cleantech insights

What You Need to Know to Enter China’s Cleantech Market

Leo Zhang

China has attracted much attention in recent years from Western industries looking to expand to the Far East. With rapid industrial and economic growth, the country is on a path to becoming an international powerhouse. Yet despite its upward trajectory, the nation is also home to some of the harshest environmental conditions across the globe, exemplified by heavy smog and high toxicity levels upwards of Particulate Matter 2.5 (PM 2.5). Chinese Premier, Li Keqiang, recently “declared war” on smog and emphasized that “fostering a sound ecological environment is vital for people’s lives and the future of our nation [China].”1

What does this mean to Western companies looking to enter the China cleantech market? What opportunities and challenges, lie ahead in successfully deploying Western clean technologies in China?

Opportunities in China

China’s interest and capacity to commercialize clean technologies is no less than what we’ve seen in North America and Europe. Leveraging the country’s favorable industrial policy, the government can provide capital and support for projects that are aligned with their strategic interests. For Western cleantech companies, this can result in any combination of private and public partnerships, sizable market deployment, an established export base, and multiple financing platforms to …


Corporate Partnerships Help Inventys Scale-up Carbon Capture Tech


We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Andre Boulet, CEO of Inventys – a developer of energy- and capital-efficient carbon capture technology – after the company announced its latest round of growth funding from new strategic investor Chevron Technology Ventures, as well as existing investors, last week.

inventysv2The company got started in 2007 with a unique piece of technology based on the process of thermal swing adsorption. Unlike other post-combustion carbon capture technologies that use amines or chemical solvents, Inventys’ VeloxoTherm™ platform is based on a solid, ceramic-like adsorbent with a honeycomb form factor. This material has enhanced heat and mass-transport properties that translate into energy-efficient regeneration of the adsorbent via the use of low-grade steam.

More in common with its competitors, however, the oil & gas industry, and specifically enhanced oil recovery (EOR) sites that pump CO2 down into tapped wells to release remaining hard-to-get deposits, have become Inventys’ primary near-term market focus. And the company’s been racking up partnerships with heavyweights in that space, most recently with new investor Chevron Technology Ventures. “Focus has definitely shifted over the last seven years,” said Boulet. “Early on, it was evident that a comprehensive policy framework addressing …

Digitizing the Shower Experience: An Interview with SmarTap CEO Asaf Shaltiel

Eric Vermeiren

Israeli company SmarTap has developed a smart shower system that stands to revolutionize personal and commercial water use by monitoring and controlling the temperature and flow of water in a household, hotel, or commercial building. We spoke with Asaf Shaltiel, CEO and founder of SmarTap, about the future of electronic smart shower systems.

What initially gave you the idea to pursue smart shower systems? (Did the idea come to you while you were in the shower?)

My initial idea for SmarTap came to me when I saw my sister with her two small twins at bath time. I saw how she struggled in the bathroom, adjusting the faucet for the right temperature and flow of water, and I thought to myself – we’re in the 21st century, how come we don’t have a system that allows us to fill the bath at exactly the right temperature, amount, and time that we want?

Do you see smart water systems like SmarTap’s as part of the broader trend of automating home devices?

What we’re trying to achieve at SmarTap is to lead a revolution in the rather archaic world of indoor water usage. Currently, faucet companies are surprisingly low-tech, employing roughly the …

Replenishing California’s Investments in Water Technology

Rosanna Ren

Here in Cleantech Group’s San Francisco office, we are acutely aware of California’s climate problem—that is, the worst drought on record in the state’s history. What’s alarming is that, despite the two drought emergency issuances by Gov. Jerry Brown to reduce water use by 20%, statewide water consumption has in fact increased by at least 1%, up to 8% in some areas.

One might predict greater investments in Water and Wastewater to expedite solutions that address this current and real problem.  The 1Q2014 Water Innovation Monitor reported that water technology investments have stalled, but is it about to be back on the upswing?

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According to Cleantech Group’s i3 platform, looking at California-based companies, eight equity deals have been closed in the water sector since January 17, the first drought emergency declaration. This sums up to a total of $88M invested, or 55% of the total global investments in water ($161M) since then.  Underground Solutions and Liquid Environmental Solutions top that list, receiving a combined $71.6M in growth equity.  This, at least, is optimistic and impressive news.

Examples of some companies doing innovative water technology work in California include WaterHealth, Observant, and WaterSmart Software. These start-ups are …

Isolated Car to Connected Car: Transportation from the 20th to the 21st Century

Christopher Renna

In the 1950s and 1960s, cars took hold of the United States. Car use and sales, as indicated by registration, boomed from 25.8 million cars in 1945 to 52.1 million cars in 1955 and finally 75.3 million cars in 1965. Indeed, Americans bought cars to drive towards the post-war American dream, roaming free of bounds, each person having his or her own car. Gas prices certainly didn’t hold anyone back…

But if the 20th century car brought freewheeling independence, the car of the 21st century is diametrically opposed: connected to the Internet (connected car and infotainment), to other cars (V2V) and to the environment (V2E); shared transportation, tethering individuals with mobile technology that allow for car sharing, ride sharing and the like.

