Cleantech startups in MENA face many challenges but remain resilient [Report]

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MENA is experiencing some of the most daunting environmental challenges on earth. Energy and water scarcity coupled with an underdeveloped waste management infrastructure are stressing countries across the region.

A new report published today by the Wamda Research Lab (WRL) and General Electric (GE), explores these environmental challenges in depth and sheds light on the cleantech startups in MENA, and the obstacles they have on their path to scale.

The report launched at the Water, Energy, Technology and Environment Exhibition (WETEX), now open at the Dubai International Convention Center, finds that while MENA is facing these challenges, a young and growing movement of cleantech startups and cleantech support institutions are paving the way to find innovative and more efficient solutions for energy efficiency, production and storage, water conservation, agriculture, and waste management.

A mapping of the startups in the region finds that 90 percent of cleantech startups were created in the last five years, and 43 percent have relied on their personal income or saving for funding.

Though nascent, the cleantech startup ecosystem in MENA has developed in a fragmented manner, and is impacting the startups’ ability to scale. Findings from the report suggest that just 6 percent of the cleantech startups are currently in the scaling phase, compared to 11 percent who are aiming to just sustain their business.

Entrepreneurs interviewed for the research pointed to a small pool of investment sources, talent gaps, few specialized mentors, and minimal R&D resources as the main obstacles they’re facing when scaling their companies. Currently, there are just two venture capital firms mandated to invest in cleantech entrepreneurs in MENA.

Moreover, widespread cleantech awareness remains limited, consumers’ lack of awareness of cleantech solutions and minimal financial incentives to use clean technology restricts entrepreneurs’ ability to access markets and do business.

Despite these challenges, there are startups that have built successful cleantech solutions in MENA. To name a few, Saphon Energy from Tunisia created the Saphonian Zero-Blade, designed to convert the kinetic force of the wind into electrical power. Satchnet from Jordan provides intelligent systems integration services for energy optimization in the infrastructure management industry. Last but not least, NOMADD from Saudi Arabia has built a no-water robotic machine to clean solar panels in the deserts.

Successful cleantech startups remain the exception rather than the rule. The report recommends that the ecosystem is in need of increased public awareness of cleantech solutions, incentive structures for large corporations to work with small businesses, and more R&D resources in higher education.  

To download the full report, click here.

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