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"Corporate-dominated, underinvested cleantech sector


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BY : Diego GutiérrezMay Mon, 2013

According to a study by Clipperton finance, startups in the cleantech sector are experiencing a severe funding crisis, although the first quarter of 2013 has been much better than the end of 2012. 

A significant improvement in Q1 2013

Funding for innovative cleantech companies in Europe appears to have reached an all-time low in Q4 last year with a spectacularly poor $26m of quarterly investment. While Q1 2013 has been more positive, with a rebound in 1Q12Q $136m driven by some large deals in Oraxys for $ 26 million of investment in Leosphere - the Parisian zonal specialist in Lidar (laser radar) for atmospheric observations used in particular to optimise the economy of wind turbines - the outlook is not rosy for the Cleantech segment in the short term.

"Over the last 6 months, investment in the cleantech sector has only accounted for 7% of total innovation funding in Europe, giving an idea of how little weight it has in the total. Investments in the cleantech sector IT lead with 75% of the volume invested," says Diego Gutierrez (CEO ABRA INVEST), a company specialising in alternative financing for SMEs.

Most active investors: public funds and corporations

The most active investors have been public funds (HTGF in Germany which focused on seed stage investments, the newly formed CDC/Ecotechnolgies in France) or corporations investing directly through their balance sheet or through corporate funds (e.g. Statoil, Aster [Schneider,
Alstom, Solvay], NovusModus).

On the other hand, large VC and cleantech funds are very quiet in this time space (Q4 2012-Q1 2013), which was seen 4/5 years ago as the new investment "Eldorado". The downturn in the renewable energy sector has not helped, but in such a diverse space, with accelerating innovation in green chemistry, lighting, smart grid initiatives, heat efficiency solutions - among others, there is a clear need for funding and a new investment thesis needs to be rebuilt. This channel should not last too long.

"In Spain, the investment of the most important corporations in the field of renewable energies has also taken centre stage. Gamesa has set up a VC fund to invest in technology companies. The first transaction was in N2S, which specialises in the intelligent management of energy services," says Diego Gutierrez.

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