European Cleantech Challenge 2011 : profiles of last year’s finalists

The European Cleantech Challenge is part of Intesa Sanpaolo Start-Up Initiative, a comprehensive program aimed at start-ups looking for concrete business development and fund raising opportunities. Every few months, a rigorous selection and training process leads the best start-ups to high-profile, technology-specific events called Arena Meetings, where they can pitch to international top investors and corporations in Milan, Frankfurt, Paris, London, San Francisco and New York.

This week, we would like to report the profile of the 10 start-ups that have been selected by Intesa’s expert judging panel in the 2011 edition to take part in this year’s International Investor Roadshow (series of Arena meetings). Today, we will focus on 8 start-ups who were identified as the best CleanTech startups among 30 participants in the European Cleantech Challenge 2011.

For more information about any of these startups please contact Intesa Sanpaolo or send us an email at


Founded in 2010 in Italy, A+ Sun Systems designs, produces and commercializes innovative high-quality mounting systems for photovoltaic plants on roof tops and grounds. Their solution, a tensile structure to support photovoltaic panels, is capable of being safely anchored to any type of roof, including round shapes, those not robust enough for the weight of ballast or not suitable to be drilled. The company has developed an extremely light, money-saving, quick to mount on any roof and high-quality tensile structure to support solar modules.

Whether in the office, factory or at the installation site, the A+ Sun Systems team enthusiastically creates and applies innovative technical solutions to better serve their clients and make their photovoltaic installations more competitive.


Founded in 2009, Genport is headquartered in Italy and in the US.
Genport is the Italian progressive spin-off of Politecnico di Milano, developer and manufacturer of an advanced, lightweight technology for portable power generation and storage in medical, defense, emergency, telecommunication and industrial applications.

GENPORT combines Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFC) and Ion Lithium technologies, in order to provide advance power solution to any off-grid external equipment up to 1000 Watt, with superior performance, reliability and satisfy such requirements as long life, design flexibility, high energy density, compact configuration, high cycling, high rate discharge, reducing to zero both noise and emissions and operating in extreme environmental conditions.


Based in France and founded in 2010, Qualisteo is an eco-innovative start-up company taking an active role in the electricity «smart grid» endeavour. Qualisteo is the first spin-off of the Econoving Industrial Chair. Its mission is to help electricity consumers take ownership and control of their consumption patterns, thereby managing and reducing their ecological footprint.
Qualisteo has engineered an innovative and patented solution, the Lynx Wattseeker, which makes it possible to measure and tell apart, predict and control power consumption of multiple devices from a single measurement point, in real-time. Qualisteo products and services enable cost efficient, non-intrusive and meaningful measurement of electricity flows by usage and efficiency, in any building.


Established in 2010, Pontoon Power is a Norwegian company. The company’s primary purpose is to develop electric power production based on offshore wave power by means of their patent pending wave power converter, the Pontoon Power Converter (PPC) for operation in open ocean.

The 15-20MW Pontoon Power Converter is a floating wave energy converter based on working pontoons, hydraulic pumping cylinders, hydroelectric turbine and generator mounted on a patent pending ballasting and load-bearing structure, with slack moorings suitable for a wide range of water depths and many offshore locations.

In October 2011, the company was ranked as the “Best Cleantech Start-Up 2011” at the first Arena meeting that took place in Milan, Italy.


Established in Italy in 2011, Underground Power ‘s mission is to become a leader in production of energy harvesting devices based on linear motion. Their main objective is to develop and market their patented, innovative product LYBRA which is an energy harvesting device similar to a flat speedbump that recovers the energy wasted by vehicles brakes in decelerating lanes, reduces the speed and produces electric energy.

Underground Power offers a solution to traffic problems, providing a product that reduces vehicles’ speed by converting into electricity the kinetic energy wasted by brakes, achieving both road safety and traffic CO2 compensation.


Founded in 2011, Voltalink develops and commercializes innovative solutions for solar panels Metering, Automation and Supervision (“MAS systems”). The Italian company’s objective is to develop, produce and commercialize a family of electronic products and information technology services to remotely monitor and safely manage each single panel in real time inside a photovoltaic installation to assure the highest energy productivity and reduce maintenance costs and safety risks.


