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 …

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.

, , , , , , , , ,

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!

Banking on Global Warming


Many variables are contributing to the warmth of the world, at at the same time a whole of set of opportunities are arising as a result of the global warming bug.

Opportunities lay in:

  • Biotechnology applications for coal plants to “scrub” emissions before they are released
  • Cleaner oil refinery processing, to emit less carbon dioxide from oil sands particularly in Alberta, Canada
  • Carbon sequestration technologies to capture and store carbon dioxide deep within the Earth (still to be determined if this is a good idea)
  • Real estate and community planning of areas that are either going to become habitable and a lucrative shipping/trading centers (such as Nunavut, Canada described in this article)
  • Places will become flooded as ocean levels rise and entire cities are going to find themselves under 20 feet of water – technologies may be needed in advanced insulation from water, dam building, or something I can’t even imagine right now.
  • Cleantech: as an increasing number of emission laws come into place, there will be an escalating need for cleaner technologies to develop energy efficiently. This is not a new concept, merely a reinforcement of the need. I recently found out that Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) now has a $550 million not-for-profit foundation that bridges the gap in the innovation chain by fast-tracking groundbreaking clean technologies through development and demonstration in preparation for commercialization. There is certainly incentive for some businesses to consider developing their technologies in Canada, or perhaps, in partnership with Canadian businesses and educational institutions. Interested? Leave me your email in a comment and I’ll put you in touch with some people here in Canada!

The retreat of glaciers and arctic ice sheets are going to open up new shipping routes, key ports and new economic centers. One such gateway community is discussed an interview with a writer from The Atlantic, Gregg Easterbrook. I have to credit Paul Kedrosky for introducing me to this piece from his blog “Paul Kedrosky’s Infectious Greed“. The interview is as follows:

Early in this article you ask, “If the world warms, who will win? Who will lose?” But even the winners in this equation would seem to face grave risks. The Inuit of Canada may come to own valuable ports, for instance, but their traditional ways of feeding themselves and making a living will be decimated as the animals they hunt disappear. I suspect many people will consider the question and answer, “We will all lose.”

No, I don’t think so. In economics we don’t find many zero sum games and I don’t think this is a zero sum game. I think a lot of people and nations will come out ahead. The Inuit–the little semi-nation of Nunavut–is going to become significantly more valuable in a warming world. Right now Nunavut’s a frozen wasteland. I would love to be the guy with the Nunavut promotion account twenty years from now because I’m going to rechristen the place “the gateway to the hemispheres” and invite celebrities, and cruise ships will be stopping by, and the sign on the dock will say, “Welcome to Nunavut, Gateway to the Hemispheres!” We’ll see all kinds of wild economic activity up there. There will be change, yes. The traditional way of life will fade and be replaced with something else, maybe something zany, but change seems an inevitability of human experience. Really no society on earth, maybe the ones in the Amazon basin are the only exception, has been able to insulate itself from change. We can’t insulate ourselves from it and I doubt the Inuit will ever be able to do that, either.

On Technorati:

Global Warming, Cleantech and Canada


The world is ranting about global warming, and it should be. There is a very real problem, and finally politicians are appearing to try to combat them. Is their rationale money, power, influence or an actual regard for the sustainability of Earth?

In recent news President Bush announced an Ethanol deal with Brazil, which will work to increase the development of ethanol; Brazil produces much of its ethanol from sugar cane. Also today, the European Union heads of state agreed on a long-term strategy on energy policy, which followed agreements made in February 2007, when they agreed to cut greenhouse emissions by 20% by 2020. In Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says that Kyoto targets are unattainable, as the former Liberal government committed to a reduction of greenhouse gases to 6% below 1990 levels … Canada is currently 35% over that mark (Vancouver Sun). So … what is Canada going to do to address this issue? Maybe allocate an increase to the investments in startups that are focusing on environmental biotechnology or cleantech solutions? Wow, that sounds like a good idea!

There are currently a number of Canadian company developing cleantech technologies, but certainly not enough. Of those companies innovating that space, most are grossly underfunded as many don’t even have websites! As the Toronto Star tech reporter, Tyler Hamilton, mentions in his cleantech blog – Clean Break – Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) , a fund created to finance cleantech startups, invested only $43.4 million on 15 new projects in 2005. The Alberta government is currently experiencing massive surpluses in the order of billions, its about time to start financing cleantech and environmental biotech startups so that Canada can remain competitive in the energy, or “Clean Energy” space in the future. Getting an early foothold in the market just seems like a good idea to me …

Canadian technology happens to be some of the most innovative in the world, so says Len Brody, who’s keynote address I saw at the Canadian Venture Forum. Nice guy, I managed to get myself a signed copy of his book Innovation Nation: Canadian Leadership from Java to Jurassic Park. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but if your patriotic and want to find out a little more about Canadian business … maybe grab yourself a copy. In any case, if Canadian technology is so innovative, then INVEST IN IT. The lack of funding at the early stage, is crippling the growth and development of Canadian companies. CEOs are constantly chasing money, to stay cashflow positive and burn rates are minimized, which doesn’t allow these start-ups to effectively execute on their business plans.