Is NZ Missing Out on the “Clean Tech” Investment Wave?

There was an excellent interview with Nick Gerritsen on National Radio this morning. Nick is a unique example of a Kiwi innovator and entrepreneur who has leveraged both his technology start-up expertise and some deep connections into the U.S. venture capital community to kickstart Marlborough based biofuels company fuels company Aquaflow Bionomics.

The company is reportedly negotiating with aircraft manufacturer Boeing to run an airborne trial involving aviation fuel derived from algae and using his firm’s technology. The ramifications of such a project are mind-boggling. Incidentally, Nick is also a director of Celsias a blogsite and virtual initiative that looks at issues around global sustainability and renewable energy. Celsias invites people to submit projects aimed at “global cooling”.

It was interesting to hear his comments about how truely disconnected New Zealand remains from global capital, especially in regards to the surge of investment in “clean tech” or technologies aimed (in particular) at transforming energy production and usage. Gerritsen reckons that NZ has a natural advantage in this area and claims to already have investors from Silicon Valley in close contact with his own venture. Yet local investors to have overlooked the project.

Why then is the NZ investor community standing off from participating? He thinks that the economy has become distorted to the point where domestic consumption and investment in property far outweighs interest in  industries that generate real export revenues. Hence our distance from capital markets does make a difference in terms of constraining investment in local technologies. Since there is little capital available locally, only a fortunate few who have the skills and networks to tap into substantial offshore investment can really make it big, says Gerritsen. He argued that government moves to cultivate venture capital investment have yet to deliver in any meaningful way.

I have already alluded to the potential that exists for New Zealand technology in renewable fuels. Is New Zealand at risk of missing out on the next big technology investment wave?

[tags] technology investment, biofuels, cleantech [/tags]

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