Clean Tech Capital of the World
bills itself as the high-tech capital of the world, the innovation
capital of the world, and the biotechnology capital of the world. Now,
California is vying to become the nanotech and clean tech capital of
the world as well. Clean technology is an emerging sector of a range of
products, services, and processes that harness renewable materials and
energy sources, reducing the depletion of natural resources, and
reducing or eliminating pollution and waste.
"A lot of Silicon
Valley chip producers are moving into renewable energy products," says
Matthew Szuhaj, regional leader of Deloitte Consulting's Global
Expansion Optimization practice in San Francisco. "Clean tech is a
natural addition to their business. The talent is here to do the
research and development. Nanotechnology fits into the life sciences
sector. It could make drug delivery more efficient through personalized
medicine. Outside of California, not many places have these ingredients
to make clean tech and nanotech clusters."
On the clean technology front, the Clean
Tech Open (an organization of entrepreneurs, academics, and investors
created to accelerate the development of clean tech) has organized the
Clean Tech Open's 100K Jobs Challenge to create 100,000 clean tech jobs
in America over the next five years. California is home to one of the
largest clean tech clusters in the United States. "While home
foreclosures, economic instability, and the year-end spike in job
losses have wracked Silicon Valley.jobs in the [clean tech] sector rose
23 percent since 2005, raising hopes for economic recovery through
innovation in green technology and new, related business models,"
according to the 2009 Silicon Valley Index.
In fact, investment
in Silicon Valley's clean tech sector jumped 94 percent from 2007 -
reaching almost $1.9 billion in 2008, according to the Index. That same
year, Silicon Valley accounted for 55 percent of clean tech investment
in California and 31 percent in the entire nation. Most of that
investment was in energy generation, but energy infrastructure also saw
heavy investments. The green building sector is the fastest-growing,
followed by transportation and advanced materials.
challenges are greater than they have been in years," admits Russell
Hancock, president and CEO of Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network.
"At the same time, we have become a magnet for green innovation and a
new epicenter for solar technology. New technologies and employment in
the green sector may help offset the Valley's economic woes," he says.
In addition to its impacts on life
sciences, defense, telecommunications, and semiconductors,
nanotechnology is one of those new technologies Hancock mentions that
enables the green sector. Nanotechnology allows scientists to see,
measure, predict, create and manipulate matter on a molecular scale.
The potential is huge: The National Science Foundation (NSF) and Lux
Research estimate the worldwide market for nanotechnology-enabled
products will exceed $1 trillion by 2015.
According to the
"Green Nanotechnology: It's Easier Than You Think" report from the
Project on Emerging Nanotechnology, nanotech has the power to reduce
pollution, conserve resources, and produce a "clean" economy.
Specifically, nanotech can be used in the automotive industry for
chip-resistant paint, better tires on cars, and advanced coatings and
paints. Nanotech also enables green chemistry, which uses fewer
materials for more eco-friendly results. Nanotech also cuts waste from
the manufacturing process.
The Northern California
Nanotechnology Initiative, the Bay Area Nanotechnology Forum, and
nanoSIG are just a few organizations plowing through the state's
fertile nano ground. San Diego is looking to leverage its strengths in
biotech to compete with Boston and New York on the nanotech front,
while Silicon Valley leverages its strengths in computer science to
develop its own cluster. California has the critical mass to attract
researchers, companies, and VC cash and is poised to lead the nanotech
Green technologies of all kinds - from clean
tech to nanotech - might help offset California's woes. Indeed, as the
United States works its way through what may go down in history as the
worst recession in this generation, California may appear to be taking
a massive hit on job losses, foreclosures, and other economic
indicators. But the future is truly bright. California has proven in
the past that it's an ideal location for the technology sector, as well
as many other aspects of manufacturing, and promises to emerge from the
recession with a sustainable future and the business advantages that go
along with its long-term green investments.