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'Clean tech is rapidly emerging,' says Ivor Frischknecht

Monday, 18 February 2008
'Clean tech is rapidly emerging,' says Ivor Frischknecht


The Australian, Ben Woodward

INTEREST in clean technology companies is surging but governments must move quickly to support the sector if they're to prevent an exodus of start-ups from Australia, Starfish Ventures investment director Ivor Frischknecht says.

Clean tech is rapidly emerging as one of the hottest venture capital investment targets as alternative energy and water management systems get increasing attention.

The interest and momentum will continue to build in 2008, and there may be a rise in the number of clean tech plays on the Australian Securities Exchange, he says.

Some forces are at work against the sector, and government policy should be rejigged to ensure that Australia doesn't miss out on its chance to be a global player in the clean technology sector, Frischknecht says.

"Energy is a huge problem and we have good strength in research and development, particularly in the solar industry. We also have good initiatives in wave power, for example, and biofuels, but it hasn't been coming to market in Australia. We can speculate as to why, but I would say certainly the strength of the coal lobby and the past government had something to do with it."

The change of government at last year's federal election and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's quick move to ratify the Kyoto Protocol have given rise to hopes that public policy may start to swing in favour of alternative energy sources such as solar, wind and wave power.

Australian start-ups are already becoming frustrated with the investment climate, Frischknecht says, and a number are thinking about heading overseas.

"We've seen several companies proposing new solar plants for Australia and it's very hard for us to say yes to them and give them some money when the market environment is very poor.

"So they're considering going offshore and selling in Europe, for example."

More positive is the outlook for start-ups pursuing water-saving devices, as government programs including the proposed $417 million Australian Water Resources Information System, are stimulating the sector.

Some water technologies, including grey and black water treatment, are languishing because of cumbersome regulatory requirements or public suspicion.

Read more at The Australian