Business ideas for 2014: Cleantech business

With rising carbon emissions and a population increase, an eco-friendly start-up looks to be the way forward…

It’s not news to hear the planet is wilting under the pressure put on it by us. By 2050, the world’s population is expected to exceed nine billion and the demands we put on our natural resources and the eco-system will be even more evident than they are today.

As part of its attempt to tackle issues facing the environment and climate change, the government has recently increased investments into developing the energy and low carbon sectors and the major start-up opportunity for entrepreneurs focused on clean technologies (Cleantech) will not be going away.

Starting a cleantech business: Why it’s a good business idea

The government’s Technology Strategy Board defines “resource efficiency” and “energy” as two main “priority areas” for funding and with a wealth of government-backed initiatives, loans, grants and affiliate schemes currently on offer, starting a green business in 2014 looks promising.

One early-stage business which has already utilised the demand for renewables effectively is Freetricity, which facilitates the roll-out of free roof-mounted PV solar panels to residential properties paid for by the government’s FIT, Feed-In Tariff Scheme.

This scheme grants financial incentives to businesses and individuals that uptake renewable electricity-generating technologies.

This scheme is not the only opening for green businesses. Investment vehicles are growing in number. The government’s £3.8bn Green Investment Bank is just one of many leading support mechanisms.

And if you are looking to develop a new green product or service your may also be able to get R&D funding from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Information on the latest grants and funding available to cleantech businesses can be found on sites such as Greenwisebusiness.co.uk.


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There’s also regional venture funds such as East England’s Low Carbon Innovation Fund, which offers cleantech start-ups investments of up to £750,000. And last year the Berti Green Accelerator launched to provide a handful of low carbon businesses with up to £1m and free mentoring, providing further evidence of support for the cleantech space.

There are a variety of investment and overseas opportunities available such as the government’s Clean and Cool Missions. These are trade visits funded by UKTI and the Technology Strategy Board which last year offered early-stage cleantech companies the chance to meet investors and advisors in major markets such as Brazil and the US.

Cleantech business opportunities

Cleantech can refer to a range of different green solutions; solar, wind and energy storage to name a few, so there are several avenues you can pursue when starting a green business.

Data centre cooling is one area that is becoming popular and with the data centre and global computing markets worth an estimated £250bn, it is an exciting area to focus in on. Just this month Sheffield-based IT cooling specialist Iceotope secured in excess of $10m funding to expand into new territories.

Deciding on your business audience is just as important as although commercial properties are extremely profitable, there are wider opportunities within the domestic market to bring green energy installations to homes that do not yet have any installed.

Who’s else has started a cleantech business?

Green businesses are steadily occupying the market yet demand still outweighs supply. Despite this though there are several cleantech businesses already achieving big things.

Startups Awards finalist Freetricity is one success story, having partnered with the government to facilitate the expansion of green technologies into residential properties, the renewables specialist has recently expanded into commercial rooftop solar installations and ground mount departments.

Green Square, featured in the 2013 Startups Top 20 and Startups 100 2013, is another early-stage business which is scaling quickly. Launched in March 2013, the green franchise supplies renewable heating systems to domestic properties and in less than a year has secured exclusive agreements with major renewable manufacturers and distributors and has already opened three franchise units; demonstrating the potential for a cleantech franchise opportunity.

Richard Hiblen, founder of renewables company Green Square:

“The business logic behind launching a business based on sustainability just gets stronger and stronger. Green Square’s 12-month experience of installing heating systems across the south-east reflects this logic.

“Fundamental to any green start-up is the enduring longevity of climate change; quite simply, it is happening, and will take decades to reverse. Long-term approaches like Marks & Spencer’s Plan A and Sky TV’s sustainability campaigns show that enlightened business leaders already recognise any economy as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the environment. Any business concept which helps customers adjust to that new reality, starts from a good place.

“With ambition and pragmatism, we are building tomorrow’s prosperity, a prosperity which will outlast politicians’ Luddite attacks on so-called ‘green cr*p’.”

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