Ireland has a worldwide reputation as a successful location for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Almost 1,000 multinational corporations, in sectors including Life Sciences, ICT, Engineering and Financial Services, have chosen Ireland as their strategic European location.
Ireland is now also emerging as a significant location for investors in the Cleantech industry, largely due to natural resources advantages backed by a talented and skilled workforce, a thriving research and development environment, and pro-Cleantech government policies.
Ireland is committed to becoming a world leader in several Cleantech niche sectors within five years from today. Due to its strategic location between Europe and the Atlantic Ocean, Ireland has an abundance of natural renewable resources. Coupled with grid access to the UK and Europe, this puts Ireland in the ideal situation to become a leader in the Cleantech industry.
The Irish Government is firmly committed to developing the Clean Technology industry and positioning Ireland to become a world leader in this rapidly-growing sector. Clear policy targets have been set: 40% of all electricity generated from renewable sources by 2020, a 20% saving on current energy costs by 2020 and a penetration rate of 10% for electric vehicles by 2020.
Here are the top ten highlights of the Cleantech sector as it exists in Ireland today:
1. In March 2010 Ireland saw the establishment of IBM’s first Smarter Cities Technology Centre in Dublin where IBM will build a highly skilled and cross-disciplinary team to help cities around the world better understand, interconnect and manage their core operational systems such as transport, communication, water and energy. Dublin City will collaborate with IBM as a ‘Test bed’, positioning Dublin as a smarter city, embracing technology to stimulate economic activity and meeting the challenges of a globally competitive sustainable city for the future.
2. United Technologies Corporation is to establish a unique research centre in Ireland focusing on energy systems of the future. UTRC are taking advantage of Ireland’s agility and commitment to ‘clean’ technology to demonstrate emerging technologies at scale. UTC also announced that it will become the founding member of the International Energy Research Centre (IERC) in Ireland which will work with leading Irish, European and international researchers working in the area of sustainable energy systems.
3. Established in 1978, NTR plc is one of Ireland’s most successful Cleantech companies and are growing rapidly. NTR builds and runs green energy and resource-sustaining businesses including Stirling Energy Systems who in conjunction with sister company Tessera Solar produces the sterling engine powered SunCatcher concentrating solar system. Another NTR portfolio company is Green Plains Renewable Energy which is a vertically integrated, low-cost ethanol producer and an emerging leader within the bio fuels industry.
4. Formed in 2010, The Green Way is a Cleantech cluster initiative backed by a powerful alliance of businesses, academic institutions and local authorities including, Dublin Airport Authority, Dublin City University, Dublin Institute of Technology, Fingal County Council, Dublin City Council and North Dublin Chamber. The goal of the cluster is to position Ireland as a centre of Cleantech innovation and enterprise which will link business to investors and develop trade partnerships with other major international Cleantech clusters.
5. OpenHydro operates in the tidal energy space – a sector estimated to be worth €128bn over the next decade. OpenHydro designs and manufactures marine turbines to generate renewable energy from tidal streams and their vision is to deploy farms of tidal turbines under the world's oceans - silently and invisibly generating electricity at no cost to the environment. Openhydro was formed in 2005 after negotiation of world rights to ‘Open-Centre’ technology in late 2004. The development of Open-Centre technology began in the US during the early 1990s – the technology enables the ocean's immense energy to be harnessed to produce electricity that is completely renewable since it relies on tides that are created by the gravitational effect of the sun and moon. OpenHydro has over a decade of experience in developing and testing the Open-Centre Turbine in marine conditions.
6. Also in the marine energy space is Wavebob, a company that designs and develops buoy-like devices that sits on top of the water, adjusting automatically to the waves so that it maximises the amount of power delivered to the electricity grid on shore. The company has invested heavily in R&D since it was founded in 1999, and Wavebob has been conducting sea trials since 2006, It first produced electricity from the sea off the west coast of Ireland in 2007 and testing of its pre-commercial, grid-connected wave energy converter is due to begin off the coast of Portugal at the end of 2011. The aim is to demonstrate that Wavebob's technology is the most suitable for adoption as the international standard for harvesting energy from the ocean - and could bring large-scale commercial wave farms a significant step closer.
7. SolarPrint, founded in 2008, is a developer and manufacturer of Dye Sensitised Solar Cell (“DSSC”) technology. DSSC is a novel 3rd Generation printable flexible solar cell technology, which uses abundant, cheap raw materials, employs a low-cost, fast and easy manufacturing process and which can be integrated into everyday household goods, drawing on sunlight to recharge batteries without the need for a power supply. The company has found a solution to the ongoing problems of cost and efficiency that have dogged international efforts to make solar cells for mass market applications such as consumer electronics and the building integrated photovoltaic sector. Solarprint’s breakthrough was to create a semi-liquid solar cell material that is easy to work with and cheap to produce. If the company succeeds in rolling out solar panels for a mass market, it could revolutionise energy usage.
8. Ecocem was established in 2000 and is an independent, specialist producer of GGBS (Ground Granulated Blastfurnace Slag) cement. GGBS is produced from a recycled industrial by-product from the manufacture of steel and no natural resources are used in its manufacture. The manufacture of GGBS produces 1/16th of the amount of CO2 generated by ordinary cement, reducing the embodied energy of concrete by up to 50%. Cement manufacture is the second largest industrial source of CO2 emissions in the world - over two billion tonnes of CO2 each year. St Gobain, the world’s largest building materials company recently bought a 30% stake of Ecocem, Also, the company recently announced a joint venture with the world’s biggest steel company, ArcelorMittal, who produce 10% of world steel.
9. ESB is Ireland’s dominant electricity utility and is one of the key players in the development and support of electric cars in Ireland. ESB eCars is responsible for the roll out of charge points nationwide and the implementation of supporting IT systems which will have open accessibility for all energy supply companies and all types of eCars. It will be a comprehensive network of charge points in homes, on-street and along motor-ways nationwide to support the Government's target to have 10% of all vehicles to be electric by 2020. ESB are engaging in research, trials and technology standards and are working closely with Irish Government, motor industry, universities and other key stakeholders to ensure the success of the eCars roll out.
10. The Green IFSC will be launched this March and aims to make Dublin’s IFSC (International Financial Services Centre) a hub for green businesses to set up shop in Ireland. The initiative aims to attract green businesses to Ireland, as well as companies that finance them and those involved in the carbon reduction area. With its low corporation tax rate, Ireland is well positioned to become a leading player in the global carbon market and the Green IFSC will identify Ireland as a centre of excellence in the management of carbon. Speaking in January 2010, a spokesperson for IFSC Banking and Treasury Group said the most ambitious view of the project would be to replicate the IFSC in a five-year time scale. This would signal the creation of about 25,000 new jobs, with companies operating in the green hub making tax contributions of circa €11bn annually.
** Shawn Lesser is the president and founder of Atlanta-based Sustainable World Capital, which is focused on fund-raising for private equity cleantech/sustainable funds, as well as private cleantech companies and M&A. He is also a co-founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org