Three pretty good indicators a sector is taking off: venture capital inflows, a preponderance of names, and a quickly filling events calendar. Just such a confluence can be seen with GreenTech, or, if you prefer, CleanTech or EnviroTech. Not so much a new sector as an agglomeration of existing, connected ones, CleanTech is described by research firm Clean Edge as “a diverse range of products, services, and processes that harness renewable materials and energy sources, dramatically reduce the use of natural resources, and cut or eliminate emissions and wastes.”For plastics, CleanTech presents challenges and opportunities, with one view casting traditional fossil-fuel derived polymers, as well as biobased ones, as part of the problem, while another perspective pitches plastic as low-mass high-strength material that can make existing every day things lighter and more efficient in use and transport while also serving as a building block for new products in areas like solar. The Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) recently held their Global Plastics Environmental Conference (GPEC; Feb. 25-27, Orlando, FL), featuring its second annual Clean Technology Business Forum and Competition, with six finalists whittled down from more than 10 entrants. FRX Polymers, which is proposing a phosphorous-based inherently-flame-retardant polymer as a new, non-halogen based FR material and additive (click here for story), took top honors, but all entrants presented in a receptive environment. If they so choose, they can also find other events to pitch their plan, just missing the fifth annual Clean-Tech Investor Summit, which took place Jan. 21-22 in Palm Springs, CA, drawing 500 delegates from 31 states and 14 countries, as well as MPW’s parent company, Canon Communications' Green Manufacturing Expo (Feb. 9-11, Anaheim, CA; with future dates March 11-12, Charlotte; June 9-11, New York; and Sept. 22-24, Chicago,). If Houston is more their speed, they could also attend the Clean Technology 2009 Conference and Expo (May 3-7).
As you might expect, increased interest in the form of such events has led to increased investment. According to the United Nations Environment Program, wind, solar, and biofuel companies received a record $148 billion in new funding in 2007, due in no small part to rising oil prices and climate-change policies that encouraged renewable energy investment. Overall, investment in clean-energy and energy-efficiency industries rose 60% from 2006 to 2007. In terms of venture capital, investments in the sector have increased from less than 1% of total venture investments to more than 10% over the last eight years, with clean-energy investing in the U.S. reaching $2.7 billion alone in 2007. —[email protected]