Sunday, December 11, 2011

Books to Inspire this Holiday Season

I've enjoyed launching this blog in 2011 and I want to thank every one of you who has stopped in.

When beginning our deal screenings at Keiretsu Forum Northwest, we often start with a round of friendly introductions.  A common topic we ask everyone to share is "what's on your reading list these days?"

So, in the spirit of the holiday gifting season I'd like to share three new books from 2011 that offer inspiration to entrepreneurs, investors, cleantech consumers, and all of us hoping for a cleaner and greener 2012.

Early 2011 brought this collection of Guy's engaging blogs to a print volume.  Full of pragmatic advice to entrepreneurs, and delivered in Guy's patented no-nonsense style.

"If you wanted to bring America happiness and prosperity, and address unemployment, government gridlock and climate change, and create meaning in a world rife with contradictory views and ideologies, you can do one thing: read Reinventing Fire...and then see to it that it is read by every decision maker in the land." - Paul Hawken, co-author, Natural Capitalism

"Frances Moore Lappé confronts accepted wisdom of environmentalism. Drawing on the latest research from anthropology to neuroscience and her own field experience, she argues that the biggest challenge to human survival isn’t our fossil fuel dependency, melting glaciers, or other calamities. Rather, it’s our faulty way of thinking about these environmental crises.  Lappé dismantles seven common “thought traps” and offers contrasting “thought leaps” that reveal our hidden power. Like her Diet for a Small Planet classic, EcoMind is challenging, controversial and empowering."  -

And to you all - a happy holiday season!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

China's Cleantech Success: Part III - Leveraging Collaboration

In his opening remarks at the Clean Energy Forum, Zheng Bijian, Chairman of the China Institute for Innovation & Development Strategy, reminded participants that Chinese investment in the United States surpassed United States investment in China last year. The countries’ economies are increasingly interdependent – as are the energy and environmental challenges they face.  “It is both necessary and possible to work together," said Zheng

Despite the difficult politics of U.S.-China relations, investors and entrepreneurs have begun to show the way toward building and expanding clean energy trade and investment that links the U.S. and China in a productive ways.

The U.S. and Chinese governments have been cooperating on clean energy technologies for decades, but when President Obama announced the creation of the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center (CERC) Program during his state visit to China in November 2009, he helped to launch a fundamentally new way of working together.   The commercial benefits – and intellectual property ownership – of the CERC collaborations are to be shared according to a negotiated protocol.

While the high-minded rhetoric found in that meeting between Chinese President Hu and Obama captured a political zeitgeist that now is shared by perhaps too few, the new collaborative investments in cleantech that have been spawned since indicate real coming opportunities.  

The CERC Program has thusfar flown under the radar of most in Congress, and proponents of the program say they would rather it stay that way given the heated anti-China rhetoric that is popular with some in Congress these days.  

The small and highly strategic CERC Program is a tiny piece of the U.S. budget: $150 million in total public and private funding split between the United States and China.  The program intends to leverage this public funding by encouraging collaboration and private investment.  At the strategic level, the hope is that U.S.-China partnerships spawned here will help bind entrepreneurs and investors from both nations into collaborative business relationships rather than zero-sum competition.

Another of the program's larger strategic goals is to cut carbon dioxide emissions from the three largest sources: coal-fired power plants, cars and trucks in the world's two largest markets, and the massive stock of buildings under construction in China's growing cities.  Obama's position has been that the United States and China are central to solving the climate change challenge.

Even while the broader bilateral relationship between the U.S. and China has cooled since 2009, three new U.S.-China CERCs for development and commercialization of clean technologies have been launched with a combination of public and private funding.  

The three U.S.-based CERCs (which have three counterpart "EIH" centers in China) are in Detroit for electric vehicles, in West Virginia for clean coal technology, and in Berkeley for building efficiency .  The CERCs are to implement a clear plan to use the complementary strengths of the U.S. Chinese markets, with innovation focused in the U.S. and rapid deployment and scaling up operations being the focus in China. 

While pubic funding to run these six centers is modest, returns could be considerable, making this, as Terry Cooke describes, "a thoughtful and highly promising avenue for marshaling innovation talent,  top-level technology and investment support."  

News from U.S. CERCs and China-based EIHs will be worth watching in coming years as they help advance new prospects for clean energy cooperation and investment.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

China's Cleantech Success: Part II - Opportunities for Collaboration

Watching the rise of cleantech IPOs over the past few years, one can track the continuing rise of the clean tech sector in China.  Since 2009, China's IPOs have accounted for the over 60% of money raised, and over 50% of cleantech IPOs by number.

And while this trend challenges U.S. investors, over 80% of cleantech Chinese joint ventures involve western partners.

A recent study from Pricewaterhouse Cooper,"The U.S.-China Cleantech Connection: Shaping a new Commercial Diplomacy" describes ambitious Chinese-U.S  collaborations coming together to leverage cleantech opportunities within and beyond the U.S. and China markets.  For example, U.S. and other foreign firms are poised to contribute needed technology and expertise if and when cleantech vehicles in China gain the level of traction automakers and legislators are hoping for.

 Tim Carey, U.S. cleantech leader at PwC adds, "With the sudden increase of U.S. and China cleantech investments, the opportunity exists for U.S. companies to begin nurturing partnerships with both large and small fast-growing companies within China. Partnerships built on mutual cooperation, trust and a clear understanding of each country's business conditions and needs will pave the way for long-term relationships and significant economic growth."

In his opening remarks at the Clean Energy Forum in January 2011, Zheng Bijian, Chairman of the China Institute for Innovation & Development Strategy, reminded participants that Chinese investment in the United States surpassed United States investment in China last year.  

"The countries’ economies are increasingly interdependent – as are the energy and environmental challenges they face," Zheng said, “It is both necessary and possible to work together,” 

What do you see as the most exciting U.S.-Chinese collaborations in cleantech?