Ahead of his presentation at Cleantech Innovate 2019, Willem van Hasselt, Investor Relations Manager at the Solar Impulse Foundation, gives his take on how to support solutions that protect the environment in a profitable way.
Why is innovation in cleantech so important?
Innovation is hugely important from both an environmental and business perspective as it allows us to find new business models. I’m passionate about protecting the planet and doing things the right way: to do this we need to try to change unsustainable habits through behaviour change, but there’s also a vital role for technological innovation in making existing behaviours more sustainable. Through nudging us to do the right thing by default, technological innovation can help solve sustainability problems without the need for people to make huge sacrifices or changes to their daily lives.
What challenges need to be overcome to catalyse cleantech innovations?
There are financial, legislative, and technological barriers to innovation in cleantech. Financial and regulatory barriers stem from social perceptions of ‘the norm’, which over recent decades has prioritised short-termism and scant consideration of environmental factors. A lack of investment is currently putting a brake on the scalability of cleantech solutions and leading us to maintain the status quo by continuing to use hugely outdated technology and legislation.
We need better regulation that encourages innovation and diverts financial and investment flows towards innovation to achieve a critical mass. Existing polluting industries still receive a hugely disproportionate amount of investment compared to innovative start-ups, and while innovation can overcome technological barriers, on the financial side of things we need a profitable model for businesses that encourage sustainability.
What are the opportunities for entrepreneurs and investors from game-changing innovations?
The bigger the impact of the innovation, the bigger the opportunity. Existing methods of production and consumption are archaic and hugely wasteful as they are based on the use of highly inefficient technologies – the levels of carbon dioxide we’re releasing into the atmosphere represent not only an environmental problem but an inefficiency in resource use. Those who can understand the business models around innovation and who think long-term have huge opportunities open to them.
What are you looking forward to at Cleantech Innovate 2019?
I’m looking forward to seeing the fantastic innovations that will be there. There’s always a great deal of positive energy from the innovators who have persevered with their ideas – they’re a real inspiration. The event will be a great place for innovators and investors to engage with each other and for entrepreneurs in particular to meet new stakeholders.