The economy wide opportunity of Cleantech 2.0 to drive Europe’s growth and competitiveness

Cleantech investors play a pivotal role in accelerating the cleantech transition by providing not just financial support, but also strategic guidance, market confidence, and a long-term vision for Europe’s net zero future.  

At Cleantech for Europe, we are excited to be teaming up with investors funding these innovations that will get us to zero. The newest addition to our coalition is Trill Impact, a pioneering impact house established in 2019 with around EUR 1,2 billion in assets under advisory management across their Impact Private Equity, Impact Ventures and Microfinance investment strategies. 

We spoke to Dr. Alex Domin, Partner at Trill Impact Advisory and Co-Head of the Impact Ventures team, about his cleantech journey and the cleantech transition in Europe. 

Alex started his career first by conducting cancer research where he first fell in love with impact and the importance of being part of something bigger that adds value to society. He then went on to pursue a PhD at Cambridge University in chemical engineering where he caught the entrepreneurial bug. During his time at Cambridge, he worked with a couple of startups and crossed paths with a peer involved in developing a proprietary recycling technology. This encounter prompted him to dive deeper into sustainability and co-found ENVAL, a cleantech start-up that allows for complete recycling of laminate packaging waste. Laminate packaging waste often ends up in landfills or incinerators, contributing to environmental pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. These materials can take hundreds of years to decompose, exacerbating environmental degradation. 

During his time at ENVAL, Alex understood that overcoming sustainability challenges will be a priority for years to come and he  therefore wanted to dive deeper into how companies operate on these issues. This led him to management consulting at Boston Consulting Group (BCG). For Alex, management consulting was not the end goal; he always knew that he wanted to get back into entrepreneurship and specifically on leveraging his experience and connections to bring innovative technologies to the venture capital side. 

Following his stint at BCG, in 2009 he joined WHEB Partners / Alpina Partners, one of the first cleantech funds in Europe. Alex experienced first-hand the Cleantech 1.0 ecosystem, which saw the emergence of solar and wind power technologies, advancements in energy-efficient building designs, the rise of electric vehicles, and the exploration of various forms of renewable energy sources. Despite the optimism surrounding Cleantech 1.0, many companies struggled to scale up their technologies and achieve profitability. Several high-profile failures, such as the bankruptcy of Solyndra in 2011, raised questions about the viability of cleantech investments and led to a decline in investor confidence. 

However, things have changed in this new phase for the cleantech ecosystem, the so-called Cleantech 2.0, which is associated with strong policy signals to stimulate demand for cleantech solutions and support Europe’s green reindustrialization. Cleantech 2.0 represents a departure from the pitfalls of its predecessor, Alex stresses. In his perspective, what is different this time is that there is an investment focus on a broader spectrum of sustainable approaches including decarbonization, circular economy practices, novel materials, and food systems and not solely an energy focus. On top of that, he underlines that there has been a significant shift in consumer sentiment, with both consumers and companies increasingly prioritizing sustainability. The cleantech ecosystem has expanded dramatically over the past 13 years, leading to more investable companies. Regulatory frameworks have also evolved to support sustainability initiatives, although regulatory uncertainty can still pose challenges for businesses. 

Case in point is Tado, one of Trill Impact’s cleantech portfolio companies. Tado is a German manufacturer of home thermostats and air conditioning controls. Tado exemplifies the potential for energy efficiency solutions to drive down costs and stabilize energy markets. However, regulatory requirements and public buy-in remain crucial for scaling cleantech companies. In Germany, for instance, the heating law, promoting climate friendly heating systems, presents a significant opportunity for boosting energy efficiency. However, the debate surrounding the law also showed that ensuring public engagement and addressing regulatory gaps are essential for a just cleantech transition. By redirecting subsidies and public attention from fossil fuels to energy-efficient solutions, Tado can generate more value and drive significant savings for consumers, Alex underlines. 

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