Founded in 2011 in Sweden, this company is an expert in the photovoltaic sector. Their mission : finding innovative ways to improve the absorption of light in silicon solar cells at a reduced cost. They have developed next generation anti-reflective coatings for solar cell that drastically increase the amount of light a solar cell can absorb (up to 15% more efficient than existing techniques). Their patent pending technology has already received multiples cleantech awards and has been identified as one of the most promising cleantech innovations of 2011.


Established in 2011 in Italy, Clean Power Tech has developed a patented low-emission diesel engine that allows substantial reduction in production, maintaining high-engine efficiency. Their innovative solution focuses on a new combustion strategy able to couple intrinsically low soot and NOx emissions resulting in a substantial cut in environmental pollution while keeping high-efficiency and power density.


The Power of Open Innovation

GC Illumination is an Italian company specialised in the design, production and distribution of fixtures for exterior lighting. GC supplies utilities, municipalities and installation companies in Italy and internationally. The company has been operating from its Milan headquarters since the early 60s.

The extremely tough economic environment in Italy as well as the growing competition from Chinese manufacturers are putting a lot of pressure on the company to stay ahead of the curve, maintain its market leadership and keep expanding its business in Italy and internationally. When GC’s CEO Enrico Conti approached us to discuss the main challenges he was facing as a business, we immediately saw an opportunity to help him with some very tangible support.

GC has an in-house R&D team that works to continuously come up with new and innovative designs for its exterior lighting products. This work is critical as it helps the company to keep driving its revenues and to expand its market share. As a result of their continuous effort, they recently introduced a new LED-based product line that was an instant success. Unfortunately, GC could not fully unleash this product line to areas such as motorways, some urban locations, sports installations and other public spaces due to the illumination coefficients that the lighting fittings are required to have in these areas. This represented a significant lost revenue opportunity for Mr Conti and his company.

With a tight R&D budget and a small team operating from its Milan offices, Mr Conti asked SkipsoLabs whether we could come up with a solution. We illustrated our Crowdsourcing in a Box product and we explained how the dedicated platform, combined with our established global innovation ecosystem and targeted outreach could offer him, in a very short period of time, some real tangible benefit at a fraction of the cost of what it would cost him to develop the solution in-house or to fly around the world seeking technical partners to develop the product.

After having captured all of GC’s technical requirements, we launched The Green Lighting Challenge. This was a two-month Open Innovation and outreach campaign to help GC identify the most innovative products available on the global market to help them expand their LED-product line and capture new market share. Leveraging our dedicated platform, our existing Cleantech ecosystem and our ongoing outreach support throughout the process, the project was a success. In a short period of time GC received over 60 qualified submissions from experts, scientists and companies in over 20 countries. They short listed three proposals that included one from a scientist in Palo Alto, another great technology developed by a start-up in the UK and a solution from a growing company in Canada. Ultimately, they selected the UK start-up and have since started discussions to sign a commercial partnership and join venture. All this process happened with Mr Conti sitting in his comfortable office just outside Milan!

We believe this is an extremely powerful model that will reshape the way many companies, large and small, do business. Companies that will understand the power of open innovation and crowdsourcing, the ones that will be early adopters in the space, the ones that will adapt their organization to embed these practices within their internal processes, will be the winners in this increasingly competitive (and flat) world.

Cleantech Competitions: Driving Open Innovation

With the number of cleantech companies growing, and the need for innovative thinking and creative cleantech ideas increasing, cleantech competitions are becoming a key component in delivering fresh minds and new ideas.

Cleantech competitions are a key ingredient in the recipe for cleantech success.  These renewable energy focused competitions are bridging the gap between university students, cleantech start-up businesses, more established companies as well as investors.  For these three target groups of the growing cleantech world, it is a win-win-win-win situation.

For students, these competitions give them a chance to gain real-world experience by using what they are learning in school and creatively applying their knowledge to solve real cleantech problems.  Competitions offer a prize to the winning participant, creating an even greater incentive to participate.  There are also many competitions that target the minds of startup companies.  On the corporate side of things, these competitions give companies new ideas and project proposals from cleantech innovators, at no cost. Finally, investors can use competitions as an effective way to generate quality ideas tapping into entrepreneurial talent worldwide.

Perhaps the largest and most successful cleantech challenge is the CleanTech Open.  The National Grand Prize winner of this competition receives a $250,000 cash prize.  Receiving thousands of submissions to their competition, the CleanTech Open opens the door to a countless number of people to display their creative thinking and innovative ideas.  This open innovation is key to bringing success to the rising cleantech revolution.

