Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sacramento Says: Green I Want You Green

You might’ve missed the Clean Tech Showcase , October 16 at Sacramento State University where four discussion tracks (Public / Private Policies, Clean Technologies, Clean Technology Workforce, Clean Technology Startups) chartered more than 700 participants through increasingly green waters.

The Showcase, the third annual since 2007, was held under the auspices of SARTA (Sacramento Area Regional Technology Alliance, an umbrella organization whose mission is to green the Sacramento Region.

It’s where I met to Ingrid Rosten, who serves as the Executive Director of CleanStart, an initiative of McClellan Technology Incubator affiliated with SARTA. Rosten excels at developing successful partnerships between private and public companies, investors, and academic institutions. “That’s when it all happens,” she said.

Her work with CleanStart began several years ago when she moved from San Jose to the Sacramento area as a successful developer of business incubators, some international.

Gary Simon and Mark Henwood, two venture capital investors, asked her to head up a project called CleanStart. The initial purpose was to assess whether the region could be a clean technology center. A feasibility study was born largely funded by SMUD (Sacramento Municipal Utilities District) and the California Energy Commission.

The purpose of the study was to assess if the region could emerge as a clean tech center with enough initial investment capital, entrepreneurs, executive talent and an established base of green startups. A “Power Up Business Plan” competition hosted by California Clean Tech Open brought together green companies with the lure of $25,000 in prize money. “We began to map the clean companies,” she said.

In 2007, first Clean Showcase was held at the University of California at Davis. Today CleanStart now operates under the umbrella arm of SARTA, as does VentureStart which cultivates “angel investors with wide experience in starting companies.” SARTA uses a “Tech Index” to measure the regional technology economy by tracking 50 leading high-tech and life science companies.

The United States is behind many parts of the world with green technology, acknowledged Rosten. “Countries like China and India don’t need to deal with an aging infrastructure, but are building the (a new green) structure in place.” In Israel, she said, “use of solar water heaters is the law.”

But Rosten is philosophical. Despite the current recession, she thinks it’s a time “when people pull out the stops and starting thinking of unique ways to develop new products to service the coming market. We’ve been a consumer society. We’re seeing that shift.”

“Green I want you green /. Green starts of frost / some with the shadow-fish / that opens the road for dawn.”

—Federico Garcia Lorca, Sleepwalking Ballad

Lenore Weiss

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