Europe pioneered in terms of solar and wind power adoption but is now falling short due to economical and social crisis. Central and Eastern Europe may help turn the tables.
A report from research organization Bloomberg New Energy Finance from last year stated that investments in cleantech in 2015 was at its lowest point in Europe since 2006. The main reason lies behind a UE’s governance affected by economic slowdown, terrorism, population flows… However, everything isn’t as bad as it seems since Europe is still leader in terms of renewable penetration. We can only hope that salvation may come from countries from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) which has a particularly promising cleantech market and great ambitions in the sector.
Europe pioneered in the cleantech market, do you think it's still a major market nowadays?
I think that these days talents are spread throughout the world and pioneers and innovators are popping out in different location on monthly basis. Speaking about the market leader, I think that US and Canada has already taken over the first places in terms of market size. As for investments, number of non-Asian companies with an Asian investor is constantly growing from year to year. Let’s not forget that China and Asia has their own issues to solve, like increasing pollution, sustainable food supply etc. I bet that the Asian investors will focus more on their domestic problems in the nearest future.
However, it is important to understand that Europe is not falling far behind other countries. The Global Cleantech Innovation Index, published in partnership with non-governmental organisation WWF, is still led by Israel, Finland, Sweden and others.
In Central and Eastern europe, are there some countries that you think that are more advanced in terms of innovation?
Due to an early and strict alignment with EU regulations and to a couple of success stories Estonia and Ukraine are, to me, the most technologically advanced countries from CEE. Among those success stories, estonian startups like Werrowool and Clifton AS found a way to differentiate themselves by producing new energy efficient materials. The first one created a recyclable and allergen-free cellulose wool for building isolation and the second one, highly performant semiconductors that limits overheating in electronics (it then went bankrupt last year after 16 years of business). Ukraine also had success stories that specialized in smart home innovation, like Ecoisme that is a home energy monitoring solution that recognizes individual devices in the house based by their signature within the grid and suggests the best ways to save energy, or Plugmee that allow people to control appliance in their home from an app.
There’s a third country that I think is pretty advanced too: Kazakhstan. But the reason behind it is that it has extensive government support initiated directly by their president, which not necessarily showed huge success results so far, but at least the industry has a clear vision and structure of what should be done. Investors should keep a close eye on it.
What are governments actions to help develop those kind of innovations? Is there any subventions? Or is it more instigated by the private sector?
It differs from one country to another. As I said earlier, Kazakhstan startup ecosystem is mainly supported by its government but in Russia, they have a specific governmental organization called Rusnano dedicated to the development of the tech industry, especially in the field of nanotechnologies. But still, there are a couple of private initiatives too.
In Ukraine, private incubator Greencubator is the one giving the impulse in the startup ecosystem. But international organizations are also helping with subventions and investments, like EBRD. As for Estonia, it has a dedicated national development fund for cleantech initiatives. Finally, Moldova is using US Agency for International Development money.
Can you give us examples of startups you met while working at Seedstars and that are particularly interesting/unique?
One of the most impressive solution I stumbled upon working for Seedstars is PassivDom from Ukraine. PassivDom is autonomous self-sufficient 3D-printed house. It is interesting as it is mobile (you can move the house on different location as it is very light), and can be controled through an app. It is only powered by solar energy and has zero carbon emission.
Talking about energy consumption, I've got in mind two other startups that are also remarkable. First-of-all, there's Energy Solaris from Moldova that develops an indoor ventilation and heating system based on solar energy that is up to 15 times more efficient than traditional methods. The goal of the team behind this technology is to fight global warming adapting buildings climate. The second startup is Diodey from Kazakhstan which wants to make more accessible lighting through LED. The technology gives quality lighting to its users and to control it from their smartphone, allowing them to save up to 80% electricty costs.
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