UK Conservatives Aim to Rival Silicon Valley on Cleantech

The Conservative Party in the UK is ringing in the new year with a call to boost funding for clean technology startups, create cleantech incubators across the country and establish a Low Carbon Index for publicly-traded companies on the London Stock Exchange and the LSE’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM). Conservative Party leader David Cameron says his party is aiming at “creating a new generation of world-beating startups to rival anything going on right now in Silicon Valley.”

The recommendations were outlined in two reports that the conservatives said were put together by independent working groups. The incubators are planned to help startups get off the ground, and the Low Carbon Index aims to provide cleantech companies with access to cash at the next stage of their development.

Cameron said in a speech that UK firms currently have a less than 5-percent share of the global market for cleantech goods and services. “This market is expected to be worth trillions of pounds, and produce millions of new jobs, in the years to come, so we’ve got to do better a lot better,” he said.

One of the reports pushed for £600,000 ($883,025) of public sector funding to be invested in cleantech incubators for every £150,000 of private investment — a four-to-one ratio —  with a yet-to-be-determined cap on the government spending. Companies could also get access to free or heavily subsidized facilities to test their products under the plan.

For the stock index, the plan is to include companies from a wide range of sectors, including renewable energy, waste reduction and fuel cell technologies, with companies from anywhere in the world eligible to join, as long as they’re already listed on the LSE or the AIM. About 100 companies would already qualify for listing in the proposed index, according to the report on the plan.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the Labour Party has made his own announcements for a green future in the UK, and said this weekend that cleantech could be a help in the current credit crisis. “Rather than [the recession] pushing the environment into a lower order of priority, the environment is part of the solution,” he told the Guardian.