Allons-y, s'il vous plaît, to America’s leading cleantech region

It doesn’t take much to convince us to travel to Paris in the springtime. Or the summer, for that matter.  The wine, the cheese, the cosmopolitan flair…

And the exceptional mix of life science and clean technology companies interested in U.S. expansion opportunities.

On a recent joint economic development mission trip to the City of Light, led by Bank America and our organizations, the Research Triangle Regional Partnership and Wake County Economic Development, our purpose was to convene with French and international companies on how to keep the lights on.

We say that in jest.  But also with seriousness: at a time when dramatic growth in demand for energy has set the stage for momentous technological change -– a dynamic area of innovation known collectively as cleantech -- the Research Triangle Region of North Carolina is positioning front and center to support the growth of the companies that will change the world.

We see serious opportunity. The smart energy, water, and transportation solutions from market leading companies headquartered or with significant operations here have shown that clean technology is the next “big thing” for the Triangle. 

While in France, we sought to introduce French smart grid and cleantech companies to the Research Triangle Region; create strategic partnerships that benefit companies that call our region home; and establish relationships with French companies that want to invest in America. 

In addition to developing exchange relationships with key economic development allies, we partnered with Bank of America to host a smart grid event in Paris.  Representatives from several dozen companies heard the key reasons that make the Research Triangle Region a great investment for electric equipment suppliers in communications, smart hardware, energy services and system integration.

Our delegation met with a number of cleantech companies and toured their facilities, including one actively seeking an East Coast location.  We told them that the Research Triangle Region has emerged as one of America’s leading cleantech clusters, due to the significant competitive advantage we present to companies in our universities, industry mix, R&D assets, and supporting institutions.

For example:

Smart Water

A diverse set of drivers is stimulating innovation in the water sector from aging infrastructure to scarcity.  Smart water technologies can be a means of solving these issues. Several dozen companies in our region in the smart water sector, and the remarkable diversity of research in water policy and technology housed within our universities, will provide critical support to companies looking to provide solutions in those markets.

Smart Transportation

The City of Raleigh was selected as a one of the first Project Get Ready communities in the U.S. to prepare cities for electric transportation.  Raleigh was also recognized as an international leader in PEV readiness by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions – along with notable associates Barcelona, Berlin, Shanghai, New York and Los Angeles.

Currently there are 13 electric vehicle models on the market, with more models in development. In 2013 and 2014, manufacturers are expected to debut at least 18 new plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles. This increase in consumer demand directly impacts our region, home to one of the highest concentrations of EV charging system related activity in the U.S., with nearly 50 firms active in the smart transportation space. 

Smart Grid

Smart grid is our most mature and dynamic cleantech segment.  The region’s smart grid cluster is globally significant with over 100 firms that span the entire value chain from generation to consumption. In 2011, Raleigh was identified as the #2 city in the U.S. for both smart grid HQs and smart grid software development companies. 

Our introduction to French clusters with similar focus, and our new partnerships with French companies, the U.S. Trade Office in Paris, and the American Chamber of Commerce in France, will help us recruit companies to our region. Equally exciting, these relationships will help us identify strategic partnerships and market opportunities for our existing cleantech companies.

As they might say in France, but they definitely say here, “allons-y, y’all!”

Authors: Lee Anne Nance, Managing Director, Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster and Michael Haley, Project Manager, Wake County Economic Development

Article featured in Triangle Business Journal on July 12, 2013

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