OCE Discovery 2009

Ontario Centre’s of Excellence (OCE) is putting on their annual event called Discovery 09 on May 11-12, 2009.

The event is expected to draw an impressive crowd of over 2000 people and over 200 booths. The event will be divided among three major Zones: Green Tech, Health & Digital. Attendees will have the opportunity to explore a huge showcase of promising ideas across numerous research, academic and industrial sectors as well as connect with the leaders, dreamers and doers who are driving Ontario’s innovation revolution.

I recently confirmed a speaking engagement on a panel that will be held on May 12th called “Building a Digital company for 2010.” Should be fun.

If you have a startup and you’re looking to go international, this is the place to be. You’ll have the opportunity to meet with 80 Canadian trade ministers representing 26 Canadian trade countries from around the world. Rick Segal talks about the value of these Canadian trade ministers in his blog, The Post Money Value.

I hope to see you all out there!

Notes from Cleantech Panel Discussions at BioFinance

As mentioned in my prior post, there was a first at BioFinance this year – a panel on Cleantech, and a number of Cleantech presenting companies.

The discussion began with the question: Is cleantech the future of life science? (maybe for investors looking for quicker and more reliable returns on investment?! take a look where the dollars are going! The Cleantech sector is now outperforming other sectors, it is the best sector in US stock market and was up 46% last year.

Deloitte is compiling the “Green 15”, from 150 candidates who have submitted profiles this year. Interestingly, some companies seem to be waivering between life sciences and cleantech – they just can’t decide where they are or where they should be. After all, if they call themselves a life science company, investors approach cautiously … but that’s just me being cynical.

Susan McLean, a Senior Manager of Business Development at the TSX, gave an interesting overview of the sector. The TSX had 94 cleantech issues in 2007, and it is growing. In fact, there was a tripling of activity from 2005 to 2007, progressing well in 2008; there were 2.5 billion shares traded in 2007. It is looking at pure-play companies and integrated companies. Some sub-sectors of listed companies include solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, fuel cell, waste to energy, and others. Now, for the best part – companies even at the $50 million value are getting analyst coverage – something unseen for many “small” companies on US exchanges.

Another panelist was a well-recognized member of Bay Street, Steven Winokur from Canaccord Adams. A few high-level points came out of his talk. He recognized Cleantech to be the best performing sector. There are a number of biotech applications in Cleantech that he mentioned:

  • Agriculture: genetic crop technologies, organic fertilizers, water/waste remediation
  • Nanotechnology for desalinization
  • Biofuels – lignol, syntec biofuel
  • Green Building – a noted possibility

Canaccord Adams puts out a newsletter with quality research reports each month, and they are a highly recommended read by Duncan Stewart, from Deloitte.

BioFinance Conference in Toronto

I have certainly been neglecting my blogging recently! I have been busy focusing on completing my masters degree, and delivering good results at my internship with GSK. Either way, sorry to dissappoint my readers who used to come by here much more often!

This week I will be attending BioFinance, a conference known to bring together early-stage life science and medical devices companies. In fact, I will be volunteering at the partnership desk, so I will get to work with a number of the companies during my time slot there.

This year will mark the 3rd BioFinance conference that I have attended – I must say that heading out to these types of events really helps to grasp the state of the financial markets and the state of entrepreneurial ventures in the Canadian marketplace, particularly in the biotechnology/pharmaceutical sector. It is also the first time that I have ever seen a focus on Cleantech; there is a luncheon with a Cleantech panel and then a number of Cleantech company presentations on the Thursday afternoon. I will try my best to report back on some interesting leads there.

The Luncheon with the Cleantech Panel will include:
Moderator: Duncan Stewart, Deloitte and National Post
Panel: (1) Dr. Jürgen Scheffran, Center for Advanced BioEnergy Research University of Illinois; (2) John Cook, Investeco Financial Corporation; (3) Steven Winokur, Canaccord Adams; (4) Alex Kilgour, Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP; and (5) Susan McLean, TSX Group Inc.

Cleantech VCs ready for 2008

According to the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), VCs are going to continue to pour money into Cleantech areas beyond solar and biofuels. There will be consolidation, more venture-backed IPOs and an eventual over-valuation of the sector. See the NVCA Report.

Will the sector really become over-valued though? With global demand increasing everyday from the emerging market – notably the drastic increases seen in the middle classes of India and China – it is very hard to state exactly where an upper boundary exists. Growth these days is not limited to the US, but it is measured in a global framework that is only beginning to be defined by newer business trends and strategies.

Global warming and energy reserves continue to be an issue that becomes more evident everyday. Until realizable change is evident, the cleantech market will continue to grow and expand at obscene CAGRs. We are only at the dawn of a new era in renewable energy and cleantech; hang on for the ride.

