The opportunities for new and innovative approaches to the energy business have never been greater yet energy start-ups – just like most new businesses – often have trouble raising up-front capital. Many energy start-ups require little in terms of money or supplies at the beginning since their ideas have gone no further than their computers. The next stage, moving on from concept to prototype and on to the market is when start-ups need to raise serious money to buy-in expertise, equipment and premises. “Bridging the gap between the idea and the prototype, that’s the hard part,” states Nicholas Flanders, co-founder and CEO of Opus 12, which developed a technology for turning carbon dioxide into useful chemicals for industry.
Whilst a specialised energy-investment community has developed in recent years, they, like the innovators, face increasing difficulty in identifying the areas that offer a profitable return in a market that is in transition. Heading towards a low carbon future, the only certainty is that worldwide demand for electricity will accelerate. “ Success stems from being able to envision an energy innovation’s benefits, or contribution, to accomplish higher productivity or provide other products and comforts that can be monetised” says W. Ross Williams, CEO, Alfresco Group, Denver, USA. In other words, the fundamentals of marketing apply: we don’t pay for energy, we pay for the benefits that energy provides. Energy is only one ingredient in the value chain.
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