SF Cleantech Forum: An LBS student reflection
In January, I had the privilege of travelling to California with Lucia Mancisidor (MBA2018) and Malika Nayar (MBA2017) to represent the LBS Energy Club at the San Francisco Cleantech Forum. In its 15th year, the conference seeks to bring together innovators, entrepreneurs, investors, and industry leaders to discuss the latest technology and future trends in the cleantech sector.
We arrived in San Francisco just days after the U.S. presidential inauguration and, as you might expect, the prevailing sentiment amongst attendees was concern over the potential havoc the new regime might wreak on cleantech and renewable energy.
In the sessions that followed, panellists varied widely in their predictions regarding the new administration’s plans for cleantech and renewable energy-related policy. They did, however, collectively agree that cleantech sector will continue to thrive, even in the face of an unfriendly regulatory environment. According to these experts, the much-hyped impending “death knell” to cleantech and renewables sector is, in fact, an alternative fact.
One keynote speaker in particular stood out for being quite bullish on the prospects of the sector globally. Tom Rand, a prominent Canadian cleantech investor, believes that if any policies do seriously handicap the U.S. cleantech and renewables sectors that this would simply represent an opportunity for another country to step in to fill the leadership void. Indeed, the Canadian government has identified cleantech as an important growth area for the future.
The other major theme of discussion at the Forum surrounded the effective deployment of capital in the cleantech sector. While clean technology and clean energy innovation are growing, proven and viable technology is still rare. To the average investor, the cleantech sector is risky, and as a result capital available for deployment is scarce. Yet, to bring critical new technologies to maturity, much more capital needs to be invested in this sector.
Optimistically, one driver of future investment in cleantech and renewables could be the recent Paris Accord. The agreement, which was ratified by nearly 80% of nations, aims to limit the rise of global average temperatures to just 1.5°C. Achieving this ambitious target will require an estimated 10-15 trillion dollars in capital deployment over the next 20 -30 years.
My main takeaway from the conference was that, as students, we should see such a massive deployment of capital as an opportunity. Businesses around the world will require bright and innovative business students to ensure that capital is allocated efficiently and put to good use. Cleantech companies will need motivated employees to help develop their technology and bring it to market. On the financial side, private equity firms and venture capital funds will need help navigating the growing investment opportunities in this sector. The cleantech sector has the potential to offer a dynamic and exciting career and may soon become a more common path for MBAs looking beyond the traditional placements.
By Daniel Liu, MBA 2018