The inspiring innovation underway across the UK clean tech sector deserves to be celebrated
Back in 2012, I reported on a conference in the US where various entrepreneurs and investors from the US clean tech community were instructed by a MacArthur Genius Award winning scientist to celebrate their "awesomeness". Dr Saul Griffith's call to arms was both timely and justified. In urging clean tech firms to "make the future awesome again" he identified the sector's continuing reticence in promoting some of the most exciting technologies ever invented and highlighted the crucial importance of a little cheerleading in any technological transition.
Since then, things have got a little better. The world's most exciting entrepreneur teamed up with one of the world's most innovative inventers and one of the world's best salespeople - which was easy for them as they are all called Elon Musk and are and the same person - and the result was an electric car that was as desirable as it is environmentally friendly. Solar cells and smart meters have become sleekly-designed, desirable products and most green product advertising campaigners no longer look as if companies are trying to sell mung beans to hippies. Real world clean tech innovation now takes in everything from race cars to toilets, and as a result positive headlines have followed.
And yet, for too many clean technologies the cultural cringe remains. Exciting and inspiring clean tech products still fail to command the media attention and column inches reserved for every single pharmaceutical breakthrough and automotive innovation, no matter how marginal. Staggeringly dull marginal improvements in consumer gadgets are treated like the Second Coming just occurred, only with 4G connectivity and a slightly bigger screen. Meanwhile, potentially planet-shaping clean tech innovations are launched with barely a murmur.
At the risk of national stereotyping, the problem is particularly acute in the UK, where entrepreneurs and engineers brought up far from the self-promotional zeal of US capitalism are all too often guilty of under-selling and under-valuing remarkable technologies. The UK's innovation community is almost unrecognisable from what it once was, with hubs as diverse as those in Silicon Roundabout, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Bristol, and the 'Northern Powerhouse' creating ever more vibrant communities of entrepreneurs and technologists. But there is still a considerable way to go if the clean tech sector is to get both the props and the success it deserves.
That is why today we are launching the BusinessGreen Technology Awards. We are lucky to have both a platform and an audience of hundreds of thousands of readers a month, and we want to use it to help promote the best and the brightest of the clean technology community operating in the UK.
Because it is not as if there is a paucity of great technologies out there.
At the BusinessGreen Leaders Awards each year the Innovation of the Year category is far and away the most over-subscribed - this year around 40 genuinely impressive technological breakthroughs failed to make the shortlist. The Small Business of the Year category is the second most oversubscribed with many more early stage green technology firms clamouring for recognition.
Beyond that the technology community is awash with remarkably exciting green innovations, few of which get the public profile they deserve. We have everything from electric superbikes and hydrogen fuelled smart phones to super powerful magnets and transparent solar glass, not to mention George Osborne's beloved graphene. These technologies and hundreds more like them deserve to be celebrated and rewarded for both their innovation and the commitment to tackling some of the world's most intractable environmental challenges.
Politicians and business leaders of all stripes are united in recognising that the success or failure of our efforts to tackle climate change hinge on our ability to develop and harness a new generation of clean technology. Yet all too often those developing these technologies are denied the kudos and public profile of those working on far less pressing technological challenges.
In its own small way the BusinessGreen Technology Awards aims to help right that wrong, in properly celebrating and promoting some of the most exciting, the most vibrant, and the most important technologies on the planet. We hope you will join us.