Low carbon start ups told how to sharpen business skills

Free advice on how to make a fledgling low-carbon company an attractive proposition for investors is on offer from the Government-backed Carbon Trust.

Since its launch in 2004 the trust's Carbon Incubator Programme has already given support to more than 40 start-up companies advising on strategy and business development.

Twenty of these companies have already raised private investment worth more than £14 million, three have listed on AIM and a further three have progressed to licence agreements.

The success of the scheme has spurred the Carbon Trust to target even more low carbon entrepreneurs over the next few years.

Working with four partners - Angle, Imperial Innovations, Isis Innovations and TTP - the Carbon Trust will provide support for companies wishing to refine their proposition before approaching investors.

Each successful organisation is expected to demonstrate cost-effective, carbon-reducing business solutions that address a real business need and in return will have access to the incubator's technical and commercial expertise.

Rachael Nutter, business incubator manager at the Carbon Trust, said: "The Low Carbon Incubator programme is designed for any early stage low carbon business which shows true commercial and technological promise but is not quite investor-ready.

"Although there is growing interest in the potential returns offered by the low carbon economy, there are lots of good ideas that need hands-on business support and coaching if they are to raise funding and reach their commercial potential.

"The Carbon Trust and its incubator partners can help a firm across a range of issues from assessing and engaging the market, to securing IP rights, to understanding manufacturing options or to getting the right management team in place. And, because we operate a virtual network, any company across the UK can take advantage of our services."

One firm which has taken advantage of the incubator programme is Lontra, a start-up company that has developed a novel engine and compressor design with the potential to deliver significant energy efficiency improvements and reduced carbon emissions.

The Incubator programme helped Lontra with business planning and revenue modelling, as well as a detailed market assessment, all of which was essential to get the company ready for investment.

Imperial Innovations and NPI Ventures, a subsidiary of Japanese investment bank Nikki Cordial, have recently co-invested in Lontra, bringing the seed funding round to £400,000 and Lontra is looking to begin another round of fundraising in the summer of 2007.

Simon Hombersley, business development director at Lontra, said: "Lontra is a small company and having access to commercial expertise via the Carbon Trust's Incubator programme was critical to get us investment-ready.

"It's like having ten per cent of a really experienced business management team in the office all the time, which we found invaluable.

"The market assessment helped us to focus and prioritise markets a little differently, which meant we were able to present a strong business plan to potential investors. The incubator basically took us from being a technology project and turned us into a successful business that offers exciting prospects for potential investors."

Any start-up or spin-out company needing strategic and business advice can visit the incubator page of the Carbon Trust's website to find out more about the application process.

Sam Bond



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