Back to the Future, Back to Cleantech Group

Back to the Future day (October 21, 2015) recently came and went, another reminder if we needed one of the impossibility of seeing how things will truly pan out in 30 years’ time.

Back to the Future is a good way to describe my feelings today, as I take on the challenge of leading the next chapter for Cleantech Group (CTG).  (If you have not already heard, I have teamed up with Enovation Partners, a fast-growing consultancy platform focused on Energy and Innovation (hence, the name!) to acquire CTG ).

The Back part is a nod to our go-forward focus at CTG on Interactions, through the combined activities of Cleantech Forums and our online subscription service, i3.  This online/offline combination was how CTG started out in 2002. Our consultancy and advisory engagements will, from hereon, be conducted through and by Enovation Partners, CTG’s new parent, and a specialist and experienced consultancy team.

The Future part is that I believe we are entering into a new phase for resource innovation (what I think of as cleantech’s chapter 3) in which CTG, like everyone else in the ecosystem, will need to keep adapting to the ever-changing market environment for sustainable innovation. Our mission is to help you be future-ready and to help make your innovation programs fit for what lies ahead. .

In my blog Chapter 3 for Cleantech: the Deployment of Innovation chapter? Thoughts and Wishes for 2016+, I provided a potted history of: how, in chapter 1 of cleantech, a true innovation ecosystem formed around the idea of building sustainable businesses; of how, in chapter 2, retrenchment and survival took over, but a period nonetheless in which business models, costs curves and technologies were positively, if slowly, advanced; and of why the road ahead into the 2020’s, chapter 3, looks exciting.

Having experienced only the very last days of chapter 1 and the very top of the hype curve, most of what I have personally experienced in cleantech has been the survival period. I think there are many companies and fund manager groups who have done amazingly well to weather the worst of the storm and who I hope will now get the chance to thrive as the 2020’s draw near – just as we at CTG hope to thrive.

I wanted to be a part of chapter 3, and am delighted to have the chance to do so, with the responsibility to take CTG into its third decade. So what’s ahead? Here’s a flavor.

Working with a new parent company, Enovation Partners, the existing CTG team and I are excited for what lies ahead, focused on providing you with the knowledge, the insights and the networking opportunities to allow innovation to flourish and to scale.

If the greatest need in chapters 1 and 2 was to connect entrepreneurial and fledgling companies with possible funders, the greatest imperative for chapter 3 is for all that innovation to be deployed, to help make markets and to enable transactions, by providing the intelligence and the interactions for them to do so. Nothing could have a more powerful effect on applying more downward pressure on prices and pulling new innovations through than deployment at scale and more success stories to show Wall Street that the David Cranes of this world may have a better handle on the fast-arriving future than they do.

In chapter 3, interactions will be a core watchword for CTG. Here’s why:

  • Interactions have been what CTG has always provided and is best known for. Offline, at Cleantech Forums, and online through our i3 subscription. At one level, then, there will be a continuation of the same, but with a few emphases for the new chapter:
  • In tune with our views on cleantech’s chapter 3, CTG will emphasize the global nature of the innovation ecosystem and will expand its coverage to interact with Asia more strongly. Online, we have been seeing a noticeable rise in the number of Asian corporates/conglomerates tapping into our i3 innovation company coverage, keen to have a window on Europe and North America sustainable technologies. Offline, a first Cleantech Forum Asia would be a logical next step. Watch this space.
  • In chapter 1, CTG built the venture network, in chapter 2 CTG courted the corporate open innovation community. In chapter 3, CTG aims to add to those two, enhanced opportunities to interact with families and impact capital.
  • Interactivity with data. No one knows it all – for information to become truly meaningful insight, it requires some interaction – with other publicly accessible data, with your own proprietary sets. Only then does recognizing patterns of important emerging and potentially-disruptive trends become possible.
  • Market contexts are changing, and our pursuit to be the best in class at interactions, will require us to remain in tune with where the future is taking us all, so we can truly help you chart the future. With that in mind, when we think of interactions, we think about:
  • The interaction of innovation trends. Cleantech will remain our gravitational core, but to serve you best, to be distinctive from some good providers of insight and intelligence around specific technologies or industries, we need to make sure we continue to sense out, and to make sense of, emerging innovation trends and to look at what is happening above and in-between the different silo’s others are covering.
  • The interaction of industries and previously unconnected things. The greatest value we can provide industrial customers and investors, is not about what is happening directly in front of you, but to provide a radar on what is happening in the adjacencies and in your blind spots. What would/could happen if A and B interacted? The most obvious live example today might be the interaction of data and energy, where customer relationships and business models feel up for grabs in a new intelligent and distributed energy fabric. We believe this to be just the start: the lines are going to blur between industries, some innovations are going to be relevant to many, and at these interaction points, we believe disruption and creative destruction will be at its greatest. Here CTG will add value.
  • All the sciences. Interactions are common across all of the disciplines, and all the sciences are relevant to charting the future, to creating the game-changers, be that in thinking about gene mutations, interactions of atoms and molecules, interactions of data-sets, or social interactions.

Where all this leads, you won’t find me making Doc Brown, Back to the Future type predictions. But I do think interactions between people, industries, technologies and continents will be central to the development of the game-changers of the 2020’s (some of whom are hopefully in our 2015 Global Cleantech 100 which will be unveiled at the January 25-27 2016 Cleantech Forum San Francisco).

I hope we can support each other as CTG continues to develop the ecosystem into its third decade.

Interact – tell us what you think about what lies ahead!