A great year for cleantech in the UK

As ever, our annual New Energy & Cleantech Awards brought together the best of the industry and highlighted some groundbreaking developments.

Nothing exemplifies innovation and forward thinking more than the new energy and cleantech arena – it’s one which has produced a host of game-changing business builders.

Developing technologies in tandem with the constantly changing global demands for resource efficiency, low carbon fuels and renewables creates a very special entrepreneur.

Each year we look back at the personal innovators, businesses, investors and advisors that are central to driving forward a pivotal, but often-buffeted sector – and this year was no different.

Contained within the shortlist for the New Energy & Cleantech Awards were nominations ranging from data centre cooling technology to a waterless toilet system. Whether it was a transformative fundraising or the launching of a new product, all had stellar years and deserve rich praise.

The awards ultimately produced some great winners, from which we can draw great optimism about a market that promises so much but is often fraught with difficultly.

More on the New Energy & Cleantech Awards

The market has experienced a number of promising developments in the last month. The announcement that a new Energy Catalyst has been set up with £25 million worth of funding to support ventures providing affordable, secure and low carbon energy will help plug the funding gap that often hampers development.

Eight new renewable energy projects also got the green light, meaning that 8,500 jobs could be leveraged in tandem with £12 billion of private investment.

On the subject of investment, our inaugural New Energy & Cleantech Forum took place in conjunction with the awards, and joined companies in the sector looking for growth capital with a captive group of venture capitalists, private equity investors, business angels and investment bankers. Headed up by a keynote speech from the Department of Energy & Climate Change head of innovation Ian Ellerington, the afternoon was a great reminder of the quality businesses being built in the UK today.

Fundraising in the cleantech sector has experienced, rather aptly, the kind of buffetings and waves that characterise renewables and clean energy innovation.

In pulling together research the forum, it was disappointing to find that that the doubling of annual deal numbers seen in the generally lean period between 2011 and 2012 was not able to sustain itself during 2013.

Clean tech fell form the second busiest technology sub-sector in 2012 to fourth in 2013, with numbers at the venture stage shrinking a third year-on-year.

However, things were looking more positive by the end of 2013. Q4 of 2013 was one of the strongest quarters seen in recent years for clean tech investment, and was buoyed by an upsurge in venture-stage transactions.

What is clear is that an early and ongoing dialogue between companies and investors is crucial in ensuring that, when required, capital can be accessed quickly and without too much difficulty.

Building these kinds of relationships means that investors are aware of when new products are being launched, which big customers have been won and if an injection of funds is necessary.

In the coming weeks we are going to be profiling each of the companies that presented during the day to produce a list of some of the most promising companies in the cleantech market today – so keep your eyes peeled.

Hunter Ruthven

Bernard Williamson

Hunter was the Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.

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