• Erki Ani

Part 1: What's cleantech? (Introduction for Part 2 - what it is not)

Let’s get some things straight, not that it’s something new or anything, but to write something out of this bubble we – cleantechy people – live in. It seems the EU has taken a severe position on... no, it seems the majority of the nations on our blue marble have taken a verdict that life on it should be managed responsibly. Guessing there are no objections to the reasons behind this; you can continue slurping the bits of ideas down below.


How many Earths do we have?


As a parent to a kid, one teaches his siblings the things he has learned. In an evolutionary world, that would mean each generation gets smarter. And in most cases, love and trust play a huge part in it. Translating that into our world as we know it, the Industrial Revolution has taught us a lot so we could live in this prosperous world. Yet not many have learned and improved in it smartly. A quick reality check: 1-1=0, right? Even though the Earth is a massive thing with lots to give, avoiding that its resources are depleting isn’t ingenious thinking, I’d say. Extracting a ton of coal and blowing it in the wind through chimneys, how about that? Sure, the planet has mechanisms to recover the resources somebody has taken, but it takes much time. As it just happens, on July 28th this year, the Earth overshoot day occurred. That’s a date calculated when humanity has used all the biological resources that Earth generates during the entire year.




Winding back here from already too radical writing for many outside the sustainability bubble. We're doomed! Up to 1M species will be extinct, many within this decade. And all the other facts you can read in IPCC. There's no denying it. Now, what do you do in this situation, having acknowledged this? You start your own little revolution. Our revolution is cleantech - building technologies that can rapidly heal their part of the ecosystem, be it marine life (aka fighting plastic pollution), consumption reduction devices (e.g. quantum computers, demand-response infrastructure or refillable tableware made circularly) or global warming in general with likes of direct air capture or innovating steel production. Some can say it's not enough. We need to get back to the localised production like centuries back. But we want to regard ourselves as the realist type of dreamers.



Cleantech - what is it?


Cleantech has roots in business models that have new technologies in their hearts. And it is a correct definition as long as to make it scalable and a novel innovation needs technology. It usually needs. A knit shop selling knitted reusable bags is not really cleantech. But industrial production of leftover wool-based packaging materials is. However, both are solving a problem (one-timer plastic bags).


"Cleantech startup" as per Beamline:

· started to solve a real-life problem (always a painkiller, never a vitamin)

· tech component

· scalability (potential and thrive to market globally)

· replicability (connected to the prior)

· Right now, there's no better way found for scale-up than for-profit, so the financial model of a startup is also consistently highly profitable.


Roughly put, you're definitely cleantech when helping reduce emissions in fields like that:

Resource: p 50 IPCC, April 2022



So be it a fintech, a SaaS, a deeptech, AI or healthtech, when the solution is made to save the physical #environment around us, we call it cleantech!


But, hear, hear! What's often left under the radar. Sometimes enabling tech or platforms for consumption reduction can also have a huge impact here, similarly to conservation - we know that biological systems act as more efficient carbon storage forms than technological. Over these two, we've argued earlier.


We've seen a lot! There are 70 companies in, which means thousands we've seen. And then thousands of these others, the ones in a lovely green bubble bath trying to wash themselves green. Let's have a quickie with them as well.


Diving deep into the #cleantech world takes time and effort to understand where the impact comes and goes. But it takes only logical thinking in everyday life to start slowly and steadily understanding your impact. Sorry, but ending here with a cliche – it all begins with you. So, the next time you buy something, use some service, or transport from one place to another, think about what all tremendous technological advancements have been used to provide you with this experience, what could be an alternative and if there’s something you can think of or do, to make it better. Hint: That’s usually where #startups start up their startup endeavours.



Related: The Ridiculously Awesome Guide to Estonian Cleantech