The win-win ways of Cleantech business

Skrevet af Ida Lunde Jørgensen - Foto: udlånt af Vestas Wind systems - 2. september 2008 - 13:260 kommentarer
Ocean-based Vestas Windmills by Horns Reef in Danmark. But Denmark doesn't just avail itself of Cleantech, it exports it.

You needn’t be a tree hugger or a venture capitalist, but if you haven’t heard of Cleantech you better listen up. Whether you’re interested in what is likely to be your future occupation, wondering what cluster to study or where the markets are heading – Cleantech is likely to be the answer.

Definitions first; Cleantech, short for clean technology, encompasses technological innovations in everything from renewable energy, such as wind, wave and solar to sustainable building. A broader definition goes beyond just the technologies and looks at energy efficiency as a whole – and the academic understanding and knowhow that goes into reversing or at the very least putting the breaks on global warming.

The reason for the gain in momentum is clear. On one hand we have rising fuel prices, the increasing wealth in and therefore higher demands of new economies and political instability in a vast number of the oil producing nations. On the other we see clean technologies maturing, becoming cheaper and better. If climate concerns and the wish to do good for its own sake isn’t persuasive enough, something else might be – clean technologies are likely to scoop in tons of money.

That’s the good news. The great news is that there is likely to be jobs in many areas, whether you are majoring in Business, Language and Culture, International Business, Marketing or Communication. But you have to be qualified, that is you have to know the market and your field.

Nice need to know

A recent feature in The Economist projected Cleantech to be the biggest generator of jobs and the most promising market since IT (minus the bubble gum effect) in investment terms. The Cleantech Group estimates the average annual venture money growth rate at an impressive 47 percent from 2002 and onwards. What is even more remarkable is that whereas the growth was high but steady from 2002 to 2005, the amount of venture investment has accelerated during the last two years.

Today Cleantech is being pushed forward mainly by economic interests and not as in the past, purely by government subsidies and goodwill entrepreneurs. Many of the players in the field are the giants in corporate Denmark.

One of the best known Danish Cleantech frontrunners is Vestas, a major player within wind energy on the world market. More than doubling its revenue from 2004 to 2007, Vestas is an excellent example of a company that has benefitted from what many refer to as the Cleantech revolution. Wind turbines from Danish manufacturers account for more than half of the installed capacity worldwide according to the Confederation of Danish Industries.

Wind however, is not the only Cleantech industry where Danish competences excel. Other major Danish Cleantech players include DONG Energy, Danfoss, Novozymes, Velux and Rockwool. And many smaller companies and start-ups are beginning to grow at an astonishing pace, helped along by science parks and inward investment agencies such as Copenhagen Capacity.

Copenhagen Capacity

Project Development Manager Nicolai Rottbøll Sederberg-Olsen works at Copenhagen Capacity, a regionally funded inward investment agency which also works as a market development consultancy. "Run like a business on public money," the organization opened its new Cleantech division in January 2008 in order to speed up the famous cluster effect and spur the development of new jobs in Cleantech companies in Copenhagen and Zealand.

According to Sederberg-Olsen, the biggest challenge in orchestrating this massive effort to make Copenhagen and Zealand the capital of Cleantech is getting research institutions, political players, business incubators, investors and companies to communicate and realize the potential in a streamlined effort:

- If our efforts succeed, the result will be a full scale cluster, employing people at all levels, attracting the best and the brightest from at home and abroad and putting our nation into the next century in a sustainable manner, he explains.

To this end Copenhagen Capacity’s Cleantech initiative also aims to make CBS a partner in its efforts. But why should Copenhagen and Zealand be of particular interest for the development of a new Cleantech cluster? The answer to this question is a combination of the mindset of the population, good political conditions, and a strong concentration of highly specialized labor – enter CBS students.

The CBS connection

One of these is Michael Johansen, who studies cand.merc.com at CBS. Michael recently began working for Copenhagen Capacity’s Cleantech initiative, and he points out that while he knew the Danish strengths in renewable energy, he did not conceptualize them as a joint force until he got his job. But he fully understands the implications of the increased awareness today:

- If as a business you let out too much CO2 it can be as bad for your image as child labor. The political consumer isn’t just about fair trade, it’s also about clean trade, Michael points out and continues:

- I want to work for a company that helps strengthen clean business in Denmark.

Michael Johansen’s best advice to fellow CBS-students shopping around for a job is to use the public debate as a window of opportunity for specialization and to get on the bandwagon as early as possible to get the necessary experience in the field.

The momentum generating sentiment is already in place in Danish society, and here at CBS, Mette Morsing was appointed the first Danish Professor of Corporate Social Responsibility only last year. Within the next few months CBS aims to consolidate its research efforts in climate, energy and the environment – all clear indications of how important the concept is to a place where university means business.

CBS on the bandwagon

At the forefront of a consolidated effort in climate, energy and environmental research stands Professor Peter Møllgaard from CBS Department of Economics. The initiative is to be called "CBS Climate Strategies for Business" or CBS-CSB.

Peter Møllgaard emphasizes that such an initiative has been "long due", but he is optimistic that the university will now pool forces to meet the climate challenge. The internal workshop is meant to create awareness and forge ties between the existing research interests – and to spur cross disciplinary research.

The kick-off will include a presentation by McKinsey Copenhagen under the headline "What should we expect CBS to deliver for business climate strategy making?", and another by the Danish news agency Mandag Morgen under the header "What can we expect CBS to contribute to public climate policy making?" It is hoped that an

understanding of the expectations as to the role of our institution will help the institution lift its responsibility in the climate debate.

CBS’ Dean of Research, Alan Irwin, who will also be chairing a debate at the event, welcomes the initiative.

- This is a very important issue for us, because we feel that this is an area where we can genuinely contribute to society with research and practical solutions for business on how to combine economic goals with environmental sustainability says Alan Irwin and emphasizes:

- If CBS as a research institution can provide practical solutions informing the way in which we meet the environmental challenges we will have accomplished our goal.

 

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