The December 2009 edition of Entrepreneur Magazine identified “Green Power” as one of the top 10 small business sectors continuing to thrive even in these recessionary times. It’s predicted to become an even larger phenomenon in the future.
Clean energy is called “the challenge of our generation” by industry observers. Many believe it’s better characterized as “the opportunity of our generation.” The momentum about the possibilities in this industry is growing so rapidly that MIT recently launched a professional development opportunity entitled Clean Energy Ventures: Creating Innovative New Businesses through Entrepreneurial Management.
It appears that doing something good for the environment can also mean doing something good for the economy — job and business creation.
Other countries are stepping out strongly in this arena. For instance, China’s richest woman, the owner of Nine Dragons Paper in China’s Guandong Providence, made her estimated $3 billion fortune by recycling scrap paper imported from the U.S. Other entrepreneurs are turning waste into feedstock or deploying small scale solar or renewable energy technologies at the village level.
There has been a lot of focus on how green jobs will play an important role as we exit the recession. But one of the most promising is for those who create their own job — the green entrepreneurs. They may approach it one of two ways. They may take an existing industry and reform that industry into a green one. Or, they may develop their own business based on a new technology, service or produce. Both strategies are important and job-creating. There is definitely promise in this area. Many ideas remain undiscovered. The green industry is expected to top out at $1.5 trillion within the next decade.
One of the key opportunities is making the town/gown connections between universities, communities and entrepreneurs as solid as possible. We need to ensure that researchers are getting their green technologies off the laboratory shelves and out to the marketplace, and we need to ensure that entrepreneurs and communities are capitalizing on the wealth of knowledge within university walls when they seek to solve renewable energy or other “green” challenges.
In the end, it will take systematic implementation of technological processes, and not just invention add-ons to existing systems. After all, Thomas Edison didn’t just invent the light bulb, and try to plug it into kerosene lamps. He piloted an entire electrical system on Wall Street before taking it out into the community. And Henry Ford didn’t just invent the internal combustion engine. He created the entire automobile factory system to support the introduction of that innovation into the horse and buggy economy of his day.
Greening our world requires not only the technology, but a new business model, a market adoption strategy and government policies that support the transition.