‘Keeping it Clean’ with Martin Garratt, CEO and Cinthya Anand, Communications Manager of Cambridge Cleantech
The 9th instalment of the ‘keeping it clean’, a blog series featuring interviews with a variety of experts in the world of sustainability, clean technology and future mobility.
What a delight to be chatting to Cinthya and Martin from the brilliant Cambridge Cleantech! They are both passionate advocates of driving the sustainability agenda through innovation.
Martin became Chief Executive of Cambridge Cleantech in 2011 and is responsible for the ambitious plans to further develop Cambridge as a leading cleantech centre in Europe and in doing so helping to promote the next wave of the Cambridge hi-tech cluster. He supports Cambridge Cleantech members by encouraging supply chain opportunities for companies in the sector, enabling shared experience of innovative growth businesses and providing collective services such as access to finance, government regulatory updates and links to international partners.
Cinthya has been the Communications Manager of Cambridge Cleantech since 2018. She is a communications specialist with nearly a decade of experience working in media and the non-profit sector. At Cambridge Cleantech, she connects innovative start-ups and SMEs working in clean and sustainable technology with the right people to help them grow.
Can you tell me a little more about yourselves?
Martin: Well, firstly I have been unsuccessfully trying to persuade my daughters to cut my hair during lockdown!
I studied at the University of Manchester and specialised in Environmental Planning. A lot of my working life has been business support within the clean tech and environmental sector. Following stints with both IBM as Regional Environmental Manager for the South East and working in government liaison for Boots in Nottingham, I became one of the UK’s first City Centre Managers in Nottingham. I came down to Cambridge and ran the Greater Cambridge Partnership for 10 years before setting up Cambridge Cleantech in 2011.
Cinthya: I am an engineer turned journalist turned communications specialist. I worked in the automotive industry briefly and spent several years as a journalist for The Hindu, which is a national newspaper in India, where I wrote about science and technology and issues like waste management. My current role ties those different streams together which is amazing.
At Cambridge Cleantech I try to tell the story behind the cleantech start-ups we count as members. We give these start-ups a platform, give them a space for people to learn what they are doing through our events, blogs and newsletters etc. and introduce them to investors and corporates. We are seeing a big change in how people respond to green growth and sustainability, and it has moved to the top of the agenda for businesses. There is a huge increase in interest from corporates wanting to meet our innovators.
So Cambridge Cleantech…
Martin: Yes, Cambridge Cleantech is a leading membership organisation that provides commercial support to companies working to solve global sustainability challenges. Over the last decade we have brokered hundreds of business collaborations and helped put sustainable technologies right at the centre of the Cambridge Phenomenon.
Today we have become a hub for clean tech innovation and are linked to some of the most highly innovative centres in the UK including London and Oxford. We unite the creators of innovative clean tech technologies with the financiers, partners and customers who can bring these products and services to fruition, and help create a smarter, more sustainable future.
Cinthya: In short, we are matchmakers in this space, bringing together clean tech companies with investors, corporates, etc. or with anyone who has the expertise that they don’t have in order to enable their growth and success.
I know you’ve connected innovators with major corporates like Arm, Anglian Water, Schneider Electric and Lafarge through your pan-Europe Meet the Buyer programme… sounds exciting!
One of the exciting programmes that we undertake is to matchmake inventors and corporates. This is part of an EU funded programme which has just been extended to 2022. In the first 2 years we connected over 50 innovation hungry corporates such as Danske, Ikea, the port of Rotterdam and Arm.
Through this programme, the corporates provide a short summary of what their innovation shopping list might be, an example could be Arm who wanted to build a new headquarters and retrofit old buildings to the latest standards of sustainable tech. We held an event with our innovators as well as those of our 5 partners, sharing their requirements with thousands of start-ups, who could then pitch their solutions; a win-win situation!
As a start-up it’s often hard to find the right person in the corporate to help you and we make it as easy as possible to get them connected with the right people. This has resulted in several very successful partnerships!
