Innovation within the Hub: How Boston is Creating its own Destiny*

Written by: Jess on Friday, April 13, 2012 | Leave a Comment 

Each year, when the Boston Marathon rolls around, I feel a renewed sense of pride for the city in which I live. On the third Monday of every April, when elite athletes travel to Boston to compete in the world’s oldest annual marathon, this pride certainly grows stronger and I think, “hey, I live in a pretty cool city.”

Last week I read an article written by the Globe’s Scott Kirsner that reinforced this sentiment, offering up things the Bay State can and should be proud of; not in terms of athletics and traditions, but in terms of technology and innovation. What made the list? Our leadership in life sciences; fostering entrepreneurship; our top notch colleges and universities; our local hangouts,  which allow for the exchange of innovative ideas; contribution from big companies such as Microsoft, Raytheon and iRobot and the accomplishments of Terrafugia, the creators of a flying car.

So what about the areas the Bay State needs to work on?  Kirsner argued that Massachusetts isn’t creating enough public, economy-invigorating companies, we ignore potentially lucrative consumer-oriented innovation, we make it hard for talented foreign college graduates to remain stateside and we don’t mint enough “angel” investors, who fund cool startups.

Well put.

As far as the areas in which the Bay State is doing well, a few other areas could have made the list. What about renewable energy and clean technology? Just yesterday, our client Harvest Power, a Waltham-based startup that turns food scraps into energy, received $110 million in series C funding, a milestone that will undoubtedly propel the organic waste industry forward. Or, how about companies like BigBelly Solar which uses solar power to cut waste collection trips by 80%? And, you can’t forget Boston’s robust information technology and cloud computing industry. In addition to the heavy (IT) hitters like EMC and Akamai, cloud start-ups in the Boston area, such as Cloudant, Sonian and Kinvey, are making quite a splash in the industry.

When it comes to innovation, Boston is no Silicon Valley, a sentiment that many Bostonians are probably sick of hearing. But, maybe we don’t want to be Silicon Valley. Massachusetts is a unique area with deep historic roots and is home to many extremely bright individuals. Boston can and should create its own path of innovation, and I would argue that we are already doing this. As Kirsner noted, there are always areas for improvement, but from the work being done to develop breakthrough medical treatments to the conversion of organic waste into energy, we are making great strides just like the marathoners will on Monday.

Jessica Boardman a senior consultant at Greenough. She can be reached via email at jboardman@greenough.biz or follow her on twitter @J_Boardman.

Who Wins in a U.S.-China Solar Panel Trade War?*

Written by: Paul on Tuesday, January 24, 2012 | Leave a Comment 

Greenough prides itself on our knowledge of the clean tech industry and our ability to serve clients in that industry, which includes solar, wind and biogas, among others. One on-going issue of critical interest across the clean energy industry is Chinese solar panel sales in the U.S.

In early February, the International Trade Commission (ITC) will announce the results of its investigation into alleged solar panel “dumping” by Chinese manufacturers. The possibility of ITC-imposed tariffs against Chinese and other international manufacturers has prompted vocal protest on both sides of the issue by a number of U.S. companies operating in the solar industry.

To understand the full story, it’s worth going back to the genesis of the dispute. SolarWorld Industries America, a U.S. subsidiary of a German-owned corporation, petitioned the U.S. Department of Commerce to determine whether Chinese solar panel manufacturers had obtained export subsidies from the Chinese government. The Commerce Department tasked the ITC with a slate of hearings to assess whether Chinese manufacturers were taking advantage of in-country subsidies and consequently “dumping” solar panels into the U.S. market for less than it costs to manufacture and distribute them.

Companies affected by the issue quickly toed the line in opposing camps, and are watching closely as the ITC proceeds. The Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM) was first to vocalize its position, led by SolarWorld, and CASM is now rolling out a well-crafted messaging and advocacy campaign in coordination with SolarWorld’s formal petition to the Commerce Department. More recently, the Coalition for American Solar Energy (CASE) entered the debate by charging that tariffs placed on Chinese solar panel manufacturers would amount to “protectionism” and would actually harm the U.S. solar industry – not to mention the ever-advancing goal of grid parity.

Who is right? The ITC is scheduled to announce its determination on February 6 (though this could be pushed back for 30 or even 60 days). Regardless of the ITC determination, this dispute over trade policy will likely continue in other areas of the solar industry, and will have direct impacts on both upstream and downstream businesses in the U.S. solar space. Watch this space for further commentary on the decision.

Jay Staunton is vice president of Account Services at Greenough. He can be reached at jstaunton@greenoughcom.com.