cleantech insights

What is Innovation? And Why The Question Matters.

Greg Neichin

What types of “innovation” should markets and society value?

What types of products, services, and businesses can justifiably be labeled as “innovation”?

I mindlessly use the word “innovation” tens of times every single day without pausing enough to ponder these fundamental questions.  Heck, I’ve helped architect a product called i3 for “insight into innovation”, regularly assist clients build “innovation sourcing” teams, and help host a conference with an “innovation showcase” (don’t forget to join us in San Francisco on March 26-28th!).  I really should have a thoughtful opinion here.

On one hand, having spent most of my career as an entrepreneur, I think that there is a fair argument to be made that the answer to the question, “what is innovation?” should be “who cares about semantics!”  Let’s go out and build new stuff.  If it replaces the old stuff, makes for a profitable business, and nets a good return for investors, we can call it whatever we want.

On the other hand, I think we, especially in some corners of the U.S. entrepreneurial community, have forgotten what innovation truly looks like.  Jon Gertner presents his case for a definition of “innovation” in this …


A Sneak Peek into the Eco City

Team i3

As you have probably heard by now, the 2012 edition of the Cleantech Forum San Francisco will be a very special one. The Eco City is one of the features that will make this 10th Anniversary event unique. Built upon the success of last year’s all-electric car show, the Eco City is designed as a public showcase of the latest clean technologies available on the market. Fifteen hand-picked companies representing the automotive, solar, wind, building materials, energy efficiency and smart grid industries will run the show, displaying their coolest products and illustrating this year’s theme: “The Power of Global Partnerships”. The Eco City will take place on Tuesday 27th and Wednesday 28th of March on Justin Herman plaza, in front of San Francisco’s famous Ferry Building and just outside the Hyatt Regency. As a special treat for cleantech aficionados, the event is open and free to the approximately 20,000 pedestrians that walk through the plaza each day.

So what can you actually do at the Eco City? For starters, test-drive Ford’s brand-new electric car. Come over and have a look at SunPower’s latest solar technologies. Sit and enjoy the sun on our green pop-up park. …

Ten top picks for this year’s Cleantech Forum San Francisco

Whitney Michael

Cleantech Forum San Francisco kicks off in just about a month at the Hyatt Regency on the beautiful Embarcadero.  We can only hope the gorgeous weather we’ve been having will hold out for another four weeks!  I don’t believe I’m exaggerating (or bragging) when I say this is going to be our biggest and best conference ever.

While the two and a half days are packed from morning to night with networking, interesting speakers, and activities, I want to share my top 10 reasons you should go now and register.  Save $300 too with discount code CTSFBLOG.

1. Real deals, real senior executives, real networking.  You attend conferences to meet others actively in search of deals, investments, and partnership opportunities. It’s kind of what Cleantech Forum San Francisco is known for. Top executives, investors and entrepreneurs travel from all around the world to meet, make deals, and set the agenda for the year ahead.

2. Entrepreneurial pitch sessions are so popular, even entrepreneurs with loads of capital still want in!  20 hand-selected entrepreneurs seeking funding pitch during Tuesday’s Entrepreneur Showcase. Companies include LanzaTech (which just recently closed a $50M+ investment), Atmosphere Recovery, and ReVolt.

3. This

What does cheap natural gas mean for cleantech?

Sheeraz Haji

Wholesale natural gas prices have been on a steady downward slope, hovering at around $2.50 per million BTU. The latest official supply figures show the US has three trillion of cubic feet of stored gas, up 25% from this time last year. All this talk of cheap and plentiful natural gas has me wondering: What does this mean for cleantech?

Cheap and Abundant Natural Gas

The obvious answer is: This is bad news. Solar, wind, energy storage, demand response, energy efficiency – anything that competes with natural gas peaker plants – will suffer as natural gas becomes an increasingly attractive option for energy companies. As I travel the US, I’m finding increasing evidence from utility and energy company executives to support the thesis that natural gas will put increasing pressure on renewables. The EIA’s prediction for our future energy mix also supports the belief that natural gas will grow its share more quickly than other options including renewables.

