It’s been launched at a time when there is evidence that Europe is struggling to keep up with other parts of the globe in this sector. The companies point out that:
Europe has seen a 40% decrease in it’s share of clean energy investment since 2007
GE’S Innovation Barometer indicates half of all businesses see the UK as a challenging environment for innovation
The fund is an extension of GE’s ecomagination Challenge, a $200m global programme launched in 2010 to find and fund the best ideas in clean tech technology. GE and partners have committed $134m globally for investment and commercial partnerships with start-up companies.
The initial phase of the Carbon Trust partnership includes a $5m incubation fund targeted at low carbon technologies in the area of infrastructure applications. The Carbon Trust will work with GE to identify and evaluate early stage companies, then incubate and invest in those with the most potential.
GE’s recent Innovation Barometer found that UK companies see collaboration as a key to future growth. In all, 84% of UK businesses believe that developing partnerships and collaboration with a combination of players - including government, big business, SMEs and individuals - is the key to success in innovation. Almost 90% of UK businesses also claim that SMEs and individual entrepreneurs can be as innovative as bigger companies, hence the need for early stage funding.
A good idea, particularly since the UK government in general seems to be backing away from supporting cleantech industries. At least the Carbon Trust is prepared to make some investment (even though its government grant was cut by 40% this financial year). Getting larger companies, such as GE, involved, gives it all added weight - hopefully the Carbon Trust can get interest from other companies. Maybe they could persuade Sony to expand on its Open Planet Ideas to support start-up UK cleantech businesses, for example.