The sherpas climbing the cleantech mountain in China
Cambridge Cleantech is making inroads into China's sustainability sector with help from Qomo Capital Partners
The vast potential of China’s sustainability sector, which is opening its doors to UK cleantech firms, was showcased in London at a recent event organised by Cambridge Cleantech.
The Cleantech Venture Day saw 20 firms pitching to a panel for a slice of China’s cleantech spend, which totalled $100billion in 2016 – a third of global investment for a country which faces huge energy and pollution issues as it bids to continue its astonishing economic success story (6.7 per cent growth last year).
The panel included Fred Chang, managing director of Shanghai-based Qomo Capital Partners, and Martin Garratt, CEO of Cambridge Cleantech.
“What we do is cross-border investing in sustainability and cleantech,” Mr Chang told the Cambridge Independent. “We have a venture capital firm and have added an incubator/accelerator to it.
“China is a great place to commercialise cleantech technologies: the market here is much larger than the UK’s and perhaps even Europe’s, but it doesn’t have its own indigenous technologies so has to source them from outside, and this makes us very compatible partners.
“We invest in technologies that are leading the world. Many are coming out of the UK and Cambridge specifically, and at a certain stage need partners. They need a lot more money and time to commercialise, and we can do that for them in China faster, better and cheaper, while at the same time they are able to continue their development in the UK. It’s what I call the China advantage.”
One of the firms that has already benefitted from Cambridge Cleantech’s enthusiasm for the Chinese market is Cambond, the developers of an ecologically friendly glue, which recently went on a Cambridge Cleantech-organised trade mission to Wujin and secured a deal.
“Cambond is a classic example,” said Mr Chang. “We’re a world leader in wood flooring and all our companies are currently using formaldehyde-based glues. They will adopt Cambond’s resin very quickly.”
Breaking into China is not easy, and having a guide is probably essential.
“Qomo is short for ‘Qomolangma’, the Tibetan word for Mount Everest,” explains Mr Chang. “Hence mountains. We take a position of business sherpas: we’re not afraid to do heavy lifting, we’ve been up the summit before, we add benefits to the hike and are also able to fund the expedition. We’re at the base camp and the IP is the cargo. We’ll fund the campaign, then share the rewards as the commercialisation process develops.”
The Cleantech Venture Day at KMPG’s West End office proved to be a huge success. Just to get there 50 firms from across the UK bid to be one of the final 20 investment-ready firms invited to the pitching session.
Delegates were welcomed by Cambridge’s MP Daniel Zeichner. The pitch was won by Cambridge Science Park-based smart energy firm Origami Energy – a finalist in the Cambridge Independent’s Entrepreneurial Science and Technology Awards in September.
CEO Peter Bance said: “The Venture Day was a fantastic event to allow Origami Energy to showcase our technology platform.”
“In my mind all 20 were winners,” added Mr Chang, who has worked for McKinsey and General Electric.
“We have a definite set of technologies and areas we like but we remain open-minded.
“It’s what China needs to address climate change, pollution and energy issues, so that’s energy efficiency, electric vehicles including charging systems, waste – technologies that turn landfill into value – the circular economy… it’s across the board.”
More by this authorMike Scialom