Alongside EBS, various startups and accelerators, with whom we have close cooperation and partnership, such as Cleantech Estonia, Beamline Accelerator, and others, were also present.
On November 16th, attendees had the opportunity to participate in EBS's panel discussion "Innovative Idea Journey in the Green Economy: Opportunities and Challenges for Green Startup," organized and led by Aleksandra Kekkonen, member of EBS's Green & CSR faculty. The moderator, Karoline Jostov (EBS, CarbonAccounts), guided an engaging discussion among panelists, emphasizing the importance of collaboration between academia and the business world in developing the field.
The discussion intriguingly focused on how to balance sustainability with business profitability. It acknowledged several complex problems and challenges facing startups, from rigid regulations to achieving success and global expansion in a highly competitive market. "Green startups also offer commodity products to some extent, but depending on the restrictions, they struggle to gain a competitive edge and are often left 'out of the game'," conceded panelist Jaan Sepping (EcoBase).
Tauri Türnpuu from Tartu University mentioned that the devil often lies in the details, and many things can go wrong. "The most important thing is the two-way collaboration between the scientific and business worlds, as the best innovation comes from the academic environment. He pointed out that it can be challenging to move back from business to academia, although practical experience is very helpful in the academic circles." "But the foundation of all is good education and investing in smart students – both at lower school levels and at the university level – who are capable of creating innovation," he remarked, touching upon the currently very relevant issue of funding for education and the remuneration of teachers.
Kädi Ristok, the director of Cleantech Estonia, considers the biggest challenges to be legislation, funding, and creating a trustworthy image outside Estonia. Cleantech Estonia's role is to help startups navigate through regulations and "knock on the right doors" to realize their ideas. She is pleased to note that the public sector is increasingly supporting green enterprises. "The state should indeed be the biggest client of sustainable companies. In the cleantech sector, it's vital to be the first, to be fast and flexible, and to take the innovation created here out of Estonia."
"Indeed, innovation is needed, but green entrepreneurship is still a business," stated Jana Budkovskaja, head of Beamline Accelerator, and was pleased that cleantech is no longer a narrow niche but now constitutes a significant part of the market. She added: "A change in perspective is needed. For example, in transport, the main topic is often seen as fuel, whereas it can be viewed as the need to travel from one point to another, and the solutions might be elsewhere. It's important to bring a product to market that is in demand. Although an accelerator is often the first investor for a startup, the best money still comes from customers."
Hendrik Reimand (2CVentures) summarized: "More involvement of universities in the development of the field and in bringing innovations should be encouraged, and universities should be even more flexible and faster. The power lies in cooperation − teams should be versatile, including both scientists and businesspeople."