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How business clusters will ensure a strong and collaborative future for the Australian cleantech industry

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By Bianca Dragomir, speaker the 2019 National Clean Technologies Conference & Exhibition and CEO of Avaesen Cluster

Technological progress is getting exponential. From computing power to our understanding of genetics, change is occurring now more quickly than ever before.

In the realm of renewable energy, the price of solar power alone has been dropping to unprecedented lows and continues to fall by 10 percent every year since 1980. In some countries wind energy or solar are cheaper sources than coal. With advances in new materials and storage, the costs will decrease further and lead to nearly-free, clean energy for all the people across the world.  

The cleantech industry is here to stay, disrupting itself from within, and also disrupting all other sectors, one by one. Think about the ‘greenification’ of cities, which is becoming massive.

Copenhagen in Europe, for instance, is the most eco-friendly city in the world, now set to be carbon neutral by 2025, leading the way for all other major cities to follow, integrating multiple cleantech solutions that involve sustainable infrastructure, cleaner transportation and clean energy. In Abu Dhabi, Masdar City is one of the first zero-carbon, zero-emission and zero-car cities.

The global cleantech industry is now embarked on a mission to master digitisation and decarbonisation. Thanks to the convergence of technologies, we are now entering the ‘enernet’ era.  Energy is the new internet.

However, achieving a ‘well below 2C’ Paris Agreement target requires a speed of decarbonisation of at least six times faster than the maximum speed ever achieved so far. So we need more impact, more quickly to achieve this ambition.  

For this to happen, anchoring our growth efforts only in specific technologies is simply not enough. To manage this transformation, we need to innovate systemically, co-create new business models and novel solutions that integrate multiple needs: business, research, investment and society at the same time. Only systemic innovation can catalyse change at speed and scale.

 

Clusters play a crucial role in the cleantech sector

  • They are focal points and business generators for their sector. They guide and orchestrate the entire value chain, building bridges between different stakeholders and sectors, leading to strategic partnerships and new opportunities for sustainable growth.
  • They are brokers of innovation, offering the possibility of experimentation, growing start-ups into scale-ups and connecting small with big businesses in a meaningful way. They also link them with end users and investors to apply technologies in cities and industries.
  • They boost smart investments in the region, being a real ‘market watch’ and strategic tool for their region to accelerate its transition. Clusters can become true regional engines of growth.

 

Clustering effectively is particularly essential in complex contexts as Australia, where coal is both the country’s strength and Achilles heel. Orchestrating a transition towards clean, sustainable METS technologies and solutions, can be done by generating challenge-led, bold, innovation-driven ecosystems. These lead to new behaviours, new business models and new exponential solutions.

The cluster I am leading in Spain,  Avaesen, is a regional cluster encompassing 160 members in the cleantech industry. At Avaesen we managed to create an open, multi collaborative, interconnected, cross-sectorial, innovation and financially self-sustained cluster model, generating cleantech innovation within and even outside its geographical boundaries.

In less than four years, we managed to unlock a market of 1.5 bn euro wind power business opportunities for SMEs, accelerate more than 275 cleantech start-ups to market not only in the Valencia Region but in 12 other European countries, and bridge the growth and internationalisation of more than 100 businesses to the global market. The cluster reinvented itself and turned a region at crossroads due to financial crisis and unfavourable regulation, into the cleantech innovation hotspot in Southern Europe.

Business clusters are not just  agglomerations of companies, but meaningful industrial ecosystems leading transformation. We need to shift from clusters-as-usual to ‘clusters of change’, that integrate a plurality of public and private stakeholders, generating fresh, open, bold, entrepreneurship and innovation-driven ecosystems.

 

Clusters can be the spark plugs of Australia’s cleantech future

  • To affect rapid change, Australia needs champions seeking alternative ways of growing, building new repeatable, scalable business models, and expanding this inspiration to others.
  • Australia’s cleantech industry needs sound partnerships within and outside the cleantech sector, with cities and industries, partnering and leading this change together.
  • It needs dedicated support: governments ‘clustering’ their efforts in support of clusters, allowing and showing industrial leadership in this transition towards cleantech.

About the author

Bianca Dragomir is the CEO of Avaesen Cluster, one of Spain’s leading cleantech clusters. Bianca is speaking at the 2019 National Clean Technologies Conference & Exhibition being held 29-31 May on the Sunshine Coast. https://nctce.com.au/

Awarded as ‘European Cluster Manager of the Year 2016-2018’ by the European Commission, being the first woman to win this prize, Bianca launched the first climate-specific start-up accelerator in Spain and expanded it across 12 European countries, in a partnership with EIT Climate-KIC. She is Founder of the first Spanish Think Thank Smart Cities and Leader of ClimateLaunchpad Spain, the Global Green Business Idea Competition, since 2014.

Currently a member of the European High Level Industrial Roundtable ‘Industry 2030’, Bianca assists European Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, Elżbieta Bieńkowska, and European Commission Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, Jyrki Katainen, in developing a smart, innovative and sustainable industrial strategy for the future of Europe.

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