What have been most impactful changes within the clean tech sector in recent years?
Martin: A couple of things, the first being the move towards renewable energy in UK, where we have just gone a whole month without coal power for the first time in 138 years! We are now generating sufficient energy without the need to call on coal power stations… it’s a huge milestone and a real boost for the clean tech sector.
Secondly, we should discuss the profile of sustainability, cleantech and climate crisis, which has had a number of major developments in the last 6 months.
We’ve had what I would call the bottom-up community effect: the fires in Australia and California, Greta Thunberg sailing the Atlantic, Extinction Rebellion glueing themselves to trains in London and David Attenborough speaking at Glastonbury (I can confirm that it was pretty special and the only time I’ve heard silence for someone at Glastonbury).
Then on the other side of things, are the top down policy changes: the United Nations sustainable development goals, the UK industrial strategy focusing on electric vehicles and clean growth etc. Just this week the UK Government has announced the Clean Growth Fund which is a huge step in supporting cleantech innovation in the UK.
I would like to think that what Cambridge Cleantech offers lies in the middle of both forces, working alongside government and business, and with SMEs to provide innovative solutions to help with the climate emergency.
What are some of the most rewarding aspects of connecting startups with the wider clean tech community?
Martin: Watching these ‘matches’ come to fruition and the start-ups begin to scale up! We run Cleantech Venture Days which allow our innovators the chance to showcase themselves and have had some amazing successes, recently a small innovator in sustainable dry cleaning walked away from this day with $50,000 of investment. Another innovator who focuses on reducing the maintenance cost of offshore wind turbines met a high net worth audience member who saw their potential and invested £100,000.
Cinthya: A lot of the start-ups are working with good intentions of making a difference and it feels great to help them in their mission. We are a small team and we try our best to have a one-to-one connection with all of our members. It is also great to see our members connecting with each other; 2 of our newest members who are both start-ups are now supporting each other!
We are currently running a number of open calls for start-ups to meet corporates, please visit our Events page for details.
Could you talk a bit about the most common mistakes startups make when embarking on their journey into the world of clean tech?
Firstly, a lot of these companies are quite techy. They are amazing at what they do in their comfort zone, but sometimes in front of an audience, a customer or the wider community, it doesn’t always translate. These innovators are not always so adept in their general business skills and need support with business training and coaching.
There is also a lack of understanding or appreciation of how corporates operate and the timeframes involved when working with corporates.
Finally, don’t forget to be specific! It sounds obvious, but people don’t know what you don’t tell them.
What are trends that you see shaking up the clean tech space at the moment?
Martin: Energy storage, the holy grail of clean tech! The grid at the moment is not sufficiently smart to be able to adapt. There are lots of microgrids being created to plug the gaps, but all of it could be solved if we had the adequate storage fitting in alongside the grid.
Electrification. The air has got much clearer, the visibility improved and contrast of colours in the sky is so much sharper — why go back to diesel and petrol? why not focus on electrification? Let’s lead happier lives with a cleaner, greener environment.
Circular economy. How are we making sure that everything we extract from the earth and turn into a product is recycled or reused in some way? Let’s get much better at that cycle and improve our environment.
Martin: This is a real opportunity to ‘build back better’… it’s a global problem which could in turn lead to a global opportunity for a cleaner and greener future.
Cinthya: Green growth must be a priority for companies and not just part of CSR or even PR — it would be great to see that commitment from government, action and not just policy.
Martin: I’d also like to highlight Oxfordshire Greentech which is the sister organisation we help set up 2 and a half years ago. It has been crucial in connecting the cities at either end of what has been described as the most entrepreneurial corridor in Europe. We also undertake elements of work for the Mayor of London’s cleantech team, forming a ‘green triangle’ of 3 world class centres of excellence; a compelling vision and opportunity for UK PLC — a super cluster if you will!
Connect with us to keep the clean discussion going… and if you would like to feature in the series, do get in touch! 🌏