Earlier this month, 17 of the UK’s most promising young cleantech enterprises went to Brazil on a mission to accelerate the entrance and growth of British SMEs in the Brazilian market. Why Brazil? Because it’s growing fast, is energy and food secure, and is investing heavily to raise citizens’ quality of life – and their spending power. Over the last six years, Brazil’s middle class has grown by 24 million people, and a new upper middle class has grown by 27 million. But this surge in wealth also brings some challenges: expanding urban infrastructure, growing waste streams, and generating energy where it is needed – not to mention strains on the agricultural system. It’s a realm ripe for innovation.
Every year, the Technology Strategy Board runs The Clean and Cool Mission to support young companies with high growth potential to understand and access an overseas market where their technology is a good fit, in order to accelerate their entrance and growth. These ‘missions’ are supported by UKTI, but run by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. The Long Run Venture leads on organisation, with funding from Shell Gamechanger. The SMEs sent out with the Mission are chosen through a competition, and selected for factors such as the scalability of their solution, and the capability and readiness of the team to enter the market.
Brazil is particularly attractive for developers of clean technology. The increase in incomes in cities means Brazil has huge and growing urban areas, with favelas stretching up their surrounding hills. These communities face the challenge of installing infrastructure to meet their needs, accessing vital resources like energy and water, and dealing with their waste. A staggering 43% of Brazil’s waste ends up in unregulated landfills, and less than half the country’s population has sewerage.
All 17 companies that took part in The Clean and Cool Mission had scalable solutions in response to these issues, from smart grids to reduce energy demand in cities, to satellite technologies for tracking the carbon store of forests. The companies rapidly forged new partnerships and projects through the week. As a result of their encounters, two of the companies are now taking a part in a pilot project that will take the waste in favelas and use it to generate energy in the heart of the communities. The project is being driven by the leaders in the favela itself, and will be scaled by entrepreneurs from those communities.
Two previous Clean and Cool Missions to San Francisco have already born fruit: the 35 companies involved have since attracted £170 million in growth funding and established 15 US partnerships and 29 US customers.
Dr Mike Pitts is Lead Specialist, Sustainability, Technology Strategy Board. www.cleanandcoolmission.com/brazil
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