There are a plethora of potential clean tech ideas and innovations out there. I have 5-6 in my head right now. Some innovations successfully reach the marketplace. Yet many ideas still struggle to find funding, despite venture capitalists looking for opportunity. Furthermore, although a start-up’s financials may be sound, many find it difficult to find manufacturing and production capability. What can be done to make these clean tech innovations a commercial reality?
A panel at LA’s VerdeXchange Conference 2012 (VX2012), entitled “Global/Regional Models for Fostering Clean Tech & Commercialization: Incubation, Acceleration & Tech Transfer” attempted to answer this question. Despite the long panel title, the discussion raised a common theme: bring as many key stakeholders together under the same roof (so to speak) to spontaneously collaborate.
Incubation and Collaboration
Imagine putting law firms, venture capitalists, research and development not only in the same city, not only in the same block, but all in the same buildings. This is what MaRS, (not to be confused with the candy bar company Mars, Incorporated) has done with its 700,000 sqft. of space in the discovery district of Toronto.
MaRS has created an ecosystem where you can bump into someone in the hallway and spark ideas. These somewhat random face-to-face meetings are what makes MaRS unique. You would not be able to this virtually.
As Jonathan Dogterom of MaRS suggests, MaRS “puts an incubation and collaboration center on steroids.” The convergence center helps to bring business and entrepreneurs to innovate and bring commercialize these ideas faster.
Manufacturing and Production
The other bottleneck for commercialization of clean tech ideas is actual production. To address this challenge, we can draw insight from Berlin. “We have a great R&D, great people,” says Timon Meyer of the CleanTech Business Park in Berlin, “The missing link was the production aspect.” So why not gather production under one clean tech site?
As the name of Meyer’s organization implies, the plan is to build a 2000+ acre park in the district of Marzhan-Hellersdorf, exclusively for clean tech. The goal is to catalyze manufacturing and production in the area, “Berlin has the entire value chain in place.” Meyer’s further stated the Park had to turn down several companies because they were not production companies. It’s not enough just to have one piece of the puzzle, but finding those pieces that fit together well.
So, what do you think? Can an incubator on steroids can help propel clean tech faster? Is a clean tech business park a viable mean to find more efficient production and manufacturing?
Share your examples of other incubators that have taken similar approaches to fostering clean tech.