This week I was fortunate enough to be invited along on the Clean and Cool Mission to San Francisco with 16 of the UK’s most exciting new clean technology companies.
The trip – backed by several big names, including the Technology Strategy Board, UK Trade & Investment, and Shell – has given the companies a chance to pitch their technology to some of Silicon Valley’s largest investors and network with a wide range of companies working in the cleantech sector.
Each of the 16 competition-winning companies passionately believes its product can go some way towards solving the world’s energy problems, be it through intelligent solar panels that generate hot water and electricity at the same time, or desert greenhouses that use seawater to grow crops. The companies have been doing pitches of varying length (between 1-5 minutes) to venture capitalist investors, and senior figures in multinational tier 1 companies, such as Siemens and Shell.
But, as other science journalists will know, the best ideas can often be the hardest to communicate and several of the delegates on the trip struggled to explain their technology succinctly during the media training day at the start of the week.
Inventors, engineers and technologists who work with their product on a daily basis can become so wrapped up in their work that they forget the average person doesn’t always understand Newton’s laws of motion or every element in Mendeleev’s Periodic Table.
Acronyms and sector lingo can go flying over the heads of even the best journalists and the wealthiest investors. Why? Because by trade that’s what they are. Journalists and investors. Not scientists.
However, I’m pleased to say that after their training and the dedicated support of the Clean and Cool organisers, each of the delegates are now in a position where they can effectively communicate their complex ideas.
From my perspective, it’s been remarkable to watch how people have adjusted the way they sell their product over the week. From long, convoluted speeches to short, concise, Twitter-like snippets that they are ready to expand upon if required. Each of the companies on this mission are now better placed to take their product further as a result and I will be following their next steps with a watchful eye.
The mission is the fifth type of its kind in the last four years and this year’s attendees will be pleased to hear that alumni from previous missions raised over $180m in private finance.