Indeed, innovation is running wild in the transportation sector and investors are duly taking note. CTG’s i3 data shows the value and importance companies are according to transportation-related innovation.  Equity investments over the first half of 2014 total $2.8 billion across 72 deals, with the Uber deal accounting for $1.2 billion of that. This is almost triple the investment made in the second half of last year, or roughly equivalent to the total investment made …

Internet of Things: Envisioning an Even More Interconnected World

Elizabeth Horvitz

While we’re not exactly living in the times of Marty McFly or George Jetson, our world is quickly becoming smarter and more interconnected, thanks to the rapidly growing Internet of Things sector.  Internet of Things, or IoT, is a concept in which everyday objects—from home appliances to vehicles– are connected to the Internet and can be controlled remotely.  Similar to how we put our computers in “sleep” mode today, we will soon be able to put entire households or even cities in a resting or connected mode, which has enormous environmental implications like reduced energy use and increased efficiency. Some IoT devices have already shown energy cost savings of over $170 per year. Beyond environmental impacts, IOT could be a game changer on how we live and work in a modernized world.

Streetline, a US-based company that has already received over $59 million in capital, provides smart parking solutions through wireless sensors located in parking spots in order to reduce congestion and emissions used while looking for parking spots.  The company’s experts explain that 30% of urban traffic is caused by people looking for parking, and one study even showed that 730 tons of carbon dioxide were …

Where are they now: Global Cleantech 100 Edition

Amanda Faulkner

In this edition of ‘Where are they now?’ we tackle alums of our annual Global Cleantech 100 list. It will be just as much fun as the child stars edition, without the horrible haircuts. Where are the companies that have been featured on past GCT100 lists? Who has made it big with a successful exit? Who had a fire sale acquisition or bankruptcy? Who might be on this year’s list? For a full list of the 2010-2013 lists, check out past reports.

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The Good

Who has exited since being on the 2013 GCT100 list? Three companies, Marrone Bio Innovation and Opower each had an IPO, with Marrone’s happening after it was picked for the list but before the list went public. NovaLED, Nest, and NanoH2O were each acquired, by Samsung, Google, and LG Chem, respectively. Past GCT100 honorees exiting this year include Hara, which was acquired by Verisae, as well as PowerSense, which was acquired by Landis+Gyr. McPhy Energy also debuted on Euronext Paris.

The Bad

Unfortunately, some companies from the 2013 GCT100 list did not have such a great year. Azzurro Semiconductors, a GCT100 2013 company, declared bankruptcy in April …

An Update on the Energy Efficiency Sector

David Medoff

Last year, the global Energy Efficiency sector completed more deals than any of its peer industries, according to Cleantech Group’s i3 platform. The past quarter saw sustained momentum within the sector, so much so that Energy Efficiency led all other industries in total accrued investments, receiving over $520 million, or 18% of all Q1 cleantech fundraising. By all accounts, efficiency software and hardware providers are doing well.

That said, can we really call this news? For the past decade, Energy Efficiency has consistently been at the vanguard of cleantech fundraising, second only to Solar. Moreover, the former has been far more consistent in its fundraising ability than Solar, an industry known for its highs and lows.

So while healthy numbers may be old news for the sector, sub-sector capital allocation is always changing. Energy Efficiency covers a wide swathe of subsectors, from Smart Glass to Efficient HVAC to Cleanweb and so on.  Thus, the most recent data enjoin us to ask where, specifically, are the most recent windfalls landing?

View designs and manufactures intelligent glasses that electronically tint in response to sunlight, and in doing so, mitigates reliance on HVAC systems; the company claims energy reductions in …

How the Next Wave of Innovation is Following the Unconventional Fuels Revolution

Alois Kirner

Against the backdrop of a boom in unconventional fuels, an increasing number of start-ups are developing solutions to both decrease operational risk and reduce the environmental footprint of the Oil and Gas industry.

In the 2012 and 2013 editions of the Global Cleantech 100 report, which sheds light on the world’s top cleantech startups, we took note of the emergence of “cleantech going inside the Oil and Gas industry.” As we embark into the research for our 2014 report, we expect that this innovation cluster will continue to permeate the list of the world’s 100 most promising cleantech companies. Largely linked to the boom in ‘unconventional fuels’ production, startups are increasingly interested to manage the operational and environmental risks of hydraulic fracturing or coal-bed methane and oil sands extraction at different stages of production.

Oil and Gas corporations have been similarly eager to partner with startups that could help them streamline their upstream exploration and production (E&P) businesses. In the past three years, ConocoPhilips has invested more than $33 million in 5 startups that help them increase the performance and safety of their drilling operations (Ziebel, drillMap, LUX Assure, Ciris Energy and Blue Spark Energy). LUX Assure (UK), for …

Recap on Biofuels & Biochemicals Innovation Report

Leo Zhang

Cleantech Group recently published a sector whitepaper focused on innovation trends in the Biofuels & Biochemicals sector. In this report, we provided a comprehensive overview of the industry’s value chain, ranging from feedstocks to end products. Despite several setbacks throughout the development of this sector, there are still an increasing number of innovations during the past five years – at both industry and company levels – in an effort to push through some of the scale-up challenges since the sector’s initial rise.

Several themes emerged through our analysis of this sector. First of all, building a streamlined supply chain for year-round production is the first bottleneck to overcome. In essence, there is no single silver bullet solution to feedstock and as a result, we are seeing innovative technologies being developed ranging from crop yield improvements to direct production of fermentable sugars. Looking closely at the latest investment trends, 2013 showed a significant spike in both sum and number of deals to feedstock companies.

Another key trend in the Biofuels & Biochemicals sector centers on the shift from biofuels to biochemicals, where companies are starting to focus on high-margin products due to their pricing premiums. In addition, such shift has also …