Collaboration helps green startups cross 'valley of death'
Sam Willet gravatar avitar

Collaboration helps green startups cross 'valley of death'

Author: Sam Willet | Posted on: 15 July 2016

In September 2015 we produced this video for Climate KIC, an EU initiative committed to building a low carbon economy through education, entrepreneurship & innovation.

Our aim was to promote the Climate KIC accelerator programme, which helps green start-ups and entrepreneurs to turn ideas into sustainable businesses through cross-sector, collaborative working. Here in Birmingham, we’re lucky to have a strong, growing network of environmentally and socially conscious entrepreneurs.

Collaborators involved in Climate KIC's Accelerator Programme

This kind of activity is a vital part of the transition to a green economy, without which we cannot hope to limit global warming to an increase of less than 1.5C as was pledged by nearly 200 countries at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris.  The move to a green economy means meeting market demand, which is at the core of Climate KIC’s accelerator programme. The problem isn’t that people are short of ideas, but rather that the route to market is an unforgiving one.

Climate KIC’s approach encourages cross-sector collaboration, on the basis that in a relatively young industry, useful help and advice is more likely to come from professionals in other sectors. It is often not the science or technology which proves the stumbling block, but the ability to imagine the applications of the technology.  Lecturer and Strategist Mark Brill emphasises the importance of thinking differently, saying ‘The creative idea is as important as the science behind it’.

But it is not just start-ups and SMEs that need help. I was shocked when I read about the collapse of British Airways’ green fuels project earlier this year, which was estimated to create 150 jobs and make carbon savings equivalent to taking 150,000 cars off the road. BA blamed a lack of support from the government, as well as the nervousness of their investors.

A British Airways project to fuel their planes with waste collapsedIt’s something that again demonstrates the importance of social media and video as a constant source of persuasive evidence to show big business and policymakers that the ideas are here, people are willing to do the work and the market opportunities are there. To me, the idea of using thousands of tonnes of household waste to power aeroplanes is one to get excited about, and it saddens me that there wasn’t more support garnered for the project. I’m not saying that better promotion would have saved this particular venture, but I certainly believe that social media and content exert enormous influence and are well used in helping get good ideas off the ground.

As long as we document the progress made by low carbon businesses, governments and other businesspeople will begin to see the groundswell of activity, which will not only boost the economy but make it more sustainable.

Through encouraging cross-sector collaboration in the development of products and services and then stimulating engagement around them, we can help emerging businesses traverse what Chris Malins, the fuels programme manager of the International Council for Clean Transportation, has called the ‘Valley of death’ between research and development and the marketplace.

Green startups can struggle to survive the harsh journey to market

Project Highlights

This video documents a vibrant community of entrepreneurs who are passionate about low carbon alternatives here in Birmingham. We shot plenty of supporting footage of people meeting each other, chatting and explaining ideas to illustrate the collaboration taking place at the event.

We also interviewed some of the collaborators, which gives a face to these local businesses. I really enjoyed chatting to people and finding out that not everyone was from an academic background, nor was there a majority of experts in science and technology. The collaborators’ backgrounds were varied - what they had in common was a desire for change and a belief in their ideas.

The video we’ve produced serves a great purpose. Chiefly, it informs the viewer about the Climate KIC accelerator programme, which has the potential to grow in the coming years and bring through new entrepreneurs with important ideas. It shows a friendly community and a fertile learning environment, which should encourage people to get involved. It also gives Climate KIC a platform to espouse their philosophy of cross-sector collaboration and the practical benefits it brings.

Related content:

Author: Sam Willet

Sam Willet gravatar avitar
Sam is a Producer and Client Manager at Ember Television. He has worked in online media since graduating with an MA in Film and TV from the University of Birmingham, and loves a good human interest story. You can contact him at [email protected]
Collaboration helps green startups cross 'valley of death'



Marketing is about give and take

Brands need to be able to adjust their marketing strategies according to the kind of people they want to attract. In the age of instant communication, how a brand chooses to communicate with their audience is of paramount importance.


Why should brands be interested in experiential marketing?

With consumer tastes gravitating further towards experiences as opposed to just products, how can marketing follow suit?


How can content curation make your brand valuable?

Getting your message heard amongst the overflow of information online can sometimes feel like a fool's errand. But, through content curation, businesses can find benefits in this surfeit of choice.


How does music play into the distinctive atmosphere of Peaky Blinders?

Music is a big part of the BBC's Peaky Blinders. But how does the show's distinctive sonic identity help to convey its gritty, sinister atmosphere?