SW Thinks

The Irish Climate Tech Opportunity

The Irish Climate Tech Opportunity

The Irish Climate Tech Opportunity and Solutions for the Transition to Net Zero

In this article, SW Co-Founder, Aideen O’ Hora, describes the exciting world of Climate Tech innovation, where entrepreneurs and start-ups are developing innovative and much-needed solutions to the climate crisis. Aideen has championed Climate Tech in Ireland for many years and it’s an area she and SW are passionate about. Aideen was the lead co-author of The Irish Climate Tech Opportunity 2023, a report that SW published in partnership with PwC and that this article highlights.

Climate change is no longer a faraway concept. Its effects are being felt now. We’ve become used to regular reports of extreme weather events such as floods, heatwaves, wildfires with other climate-change impacts bringing home the immediate urgency to act – not just mitigating the carbon emissions we produce but adapting to the changes that are already established. So, at a time when the world is struggling with the global response and impact of climate change, there is a growing number of entrepreneurs that are turning this crisis into an opportunity.

All sectors need to decarbonise rapidly with business as usual or incremental change no longer sufficient. With strong regulatory and market signals and with an increasing number of companies committing to net-zero carbon targets, the economics are stacking up for Climate Tech. To put the opportunity into perspective, net-zero commitments covering 83% of global emissions have been made by companies, countries, regions and cities. By publicly signalling their commitment to change, governments and companies will be held accountable and are duty bound to demonstrate progress in achieving their net-zero target emissions.

Therefore, it is no surprise that there is growing confidence in the global and Irish Climate Tech sector, evidenced by the emergence of new climate-aligned funds and the growth of innovative companies developing Climate Tech solutions. Now more than ever, there is a necessity for climate innovation at scale, which will require a paradigm shift in how we fund and support Climate Tech entrepreneurs.

Climate Tech is an evolution of cleantech in that it is more narrowly focused on technologies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (including carbon) emissions or addressing the impact of climate change. All economic sectors need to decarbonise, so Climate Tech companies are distributed across all sectors, with opportunities arising where entrepreneurs are developing exciting solutions related to energy, the built environment, water management, circular and regenerative bioeconomy and food, agriculture and land use (FALU).

In Ireland, the energy vertical has traditionally been the most popular with entrepreneurs and investors. Companies in this sector are providing knowledge and skills to customers developing large-scale energy infrastructure projects or to corporate clients that are reducing their dependency on fossil-fuelled-based energy systems. While regulation is a key driver for opportunity ‘hot spots’, entrepreneurs should also look to global trends and challenges, such as the recent emergency in relation to energy security, which is also creating an increased market demand for new solutions.

Ireland has a rich climate tech ecosystem, and at its heart are passionate entrepreneurs on a mission to decarbonise the global economy. The Irish Climate Tech Opportunity 2023 report published this week by PwC and SustainabilityWorks with the support of Enterprise Ireland showcases 36 Irish climate tech companies that highlight the potential for Ireland as a global leader in climate technology.

Climate Tech companies are dynamic by nature and are at the cutting edge of incredible innovation but they tend to be small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that can struggle to develop and sufficiently scale their idea. While there are existing supports, such as R&D initiatives and accelerator programmes, if this sector is to survive and thrive and the full opportunity is to be realised, more focused policy, initiatives and funding are needed to support them in connecting with customers and investors. One way to create a supportive ecosystem is to develop a one-stop-shop that links entrepreneurs, policymakers, investors and customers. It can foster collaboration and partnerships, provide access to resources and become a showcase for corporate customers. Ireland can aspire to develop a one-stop-shop that is similar to Denmark’s “State of Green” initiative.

Whether you are an entrepreneur, an investor, a corporate entity or public body seeking decarbonisation solutions, Climate Tech is often the best answer. The opportunities will continue to evolve and mature, and it’s critical we maximise the collaborative approach and form strong partnerships to meet our shared responsibilities.

Pictured launching ‘The Irish Climate Tech Opportunity 2023’ are (l-r): Mark Christal, Divisional Manager for Food &Sustainability, Enterprise Ireland; Aideen O’Hora, Co-Founder, SustainabilityWorks; Laura Heuston, Co-Founder, SustainabilityWorks; and David McGee, Leader, PwC Ireland ESG Practice.