The European Cleantech Challenge is another important challenge.  This competition is a yearly business plan competition managed by the leading Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo and aimed at startup companies in Europe. Another great European initiative is the  Cleantech Challenge a joint initiative by London Business School and UCL.  Cleantech Challenge Mexico is another example of a new competition that is growing in size and participation in a growing economy.

GE’s Ecomagination is another great example of how large companies are leveraging competitions and Open Innovation to drive Cleantech innovation. The initiative was a $200 million innovation experiment where businesses, entrepreneurs, innovators and students shared their best ideas on how to improve our energy future. The competition was also recently launched in China opening more doors for innovation by spreading to new countries.

These are just a few examples that show how cleantech competitions are taking off all over the world.

With this proliferation of competitions and open innovation challenges there is a problem of finding the right competitions to participate in. Our online cleantech platform and ecosystem on our website, is also a great place to find all the latest Cleantech competitions, awards and funding opportunities. We also run our own Open Innovation challenges.  Anyone from a CEO to a university student can find challenges and participate.

For organizations that would rather run a competition on their own dedicated platform, Skipso offers the perfect solution. Through a dedicated and fully customised whitelabel platform, we allow any organization to set up and manage its own competition in few simple steps. An example is the previously mentioned EuropeanCleantech Challenge.

By utilizing the tools that companies like Skipso have created, any organization can leverage open innovation and competitions to drive Cleantech innovation. In doing so, they will also contribute to successfully creating new ideas, connections and jobs globally.

Cleantech Grants, Awards, Incentives – Monthly Digest

This month on Skipso:

  • 7 new Cleantech Grants, Awards and Incentives added to Skipso’s funding database
  • Focus this week: EU Carbon Capture & Storage Funding, UK Start-up Funding Programme and Innovation Awards, Oregon Wave Energy Grants, Italian Environmental Fund, Scotland Low Carbon Skills Fund, Nordic Cleantech Open
  • 12 grants and awards approaching application deadline
  • 2 Open Innovation Challenges live on Skipso

The Skipso funding section this week has reached 780 Cleantech grants, awards, incentives, all are accessible for free on Skipso’s Grants section.


10 ways Global Cleantech Clusters are accelerating the Cleantech Revolution

Guest Analyst: Shawn Lesser by Shawn Lesser

1. Cleantech clusters create jobs – A Cluster is a great mechanism to support cleantech businesses and stimulate business growth. For example ECO World Styria in Graz, Austria, a cluster of more than 150 cleantech companies, has created 5,000 new jobs in the last four years. The companies have generated a turnover of 2.8 billion Euros – approximately 8 percent of the region’s GDP. ECO World Styria focuses on innovative cleantech research projects, and help local companies access international markets.

2. Clusters accelerate growth – A primary purpose of a cleantech cluster is to act as an economic engine to aid the swift adoption of their technologies. For example, CleanTECH San Diego has garnered over $150 million in federal stimulus funds to install over 20 megawatts of solar power. They have also enabled the San Diego region’s 18 municipalities to carry out their cleantech agenda while generating business for California’s renowned Solar City.

3. Clusters spark the new innovative partnerships of tomorrow by connecting companies globally –Cleantech clusters have the ability to connect regional cleantech companies with the global marketplace. For example, the Finnish Cleantech Cluster has well established internationalization programs to help its member companies. The Finnish Environmental Cluster for China has connected over 100 companies with opportunities in the Chinese marketplace. Moreover, it has signed over $160 million of commercial contracts in two years. By connecting key cleantech players across sectors, clusters can initiate and facilitate new innovations through partnerships.

4. Clusters share ideas – Clusters enable efficiency and business excellence by providing transparency and a platform for members to exchange best practices. This is being done in organizations such as The Global Cleantech Cluster Association, the Skipso internet platform and the International Cleantech Network (ICN). The cluster model believes in collaboration and open innovation; a direct contrast to the secrecy that you might find in the Silicon Valley culture.

5. Clusters operate at the center of the cleantech eco system – The Colorado Cleantech Industry Association(CCIA) has just developed a Cleantech Action Plan for the state of Colorado. The program is designed to articulate the specific steps needed to accelerate the Colorado Cleantech cluster’s growth over the next three to five years. Given its central role in Colorado’s cleantech cluster, the CCIA was able to engage not only the cleantech companies themselves, but also economic development organizations, government agencies, the state’s research universities and federal labs, rural communities, utilities, the natural gas industry and the workforce in order to support their endeavours.

