Industry News

Piers Grove, EnergyLab and the future of clean tech

By:NSW ERKH. Date: Friday, November 10, 2017.

Piers Grove, EnergyLab and the future of clean tech

A self-professed ‘serial entrepreneur’, Piers Grove goes where there is potential for change.


Executive Director and co-founder of EnergyLab - an incubator for clean energy innovation – Piers is a welcome new edition to the NSW Energy and Resources Knowledge Hub Steering Committee. 

So, why clean energy? 

I got interested in renewable energy and clean-tech because I build businesses and this just looks like a really exciting industry,” Piers says.

“Australia is set up to be a world leader in renewable energy in so many ways, and yet there are some pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that were just desperately missing.” 

Cue EnergyLab. 

STEP INTO THE LAB

Combining a knowledge hub, co-working space and accelerator program, Sydney’s not-fpr-profit EnergyLab was set up in early 2017 by Piers and Nick Lake. Supporters include Climate KIC and Jobs for NSW, The University of Technology Sydney - on whose campus the lab is hosted - and industry partner Origin Energy. 

Facilitating start-ups with new ideas in renewable energy power generation, storage and financial models, EnergyLab offers a 12 to 24-month accelerator program for business ideas as well as substantial seed capital. 

Almost a year in, the EnergyLab model has already been so successful that it is expanding to Brisbane, Melbourne and Canberra. Next stop, Asia. 

“Perhaps in Australia we are slow to change because everything works, we get home and we turn on the lights and they work.”

“In Southeast Asia, you go to Cambodia and 50% of the people don’t have access to the grid. Now that is a market, and I think a lot of Australian innovation is actually better suited to a greenfield market.”

NETWORK CONNECTIONS


EnergyLab is essentially a suite of services that allow Australian energy innovation to scale.

Leveraging on existing relationships, EnergyLab can expedite for its start-ups the often-time-consuming process of dealing with policy makers and regulators.

Similarly, connections with venture capital, and other sources of finance, allow EnergyLab to act as a kind of conduit between innovators and investors.

EnergyLab start-ups also have the advantage of Pier’s extensive business experience. And patience. 

Piers notes that most of the people offered start-up support by EnergyLab are bringing viable ideas with them from a background in academia or industry.

“Most of these people are not business minded, they have come from a product or technical background.”

“But we just don't have enough entrepreneurs in this sector. So, if I see two good people or three good people turn up, I don't really care if their first idea does not succeed. I just want them to learn and stay committed to this sector. And hopefully maybe their second or third idea will be the one." 

“We are much more holistic I think than a lot of the tech-focused start-up help that is out there. And happily, so.” 

WHY NOT BOTH?

Piers prefers to stay on the business end of Australia’s energy transition, proactively facilitating change regardless of policy. And he has no doubt the transition has already begun. 

"What I see is opportunity for new Australian businesses creating new jobs, opening up new export markets, and at the same time delivering clean, sustainable energy solutions." 

And although his focus is on clean energy, Piers is adamant that Australians need to end the militant side-taking when it comes to opinions on renewables versus fossil fuels. 

“We should not reject the heritage of energy in Australia, or underestimate how coal has contributed to our country,” Piers says. 

“We need to continue to supply competitive energy to our Industries and consider the cost of living.” 

“At the same time, we need to acknowledge that the way we generate, consume and share energy is changing so we need to be investing in that.” 

“It will take us ten to twenty years to transition away from fossil fuels, but we need to act smart and start now.” 

“My wildest dream is that Australia can see this as a technological opportunity that we are perfectly set up to seize, not as an ideological football to be kicked around for political point scoring.”

To read more about EnergyLab, go here


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