Australia definitely has the smarts when it comes to clean energy technology, but most people would agree it struggles when it comes to pushing its big ideas onto the world.

The renewable energy industry in its nascent phase, however – with a long way to go before coal and oil are consigned to history – and who’s to say some of the big names of tomorrow won’t have originated right here?

That’s the plan if the Australian Technologies Competition has any sway.

“There are plenty of good ideas that originate in Australia,” says competition organiser John O’Brien. “As ever, we are not necessarily the best at taking them to market – but it’s starting to improve.”

The clean cut

The competition includes 10 categories but readers of EcoGeneration will be primarily interested in the New Energy and Smart Cities divisions.

Last year, energy optimisation software company Wattwatchers took first place in the New Energy slot and Independent Products won the Smart Cities top honour for its ingenious energy-saving air-conditioner retrofit.

The tournament is on again, 2017 being the competition’s seventh year, and anyone with a big idea should prepare to enter between late March and the middle of May. A shortlist will be announced around mid-June, when qualifying entrants are matched with mentors and the real work begins.

The mentoring program is free for shortlisted companies and the aim is to help them develop their business plan. “The mentoring is really focused on the business side of the company,” O’Brien says. “OK, you’ve got a good technology, now let’s try to help you be a good business.”

Meet your mentors

Following a Boot Camp get together in August and another round of judging in September, the finalists get to deliver live pitches to a panel of judges and participate in quick pitches to 20 investment groups and government grants bodies, with each company assigned twelve 10-minute meetings.

“Actual investment has resulted from those conversations,” says O’Brien, who is also managing director of Australian CleanTech and Sino CleanTech.

“You get in front of all the government grant-making bodies, so a lot of people who have been through the program have ended up having more success securing grants because they’ve gone through this due diligence process.”

This year the competition has attracted a further boost with the involvement of Climate-KIC Australia, which is funding the New Energy and Smart Cities categories.

Climate-KIC began in Europe with the support of the European Union and O’Brien sees the involvement of the Australian arm – funded by state governments of South Australia, Victoria and NSW – as a possible opportunity for engagement with European markets.

“We’ve done a lot of work opening access to Chinese markets and taking a lot of companies up there, out of the competition, and we’re off to Latin America later this year with some of the companies as well,” he says, “so Climate-KIC’s involvement opens up global markets.”

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