Traditional business practices and economic development focus on key industry sectors to nurture and grow for regional prosperity. Businesses were encouraged to choose a niche and keep their heads down.
Unfortunately, the clean tech sector cannot be segemented as simply as other industries.The information age is changing how we look at industry clusters and what we choose to nurture. The economic development of clean technology should be approached less like an industry cluster and more like a technology development. A cell phone is a great example.
My new Droid X is a master of operations and technology. It combines all of my social networks, email accounts, contact lists, productivity tools, and news resources with an internet browser, navigation system, text messaging, and a host of custom applications. Oh, yeah, there's also a phone.
If a person were putting together a wish list, I couldn't ask for much more. But when it comes to my cell phone, it's not a solo effort of Motorola or of Verizon Wireless. To create and deliver services for Droid X requires dozens companies, working together to create a complete experience. Clean technology promises a similar model.
The clean tech industry aims to reshape the experience of how we use technology and energy in our world. Like Droid's impact on communications, clean tech requires dozens companies working together, each collaborating with its expertise to create a complete experience for global citizens.
What is it going to take to develop a robust regional clean tech industry?
- Start by asking, What experience would we like to deliver to the global economy? Would you like to lead the world in creating and supporting closed loop systems for waste management? If so, develop a broad-reaching vision that is inclusive of multiple industry clusters.
- You've defined the vision, take a look at your current economic landscape. Does your region currently host organizations that already deliver solutions related to that vision? The organizations do not have to be directly tied to the vision (for example, a waste management company). If a nonprofit organization delivers outreach and education to community sectors, they would qualify as one that could assist with future outreach related to your vision.
- Align existing organizations. As small businesses and support agencies grow, they need the support of enterprises, governments, and educational institutions. As enterprises, governments, and educational institutions strive to remain relevant, they need the input and support of small businesses and support agencies. Bring these players together to start and further conversations that promote growth and long-term development.
- Establish policies and legislation that reward growth and encourage collaboration. A business must make it easy for customers to buy their goods and services, or else customers will go elsewhere. The same is true of economic ecosystems. Regional policies, rules, and regulations will determine how easy or challenging it will be for enterprises, small businesses, and nonprofit organizations to do form, grow, compete, and collaborate. Reach out to your customers -- the impacted organizations -- so that they can help inform and shape clean tech policies.
- Invest in your vision. I know that this can be a difficult conversation in a tough economy, but regional leaders and influencers should be ready to put dollars on the table to support a clean technology strategy.The investors include governments, private industries, and institutions. They should work together with private investment interests, federal programs, and state/local governments and institutions to map a financial plan, determine ROI measures, and build a fund (or group of funds) that would support long-term returns and investments.