Low carbon enterprise is ‘bullish new breed’ of business

Small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) driving the low carbon economy are a "bullish" breed of business intent on pursuing a global low carbon sector, forecast to be worth £4trn by 2015, according to new analysis.

Low carbon SMEs are almost twice as likely to have export customers as small businesses in other industries, while almost two in five low carbon SMEs are already exporting to a diverse set of countries and three quarters plan to enter or expand exports to a new market in the next two years.

According to the analysis by Shell and the Carbon Trust, the SMEs’ ambition is matched by plans for growth, with three quarters of low carbon SMEs planning to raise funding in the next year.

In addition, two thirds of low carbon SMEs plan to recruit in the next year, while more than half have created new jobs and 12% have hired more than four new team members.

The analysis also showed how SMEs can identify unmet market needs that large companies may not have spotted. It highlights the sectors ability to develop disruptive technologies to deliver step change improvements in performance without worrying about the effect this may have on an established business.

Shell UK chairman and executive vice president downstream technology, Edward Daniels, said: “As the report shows, this is an exciting time for low carbon enterprise. Supremely confident in their technology, this new breed of start-up is successfully chasing a global low carbon market expected to be worth £4trn by 2015.

“This is good news for the UK economy. Two-thirds of the UK’s low carbon entrepreneurs are planning to create new jobs over the next 12 months, and over half already have. Whilst it’s not without challenges, the strategic importance, achievement and future potential of this sector cannot be overlooked,” he added.

Access to funding, technology demonstration opportunities and securing the right skills continue to be the sector’s biggest challenges.

The analysis also says that the UK remains a tough commercial “nut to crack” which is a contributing factor for low carbon SMEs seeking sales in overseas markets.

Leigh Stringer

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