6. Clusters create investment opportunities for VC’s globally – Cleantech clusters are a great resource for prospecting promising technologies. A good example of this phenomenon is the Global Cleantech Cluster Association’s later stage best of class contest which will be launched in Lahti Finland and San Diego in November 2010. At this event, hidden gems of cleantech from around the world will be revealed to the investment community.

7. Clusters can represent cleantech in politics – Cleantech clusters, when acting together, carry more weight when trying to set the political agenda vs. independent action. For example one of Swisscleantech’s principal foci is to bundle the interests of its members and to represent them in politics nationally and internationally. Swisscleantech recently launched the Cleantech Strategy Switzerland effort, sparking a political discussion on 30 concrete measures in 10 cleantech-focus topics.

8. Clusters can support all types of cleantech stakeholders – For example The CleanTech Center in Syracuse, New York offers support to entrepreneurs and early stage companies through incubation, acceleration and retention. Collaborators include angel and venture investors, financial institutions and other lenders, colleges and universities, service providers, utilities, industry associations and government agencies. Together, they all provide technical and financial assistance to foster clean technology business development.

9. Cleantech clusters are a proven model – Peterborough EnviroCluster conducted a cluster mapping study in the East of England in 2001 and identified more than 4,500 jobs and more than 240 organizations involved in the environmental sector in the Greater Peterborough area with a collective turnover of £340 million ($545 million.) In the nine years since that study, the cluster has grown to 350 organizations employing 6,000 people. It is the largest known concentration of such companies and organizations in the UK and is also one of the oldest eco-innovation clusters.

10. “Alone you can go faster, but together we can go further” – Cleantech clusters are working aggressively to move the needle in the sector. Associations such as EcoClup and the Global Cleantech Cluster Association, are trying to make the biggest impact they can through events, networks, partnerships and coordination.

In summary, add up all of the benefits outlined above and it’s easy to see why the Cleantech clusters have been, and will continue to be,  a driving force in accelerating cleantech globally!

Shawn Lesser is the president and founder of Atlanta-based Sustainable World Capital, which is focused on fund-raising for private equity cleantech/sustainable funds, as well as private cleantech companies and M&A. He is also a co- founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association, and can be reached


Cleantech Grants, Awards, Incentives – October Monthly Update

This month on Skipso:

  • 12 new Cleantech Grants, Awards and Incentives added to Skipso’s funding database
  • Focus this week: Vestas Wind Competition, EU FP7 Programme and other EU Research Grants, Danish and Scandinavian Grants and Funding Programmes, UK Carbon Trust Wind Competition, US Market Access Competition, Scottish Marine Wave Prize
  • 12 grants and awards approaching application deadline

The Skipso funding section this week has reached 770 Cleantech grants, awards, incentives, all are accessible for free on Skipso’s Funding District section

Here is the full report:


Rwanda Rural Electrification Challenge – Winners Announced!

Dear members,

We would like to inform you that, after much consideration, the judging panel have made their decision and identified the winning solutions to the Rwanda Rural Electrification Challlenge. The excellent quality of these solutions has made selecting a winner a particularly challenging task.  However, we are pleased to announce that, on the basis of clarity of idea, technical and financial feasibility, local involvement and scalability, the top 3 solutions chosen by Mabawa were those submitted by:

  1. Emilio Simonet ($1,500 cash award)
  2. Christophe Parot ($500 cash award)
  3. Francis Hillman ($500 cash award)

These solutions were not just innovative in terms of the ideas and technology they described, but managed to reconcile scalability with financial feasibility (all were under $25 000).

In addition, a further 5 solutions have been shortlisted for a potential Phase 2 of the project:

  • Francois D’Assise Nezerwa
  • Eric Youngren
  • Bernardin Vsanase
  • Douglas Danley
  • Bridget Wandelt

It should be mentioned that Mabawa is currently trying to secure funding for onsite-implementation.  Should it succeed in this task, it may decide to invite all shortlisted participants to submit a more detailed solution based on Nyamyumba’s specific energy requirements.

We would like to thank all of those who have participated to this challenge and we look forward to seeing you again on Skipso soon!