Could the UK become a global leader in cleantech and sustainability?

On 22 November 2017, PwC hosted the 10th CEPEC green investor conference at their offices at Embankment Place.  Over 50 different organisations attended the event including some of the UK’s and Europe’s most innovative cleantech and sustainability start-ups who pitched their businesses to a range of specialist investors.  

 

There was significant interest generated by many of the presentations and a number of follow up meetings were held on the day which was very encouraging.  The companies on show at this and previous CEPEC conferences reflect the diverse range of technologies and sustainable enterprises that are aiming to take advantage of a rapidly expanding global market and an increasingly decentralised UK market.  They include energy storage, electric vehicles, distributed generation, smart grids and behind-the-meter technology.  

 

A recent PwC publication, Capturing Value from Disruption  which was presented on the day by PwC director James Cadzow, indicates that the global market for just seven of the technologies with significant potential could reach $500bn by 2020 - more than double the size of the market that existed in 2015.

 

The UK’s track record for innovation is second to none.  There is a real opportunity for UK companies to take a large stake in this growing market and there are good reasons to be optimistic. The UK Government’s Clean Growth Strategy sets out how £2.5 billion will be invested between 2015 and 2021 to support low carbon innovation. More broadly, the National Investment Fund will provide an additional £4.7 billion with an extra £2 billion a year by 2020-21.  Organisations like Clean and Cool are paving the way for UK cleantech start-ups to succeed.  Since 2013 they have taken 75 of the UK’s top cleantech SMEs on international entrepreneur missions where companies get the chance to make new contacts, meet investors and learn from others who have succeeded.  Half of the companies that have been on the missions were pre-revenue at the time and since returning they have secured a combined total of over £650m in funding from investors.

 

The success of the UK economy in the coming years will be shaped, in part, by how it embraces growth opportunities such as those seen in cleantech.  Whilst the size of the market can be difficult to estimate, analysis by Cambridge Cleantech indicates that the UK cleantech sector is worth £50bn annually which equates to 3% of GDP and that it employs close to one million people.

 

Becoming a global leader in cleantech will enable the UK to set an example for others to follow in creating a sustainable, efficient and low carbon economy which will be critical in achieving the carbon reduction targets set out as part of the Paris Agreement.  At a time of economic uncertainty for the UK economy, embracing the opportunity in cleantech could also have a hugely positive impact on job creation and economic growth.

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James Cadzow

Assurance Director, PwC United Kingdom

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