Govt launches competition for clean tech start-ups

A new nationwide competition for clean tech start-ups is to offer the winner the chance to represent Australia at a similar competition in the United States and potentially win more than $100,000 in services.


The Australian Clean Technologies Ideas Competition – launched by the Federal Government – is linked to the international Cleantech Open Global Ideas Competition, being held in the US.


The winner of the local competition will represent Australia at the international event, where they will compete with entrants from 90 countries for more than $100,000 in assistance to launch their idea.


Services will be tailored to suit the needs highlighted by the new ideas – be it access to venture capitalists, patent support, legal advice, research support or corporate assurance.


They will also have access to mentoring, meetings with investors, and other entrepreneurs at the International Awards Gala in November.


Business ideas can be for technologies and services that address pollution, waste treatment and energy storage, new ways of looking at energy efficiency, building materials, transportations systems and public utilities.


Innovation Minister Kim Carr is hopeful the local competition will promote a “uniquely Australian take” on the sector and result in some “Eureka” moments.


“Australian clean technologies businesses were worth $22 billion in 2010 and the sector employs over 25,000 people nationally,” Carr said in a statement.


“The government’s goal is to develop a sector that helps Australia meet the growing needs of a low-carbon economy.”


Tim Buckley, managing director of green investment firm Arkx, says the move to a low-carbon economy has been likened to a sixth industrial revolution.


“The internet was the fifth revolution. A low-carbon economy will be like the internet in the way it transforms business and consumer behaviour. Over a 20- to 30-year period, that’s what I believe will happen,” Buckley says.


According to Buckley, the move to a low-carbon economy will revolutionise “almost every aspect of what we do”, from urban planning and public transport to power sources.


“We therefore need a huge amount of left-field thinking for that to really take hold…I would think that any competition that encourages positive, innovative thinking – and challenges scientists and entrepreneurs – has got to be great thing,” he says.


Rather than shy away from international interest, Buckley says clean tech companies should strive for it, describing it as the “ultimate recognition”.


“It’s inevitable that the commercialisation of clean technologies, from Australia’s perspective, will see those technologies go overseas,” he says.


“If you have a great idea, it will have 10 times the value in the US and be even more valuable in Europe, so I don’t see it as a bad thing [for Australian companies to rely on international competitions].”


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