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Cleantech startups need corporate collaboration

Lahti Corporate Cleantech Venture Day brought together over 200 corporate, investor and small and medium enterprise representatives to discuss the role of corporations in cleantech business. Gaia’s report ordered by LADEC for the conference participants analyzes how corporations can boost cleantech innovations and cleantech startups. A win-win situation is possible.

Cleantech startups often face more challenges in getting capital for growth than startups in other sectors. Collaboration between cleantech startups and corporations has up to now been relatively modest in the Nordic area but new types of venture activities and opportunities have started to arise. Yet cleantech companies are still far away from reporting success stories like the Finnish game industry.

There are several reasons for the challenges that cleantech startups face. Many cleantech companies rely on market demand that is regulated and dependent on political decisions. At the same time, public sector clients are often very important to the companies.

Cleantech companies are often capital intensive. One person with a laptop is not enough to build a biofuel plant that may require over 100 million euros in investments just to reach a piloting phase on an industrial scale. Large corporations dominate the business due to the large amount of investments required.

The participants of Corporate Cleantech Venture Day see a lot of potential for collaboration between cleantech companies and corporations. Small cleantech companies seeking growth need to go global quickly and at the same time adapt to different markets. Corporations can for example offer their sales channels and open doors for cleantech startups on the international market. They may also be able to offer piloting platforms for startups.

Collaboration between corporations and startups may also have its challenges. Very large and very small companies can have different dynamics, resources and final goals. In spite of this, the conference showed that there is a lot of interest in this kind of cooperation.

“We have received lots of positive feedback for giving corporate cleantech venturing visibility with the conference and offering concrete opportunities for startups to meet corporations like Veolia, says Nina Harjula, Head of Development, Lahti Region Development LADEC Ltd.

“There is no single model of cleantech corporate venturing that fits all, but win-win business opportunities do exist. It is important to share practical experiences, both successes and failures. As the report concludes, the Nordic cleantech sector has a very good global reputation at the moment. That benefits both Nordic corporations and cleantech startups,” says Dr. Mari Hjelt, who is the main author of Gaia’s report.

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