Capricorn, Evonik, Cleantech Invest, Sustainable Technology Partners, Id Invest Partners, BASF ventures, DOW ventures, IKEA Greentech, Volvo Venture Capital Group, General Electric, and Swedish Energy Agency.