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Can London become the #cleantech capital of the world?

There is some dispute about what exactly we mean by cleantech, perhaps because it encompasses areas as diverse as the hard engineering of renewable solutions, recycling services and cleanweb digital tech.

The increasing efforts to create smart cities, including the likes of Canary Wharf Group’s Cognicity accelerator programme, can be seen to demonstrate the application of cleantech in the most logical place to make an impact: everywhere.

Cleantech took a hit when the growing market in the US went bust in 2008, which was due to a combination of different issues, not least the financial crisis, but also the increase in local natural gas reserves from fracking and China’s efforts in solar.

But the science around the changes in our global climate has become increasingly difficult to ignore and although investors have been burned in the past, Boris Johnson and Gerard Grech from Tech City UK have both used their status in 2015 to endorse the idea that London can and should lead on this.

“The 2014 Global Cleantech 100 list found that 28% of companies that made the cut were from Europe, with the UK contributing the most companies with 7,” says entrepreneur Sam Gill, CEO of ET Index, which helps investors understand the investment risks related to the carbon footprint of companies they invest in.

“While data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance shows global cleantech investment jumped 16% in 2014 to $310bn, the UK saw modest growth at 3%, totalling $15.2bn. There is certainly a lot of activity in this space, and there is definitely a lot further to go given the issue of climate change is only going to intensify.”

Gill says he’s been disappointed by the new Conservative government’s intention to cut subsidies for renewables, leading to a reduction in the number of such projects. “This is not the kind of policy shift that will help the government met its legally binding target of cutting emissions by 80% by 2050,” he says.

“For London to really be a leader it will require a greener government than we have currently. That said, the UK has a booming entrepreneurial ecosystem and favourable tax incentive set up for investment in startup companies.”

ET Index itself first took part in the EU-backed Climate-KIC accelerator programme, facilitated by Imperial University, before setting up home at Level39, home of Cognicity.

If you work in cleantech, as a startup, investor or anything in between, apply to attend  Tech City News, Tech London Advocates and WeWork’Cleantech: Force of Nature event with Michael Liebrich, founder and chairman of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, happening on 23 September. Email [email protected] for more details.

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