Finding seed money is a difficult task for clean tech innovators, but persistence, a water-tight business plan, and a scalable product can lead to opportunities for the right technology. One lucrative competition is occurring in Amsterdam, where five entrepreneurs have an opportunity to gain 500,000 euros (US$635,000).
This week, the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge, sponsored by the NGO Dutch Postcode Lottery, has selected 5 sustainability leaders to compete as finalists. Two are from the Netherlands; two from the United States, and one hails from Indonesia. Being a runner-up is not such a bad proposition, either: one or two could win a grant for 200,000 euros. All five plans incorporate a market-based approach that will achieve the goal of reducing CO2 emissions. The finalist will be decided on September 23 by a jury comprised of various advocates in the sustainability field.
Jason Aramburu, USA: Re:char converts agricultural and animal waste into charcoal in a small, affordable kiln. The use of charcoal as a fuel is a festering issue in many regions, particularly in parts of Africa, where the quest for cheap fuel leads to deforestation and other environmental problems. The project is currently in pilot in East Africa. Aramburu’s venture has received plenty of press, similar gadgets exist—could Re:char’s prove to stand out and win them that 500K grant?
Scott Frank, USA: Co-founder of One Earth Designs, Frank and his team have worked on several projects for the benefit of Himalayan communities. His team developed a low cost, lightweight, and portable solar cooker that addresses the health issues traditional cooking methods have had on Himalayan women. Proving that a gadget can scale and will gain acceptance by other people around the world are a few questions about which they will be probed as the Postcode Lottery judges settle on a finalist.
Arian Khamoosian, Netherlands: Khamoosian founded GyroWave Technologies, which has a system that turns ocean waves into electricity. Scientists have tinkered with the potential energy source for over 100 years, and experimented with technologies including hydraulic rams, hydroelectric turbines, or modular buoys. Ocean waves have their challenges: the fluctuation in the power of waves, storm damage and salt water corrosion, and reaching an efficient converting of natural wave power into electricity—not to mention the shores’ competing interests and a myriad of government regulations.
Gunawan Kusuma, Indonesia: CEO of Holland Container Innovations (HCI), Kusuma has led the development of foldable containers for both land and sea transport. The storage and hauling of empty containers is expensive whether they traipse the oceans or sit in port. HCI reduces the space needed for these bulky containers; his product, when folded, takes up only one-quarter of the space of standard containers. The reduction in costs, 25% according to HCI’s site, appears to be a no-brainer; whether he and his crew can convince conservative shipping giants to make the switch remains to be seen.
Teun Waganaar, Netherlands: Smart Energy Glass, a product of his company, Peer+, promises to control solar radiation and convert the blocked light into electricity. Available in several colors, the windows should save customers on lighting, cooling, and heating costs. Similar technologies are available on the market: cost, even with a quantifiable payback time, tends to get in the way of their adoption by builders—but the LEED points are sure good.
Reading each of these entrepreneurs’ bios and companies is a recipe for inadequacy. I sit here asking myself what I’ve been doing with all my free time. Each technology or product offers economic opportunity while finding a way to mitigate our effects on the planet. Regardless of the results announced on September 23, it is fair to say that they all have winning and enterprising ideas.