Can Scotland create a cleantech '˜unicorn'?

The hunt is on for Scotland's first billion dollar cleantech company with a European-wide contest underway to find the most promising business ideas that can tackle climate change.

Renewable energy innovation just one area of interest to Climate Launchpad  Pic Ian Rutherford
Renewable energy innovation just one area of interest to Climate Launchpad Pic Ian Rutherford

For the first time, entrepreneurs from Scotland are taking part in Climate Launchpad which works over 31 countries to seek out and support the best proposals for a new cleantech enterprise, with the winner getting up to €105,000 to develop their idea.

Andrew Mitchell, Climate Launchpad’s national lead for Scotland, said the country was well placed to deliver its first environmental technology “unicorn” - a start up company worth more than $1bn - with the North East particularly well positioned to take the crown.

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Mr Mitchell said: “I would like to see within the next five years a handful of billion dollar cleantech companies setting up in Scotland. I think it is more likely to happen in the north east given that rich resource of technological and business expertise you find there.”

Oil tycoon Sir Ian Wood has set aside £25m of his own fortune to invest in business in tourism, food and drink, oil and gas technology and bioscience to strengthen the North East economy beyond North Sea production.

Mr Mitchell said it was the people who were leaving the oil and gas industry that he really wanted to get on board with the next generation of green innovation.

He pointed to a change in mood over reliance on fossil fuels amongst both the public and investors and pointed to the success of Tesla having taken over 400,000 pre-orders for their affordable Model 3 electric sports car, and The Netherlands taking a step towards the outright ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2025.

Mr Mitchell added: “Clean tech is anything that limits climate change or anything that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and it is anything from renewable energy to something which facilitates behaviour change, such as reducing food waste.

“It is a very broad area and I think the government realises there is more to meeting our emission obligations that generating green electricity, it is about changing behaviour and changing the way we live.”

The Climate Launchpad contest is in its third year but this is the first time that entrepreneurs from Scotland have taken part,

Mr Mitchell said he hoped to bring the final of the competition, which this year will be held in Tallinn, Estonia, to Scotland next year.

He said so far, around a dozen entrepreneurs had entered from Scotland with hopes to attract more before the May 9 deadline.

“We really want Scotland to be thinking big, and globally, in these areas,” Mr Mitchell said.

For more information, visit Climate Launchpad