Clean tech companies compete for a place on a trade mission to San Francisco

A competition to find the UK's best fast growing clean tech companies is still open for applications. The top 20 entrants will be invited to take part in the Clean and Cool mission to San Francisco in March.

The mission, a partnership between the Technology Strategy Board, UK Trade and Investment, private sector sponsors, the Co-Sponsorship Agency and The Long Run Venture, will be the fifth of its kind in the last four years and is the second in the clean tech space.

The companies that have taken part in the past are typically involved in developing new technologies, services and business models that address the biggest environmental, energy and resource challenges facing us today. By taking part they will have an opportunity to meet with investors, potential customers and partners as well as media and peers.

According to Oli Barrett, founder of the Co-Sponsorship Agency, companies enter for a wide range of reasons. "Top of their list is raising money from investors and next is looking at how they can expand their business in the US," he says. "Beyond that I think they look for partnerships and in some cases they look for interesting conversations with media to raise their profile over there."

Craig White, a director with Modcell, a manufacturer of sustainable building materials for large scale building projects, was among the participants on the mission in 2010. "It was a great opportunity to go to California. The investment culture there is so much more creative and there are a lot of very high net worth individuals and a slightly more informal approach to how you raise investment than you might find in the UK," he says.

As a consequence of the mission Modcell is now looking to set up an office in California. "We have people who really want to license our system into America," says White.  "But the most useful part of the trip was spending a week with other creative companies. It is a really intensive experience and you spend a week immersed in this agenda. It helped us connect with people and demonstrate that we have a scalable and global product."

Another participant, Nexeon, a developer of new technology for batteries, benefited from taking part in workshops and meeting with investors. "The interest generated and the follow up from US-based VCs in our technology was astonishing," says CEO Scott Brown. "Although we subsequently ended up closing a funding round with existing investors alone, we made many VC friends in California that we intend to maintain contact with for the future."

Barrett says that 20% of the companies are still doing business that arose on the mission, some engaged in US partnerships while others even struck up partnerships with each other.

There is a more long-term incentive to take part. "In the UK it is really useful to say we were selected to go on the Clean and Cool Mission to America, it looks good and when we returned to the UK we secured fast track entrepreneur status with the Carbon Trust," says White.

Brown says any company considering joining the mission would be well advised to prepare for it. "Make the most of the opportunity, think carefully about your USP, fine tune and hone your pitch - you have only seven minutes to impress. Above all have fun, the relationships you build on the Mission will be long-lasting," he explains.

The Clean and Cool Mission will take place on 24 to 31 March, coinciding with the Cleantech Group's Global Forum. The application deadline is 30 January.

For more information and to enter your application visit

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