Cleantech Jobs on the Rise

I am not surprised to read (Newsweek via MSNBC) that job opportunities are on the rise in the cleantech “green-revolution” sector. Notable niche areas mentioned include solar energy, biofuels. The article describes an upcoming trend:

Based on the flow of venture capital, K. R. Sridhar, CEO of the fuel-cell
start-up Bloom Energy, believes the clean-tech sector could produce 50,000 new
jobs by 2010. Peter Beadle, president of Greenjobs.com, cites estimates that the
solar sector alone could employ 2 million people by 2020.”

Interestingly, these jobs are geographically dispursed (across the US), unlike clusters of high-tech startups found in Silicon Valley during the tech boom.

From a finance perspective, analysts at Lux Research state that venture-capital investments in the clean-tech sector jumped from $623 million to $1.5 billion (2005 to 2006), led by solar power and biofuel.

Cleantech Spending

Amidst a flurry of chatter about cleantech and investment from VCs, there is some interesting results coming from a recent report from Lux Research. As the graph at right shows, there is about a 50/50 split between government and corporate funding of cleantech investment, with only a minor contribution from venture capitalists. At least we are seeing an increasing trend …

Below we see the cleantech investment by segment in total, and from VC funding. In the past three years we can see quite clearly that VCs have been investing in energy and sustainability which matches overall spending patterns.

What will 2007 bring? Leave your opinion …

Harvesting Bioenergy from Switchgrass

Recently, scientists have made progress on finding the key genetic elements responsible for controlling lignin production in swtichgrass though monitoring of mRNA transcripts. This discovery brings switchgrass one step closer to being used as a source of bioethanol. See full story at Scientists Turn Genetic Keys To Unlock Bioenergy In Switchgrass.

Cleantech: Biodiesel, Solar and Wind

Some news today highlights Biodiesel, solar and wind technologies in the era of cleantech and renewable energy.

The first article discusses a study that was just completed in Ontario, Canada that analyzed the use of biodiesel as an alternative fuel source for agricultural use. This study, which was co-sponsored by the NRC, Environment Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association, UPI Energy, and the University of Guelph, is hoped to accelerate the adoption of biodiesel use in on-farm applications across Canada. More at Evaluating Biodiesel Fuel For Tractors In Canada.

Solar power seems to still be behind in the race for the most cheap, and efficient technologies despite being around for a number of years. There are a few problems that need sorting out (listen here scientists, and business-types), “the development of complimentary technologies, in particular low-cost storage of electricity, is critical,” says Erin Baker, who is a scientist at the University of Massachusetts that led a USDoE study in the area. Baker’s other finding notes that government dollars won’t bring this technology to fruition along, and that private investment is needed in the manufacturing sector specifically; tax breaks, and public-private collaborations will also help to push this technology forward. The article “Cheap, Efficient Solar Power: What’s Needed Now To Get There? gives a great analysis that discusses the order of investment to develop solar tech:

  • Focus first on getting power from the new inorganic materials that show promise but are far from viable for large scale production
  • Then focus on purely organic cells with organic semiconductors; these hold the promise of low costs but still haven’t achieved high levels of efficiency and face serious stability problems
  • Last, investigate third-generation cells, which use entirely different technology but may ultimately yield much more power

Wind turbines are another fast-moving technology with much promise. So much so that Mitsubishi Ups Investment in Wind Turbines threefold to increase its wind turbine capacity to 1,200 megawatts / year by March 2009. As Paul Kedrosky points out, that is about two-thirds of what the city of Atlanta requires on a typical summer day.

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Climate is Changing Now, Business Opportunities

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is one of the first to use observations of the Earth’s climate, as opposed to theoretical models to predict what might happen in the future. The data shows that climate change is real and is happening right now.

Source: IPCC. (Click to enlarge)

Take a look at the different key areas being affected here: water, ecosystems, food, coasts and health. There might be some business opportunity in the new wave of cleantech, biotech, or Blue Gold!

Water, Water Everywhere, But Where to Invest?

Okay, so chances are that you already know that the global water supply is in jeopardy. You probably also know that global warming is going to impact current water conditions in two ways among many. Glacial water run-off, and land-based aquifers are slowly declining in their supplies and the trend looks like it is going to continue.

The harsh reality is that this is going to happen for at least 15-20 more years, and as a consequence, Blue Gold is going to increase in value. So, how are you going to capitalize on water? Do you know your investment opportunities? Quite Contrarian produced a nice little summary entitled Investing in Water Stock: Options for Profiting from ‘Blue Gold’ that discusses a few ways in which you can position yourself to capitalize on water stocks, utilities or ETFs (exchange traded funds). Get in the know.