Startups and the Green economy: Polihub and other incubators

Published on Friday, 21 October 2016

The green economy is no longer seen as a new industry segment, but rather as an advance of the traditional economy in terms of environmental sustainability.

The green economy is no longer seen as a new industry segment, but rather as an advance of the traditional economy in terms of environmental sustainability. This process, which might be both long and fraught with obstacles for older companies, is proving much easier for startups and other emerging organisations. For this reason, it is now becoming strategically important to create and develop startups through incubators and accelerators that facilitate the development of talent and support innovative projects, especially in the field of green energy.

One such example is the PoliHub in Milan. Managed by the Milan Polytechnic Foundation, it is Europe’s second-largest university incubator and fifth in the world, supporting innovative startups with scalable business models. PoliHub facilitates cross-contamination and knowledge sharing by bringing startups into contact with both the university (Milan Polytechnic) and other established, innovative organisations. Projects incubated at PoliHub include a series of calls for talent in the energy industry (Next Energy) which rewarded ten new businesses (http://www.polihub.it/news/next-energy-dieci-startup-vincitrici/) as well as accelerators and training platforms in the field of life sciences (BioUpper)

Futur-E was also recently presented both to the startups at PoliHub and to engineering students. This platform is acknowledged as going beyond the mere reuse of abandoned areas, becoming a real vehicle for innovation by creating a community that is open to startups. “Redevelop to innovate” has been the mantra of this initiative right from the start.

In addition to its Enel for Startups programme, the power company is pursuing a range of projects as a business mentor within the platform of the Call for Disruption in Energy equity crowdfunding. Among ten innovative projects for the energy industry and the green economy, two will be selected and supported in their access to the secondary equity crowdfunding market for startups and small and medium enterprise, also receiving free of charge legal, tax and management advisory services.

In May 2016, there were 5,735 registered innovative startups. Of these, 39.9% were IT (software, web and data hosting), followed by 28.7% professional and technical services (from research and development to architecture) and 18.1% manufacturing. On average, these startups had four partners and one employee. A study by Bocconi University showed that their individual founders own most of the startups (95%), whereas only 5% are backed by venture capital and private equity. However, industrial firms are increasingly becoming partners (31%), with a preference for innovative startups, especially those that are green in terms of products and processes. These businesses have missions centered on sustainable development and on the needs of local communities. “Redevelop to innovate” has been the mantra of this initiative right from the start.

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