We’ve talked with a gaggle of clean-tech companies over the past couple of years, and worked with a handful. Lots of interesting technologies but a lot fewer manufacturing ready products. It’s a challenging area as the incumbent technologies are cheap and mature and have been long since productized.
Last year I also blogged about Productizing clean-tech, concerning the state of clean-tech in general and here in Colorado in particular. At a macro level not that much has changed: the world is still warming, politicians are still avoiding making tough decisions, and fossil fuel alternatives are still cheap. From a business point of view however, clean-tech seems like its a tougher sell. The failure of Solyndra, while not unusual for VC backed companies–maybe 2 in 10 such make it typically–has been so publicized as to cast a pale on the industry, and given succor to the resurging drill-baby-drill crowd. Competition from China has also heated up in almost any sector of the clean-tech world (see our blog on What businesses worry about on Main Street ), from LED lighting to solar. So there is basically competition not only from low cost fossil fuels but also from low cost China.
Which does not mean despair, but it does mean that to succeed in clean-tech a very cost optimized product is needed. Which is where Zebulon Solutions (warning: shameless plug) can help: we’re experts at getting the cost out of a product’s design, out of the supply chain, and out of the manufacturing process. We’ve optimized the mechanical enclosure of a human-powered generator; established supply chains for a novel product that reuses CO2 for its cleaning solvent properties, and helped redesign smart lighting controllers for cost and performance. We’re supporting a program at the University of Colorado to investigate the feasibility of a solar wafer processing technology coming out of the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) here in Golden, Colorado. We’ve conducted DFMEAs on water purity monitoring systems and hybrid generators, and we’ve set up inventory management processes for an electric bike company. It’s a tough slog, but we’re doing our part.
Oh yeah, and we still drive my little green Prius to meetings. Not as fancy as a company Beemer, but it gets us there and helps just a touch with the environment.