On Mar. 26, more than 100 executives and students gathered at Fuqua School of Business to hear about energy and environmental business opportunities in China at the 2014 EDGE Forum on Cleantech in China.
“China is a great place to scale up proven cleantech,” said Elle Carberry, managing director of The China Greentech Initiative, who joined via live webcast from Beijing. “And it’s also a great place to experiment with cleantech.” She gave several examples of cutting-edge cleantech projects — such as the Parkview Green mixed-use commercial building in Beijing (“one of the greenest buildings in the world”), an industrial rooftop solar power production initiative by Hanergy, and Coca-Cola’s grey water trading program.
Following Carberry’s presentation, a panel with four entrepreneurs spoke about the promise and the peril of launching ventures in China. “The opportunity is there to really define your business, but you really have be disciplined and you have to be careful,” said Tony Atti, founder, president, and CEO of Phononic, a North Carolina-based startup which makes high-efficiency solid-state heat pumps for refrigeration, air conditioning and heating.
The panelists touched on topics including intellectual property protection, access to capital, joint venture strategies, and currency risk in China. They also spoke about market entry strategies. “In China, you don’t have to be a big name for people to take a risk on you,” voiced Taryn Sullivan, founder and CEO of Efficiency Exchange, which has offices in Washington DC and Shanghai.
Other panelists included Shu Ching Quek, founder and CEO of renewable energy startup Novuswave, and Tom Darden, founder and CEO of Cherokee Investment Partners. Professor Jon Fjeld, executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at Fuqua School of Business, moderated the discussion.
EDGE Executive Director Dan Vermeer provided concluding remarks. “Business plays a critical role in providing solutions to complex problems” in China, he said, speaking particularly of the air quality, water, and other environmental degradation challenges that threaten to harm quality of life for the nation’s citizens. “It’s clear that China is at an inflection point. Inaction is increasingly costly for them, and innovation is potentially profitable.” He added, “Business is critical in developing the kinds of solutions that can work.”
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