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Thursday, 29 May 2014

South Africa launches competition to promote and “de-risk”cleantech startups

PRETORIA, 29 May 2014 – The Cleantech Competition and Accelerator Programme was launched today in South Africa as part of a joint venture between the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and Cleantech Open to support startup small and medium enterprises working to tackle today's most urgent environmental challenges.

The competition and accelerator programme falls under the umbrella of a larger programme known as the Global Cleantech Innovation Programme (GCIP). Established in 2011, the GCIP has been identifying innovative clean technology entrepreneurs in the fields of energy efficiency, renewable energy, waste-to-energy, and water efficiency, and is now active in over 20 countries. As the best cleantech startups progress through the GCIP, they are continuously trained, mentored and assessed, and given the opportunity to connect with potential investors and partners.

“We have too many emerging enterprises that fail in their first 5 years and yet our hopes are on this sector to succeed and create a large percentage of much needed jobs,” says Jeanne Rose, Director of ECO2 Partnership SA and winner of the 2011 Cleantech Competition.

The GCIP has so far set up“national accelerators”in Armenia, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Turkey and South Africa. These centers find, fund and foster small and medium enterprises that can tackle the most urgent energy, environmental and economic challenges in those countries.

The newly launched competition and accelerator programme is jointly implemented with the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), a South African agency mandated to stimulate and exploit technological innovation for inclusive economic growth. Rivka Kfir, its interim CEO, indicated that the programme is likely to deepen the agency's role as a facilitator, connector and funder of technological innovation within the national system of innovation by furthering its role in molding this ecosystem.

Pradeep Monga, Director of UNIDO's Energy and Climate Change Branch, conveyed his excitement to join hands with such strong partners as TIA to engage with thousands of energy entrepreneurs and small businesses in South Africa for the promotion of clean technology innovations.

The programme also counts with the support of Cleantech Open, a not-for-profit organization based in the United States of America that runs the world's largest accelerator for cleantech startups and serves as the programme's knowledge partner.

“It is not only about the competition”, said TIA's General Manager of Energy, Tsakani Lotten Mthombeni, during today's launch. “GCIP couples the participating entrepreneurs with relevant experts in the start-up business and the cleantech arena, who will volunteer to mentor the best entrepreneurs throughout the programme, providing not only technical advice but also encouragement, inspiration and motivation to emerging enterprises.”One of these mentors and member of the GCIP alumni network is Rose, who says she is very keen to “pay it forward”.

The competition and accelerator programme will culminate in a national award event in October, where finalists, category winners and the national winner will have the opportunity to showcase their innovations to a large audience.

In addition, the national winner of South Africa will join the national winners from Armenia, India, Malaysia, Pakistan and Turkey at the Global Forum that will be held in November in the Silicon Valley, California, where they will benefit from the global linkages created by the programme.

The Cleantech Competition and Accelerator Programme builds on the legacy of the successful 2011 Cleantech Competition, implemented under UNIDO’s Greening the COP17 project, TIA and the Government of South Africa, through the Department of Trade and Industry.

To get involved with the Global Cleantech Innovation Programme in South Africa, visit its website, email or contact the team at +27 /012 472 2904 and +27 /012 472 2774.

For more information on the global programme, view the GEF UNIDO Global Cleantech Programme for SMEs brochure.