Biogas companies will also feel some heat. Efforts to capture, clean and utilize biogas (e.g. from landfills or wastewater treatment plants) make much more sense when natural gas sells for $10 per million BTU or more. At $2.50, it’s …

2011 Investment Monitor Report Released

Whitney Michael

Cleantech Group’s final report on Cleantech investment for 2011 was released yesterday to i3 subscribers.

2011 VC investment in cleantech began the year strong and maintained momentum.  2011 is the first year in our decade of tracking that all four quarters exceeded $2 billion in cleantech venture investment.

Early stage deal count went flat, as investors focused more on re-investing their portfolio companies that are in need of capital for growth.  And while  bankruptcy filings of Solyndra and others raised questions, in the end they did not affect investors’ appetite for cleantech, as total VC investments hit $2.21 billion in 4Q11 to close out the year strong.

i3 subscribers can read the full 86-page report.  Contact us to learn more about a research subscription and the i3 platform.


BostInno agrees: There is no cleantech venture bust

Whitney Michael

Walter Frick at BostInno posted a great read today about the real story behind the oft-repeated notion that Cleantech is a bust.  It’s a theme we’ve covered here in Cleantech Insights recently and our position is clear – our data and analysis indicates that cleantech investment in 2012 will stay strong and possibly even top 2011.

Walter takes a look at some of the data behind the assertions of Juliet Eilperin in Wired a couple weeks back, and concludes that “the numbers directly refute most of this story. What critics have been calling the “cleantech bust” more often goes by the name “the Great Recession.” And with 2011 data now in, it’s clear that cleantech investment is more or less recovering along with the economy.”

And, as Walter notes, “Outside of venture capital, the story is, if anything, more positive. The deployment of renewable energy is “expanding rapidly” across the globe, according to the International Energy Agency….And a report this summer from The Brookings Institution found strong job growth within the U.S. cleantech sector.”

So, add another voice to the “no bust” bandwagon.  Reports of cleantech’s death have been greatly exaggerated.



Trends for 2012: no cleantech-pocalypse?

Sheeraz Haji

The cleantech boom went bust! Solar is dead. Climate change is a hoax. We have all heard the doom and gloom. If you only read these sensationalist headlines you might think cleantech is dead.

Don’t believe the hype! Cleantech did not implode. While 2011 was a challenging year for cleantech, the industry continued to grow and there’s plenty to look forward to in 2012. With all the noise, you might not have realized how quickly solar installations are growing around the globe. For example, in the US solar installations grew more than 65% year-over-year. National and local governments are embracing cleantech like never before as they search for ways to stimulate their economies.  Even though a number of venture funds have struggled, we saw global cleantech venture flows grow 14% to $9 billion last year.

Global enterprises invested in cleantech at record levels: Last year we tracked $41 billion in global M&A transactions in cleantech, up 153% from 2010. Big corporations from every industry and from across the globe are evolving sustainability programs into growth-oriented strategies to source cleantech innovation.  French enterprises have led the way. Some groups have pursued an acquisition strategy: Schneider Electric, for example, made eight …

Want 10 minutes in front of investors from around the world?

Kate McArdle

The Entrepreneur Showcase at Cleantech Forum Munich can give you just that. Our annual European Cleantech Forum is the best place to reach cleantech-focused investors from across Europe and the rest of the world. As an Entrepreneur Showcase presenter, you get 10 minutes to convince these investors and corporate executives that your company is where they should make their next move. It’s a good strategy – companies who presented in last year’s Forum have already scored funding from investors like Industrifonden, and secured partnerships with companies like GE and Siemens.

Don’t wait, though – Friday, February 10 is the deadline for applications for this year’s Entrepreneur Showcase at Cleantech Forum Munich. The application and more details about participating are available here:

Whether your company is seeking a Series A or Series D funding round, whether it is based in London or Vancouver, whether it has a SaaS-based energy efficiency platform or a process to reuse wastewater, there’s no better place for exposure to top cleantech investors than at Cleantech Forum Munich.…

Water: Week in Review


Multiple asset sales (by Oman Investment Corporation, American Water Works Company, Vision Energy, and Santander) occurred around the world this week.  For details on these transactions, and other stories in water, continue reading below.

M&A/ Partnerships


  • ProSep Inc won a C$13 million contract to design