Clean and GREEN

An Auck­land com­pany is bridg­ing the gap be­tween our clean­tech ex­per­tise and over­seas mar­kets and in­vestors.

Element - - Business - By Adam Gif­ford

Dun­can Ste­wart hears ev­ery day from peo­ple around the world look­ing for what New Zealand can of­fer in clean tech­nol­ogy. He’s be­come the “go to” guy in clean­tech be­cause of his lead role in pen­ning the Pure Ad­van­tage man­i­festo, subti­tled “New Zealand’s Po­si­tion in the Green Race.”

His com­pany, The Green­house, of­fers ad­vice to clean­tech com­pa­nies and also over­sees NZ-CEN, the New Zealand Clean­tech and En­vi­ron­ment Net­work web­site, a direc­tory to more than 100 mem­ber com­pa­nies.

“Peo­ple look to New Zealand be­cause of our in­ter­na­tional im­age as a clean, green, pris­tine coun­try,” says Ste­wart, sit­ting in his of­fices in a ren­o­vated her­itage build­ing in the Brit­o­mart sec­tor.

“New Zealan­ders are also renowned for rolling our sleeves up. We’re work­ing with one com­pany in Dubai that likes kiwi com­pa­nies be­cause we get the job done and at good value com­pared with over­seas. So the role of The Green­house is to con­nect the dots.” It also has a re­cruit­ment sub­sidiary. “We reg­u­larly get in­quiries from peo­ple look­ing for busi­nesses to get in­volved with, so it made sense to pro­vide an in­tro­duc­tion ser­vice. The Green­house is try­ing to fos­ter growth in this in­dus­try. That in­cludes mak­ing sure the right tal­ent goes in the right places.”

Ste­wart plans to launch a sub-$50 mil­lion clean­tech fund later this year with a mix of lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional in­vestors, giv­ing him a di­rect stake in grow­ing the sec­tor.

“A lot of these busi­nesses do not re­quire huge amounts of cap­i­tal to get to the next stage so we will look at early stage in­vest­ment, in­tro­duc­ing fur­ther fund­ing part­ners once they get past the proof of con­cept or demon­strate they can ac­cess par­tic­u­lar mar­kets.

“Few com­pa­nies I have come across in this clean­tech space are ca­pa­ble of rais­ing more than $5m, and for many of them, the gap be­tween suc­cess and fail­ure is the abil­ity to raise up to about $2 mil­lion.”

Clean­tech is not in­dus­try spe­cific. It could in­clude ev­ery­thing from in­su­la­tion to agri­cul­tural tech­nol­ogy to nan­otech­nol­ogy.

“The things we look for in­clude the gov­er­nance and man­age­ment ca­pac­ity, the cash po­si­tion, the growth po­ten­tial, likely ex­port growth, and the so­phis­ti­ca­tion of the ex­per­tise be­hind the idea.

“Part of the idea of idea of NZ-CEN was to pro­vide the Green­house with some un­der­stand­ing of the depth and spa­tial dis­tri­bu­tion of these com­pa­nies. It al­lows us to look un­der the hood and un­der­stand who are likely to be the lead­ers.” Ste­wart sees things through the lens of en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­ence. “If you take Fri­days and Mon­days off to go ski­ing you end up with a bach­e­lors de­gree in en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­ence,” he says.

Af­ter Auck­land Univer­sity he went to engi­neer­ing com­pany Beca, which ex­posed him to large in­fra­struc­ture projects. In 2002 he and Aaron An­drew set up An­drew.Ste­wart Lim­ited, a con­sul­tancy spe­cial­is­ing in wa­ter qual­ity is­sues, which put them in the box seat to help with the mas­sive over­haul of Auck­land’s stormwa­ter and waste­water in­fra­struc­ture.

See­ing how de­ci­sions are made in large or­gan­i­sa­tions fed into The Green­house.

“Pure Ad­van­tage is an ex­am­ple of that. You have a com­plex is­sue that needs to be care­fully ar­tic­u­lated to a wide group of stake­hold­ers in or­der to get some ac­tion,” Ste­wart says. The luke­warm re­sponse the re­port got from the gov­ern­ment doesn’t faze him, as its aim was more to get cor­po­rate lead­ers think­ing.

“A lot of de­ci­sion-mak­ing by suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments has been un­der­pinned by think­ing that is fairly nar­row and failed to take into ac­count some of the mega shifts hap­pen­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally.

“If you look at other coun­tries, many are tak­ing an in­ter­ven­tion­ist ap­proach look­ing at en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues but they are also look­ing at the up­side and the op­por­tu­ni­ties that arise from that.”

The un­equal size dis­tri­bu­tion of New Zealand busi­ness, with a few large com­pa­nies and le­gions of tiny ones, is a chal­lenge.

“It means those larger or­gan­i­sa­tions have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to fos­ter growth and in­no­va­tion in smaller busi­nesses as well.”

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