Adelaide is quietly working to become a global leader in cleantech

- July 13, 2016 4 MIN READ

Sydney wants to be Australia’s fintech capital, Melbourne is shaping up to be the country’s Internet of Things hub, Perth startups are perfectly positioned to take advantage of the resources industry, and Adelaide? If the South Australian Government and Adelaide City Council get their way, Adelaide could just become a world leader in clean technology startups.

The state is already doing well, with two big milestones coming earlier this year: following the closure of Northern Power Plant in Port Augusta earlier this year, South Australia is now coal-free, while the state also reached its goal of using 50 percent renewable energy, almost a decade ahead of its scheduled 2025 target date. With these achievements not yet enough, the state government and the City of Adelaide are looking to turn Adelaide into the world’s first carbon neutral city.

Between 2007 and 2013 the City’s carbon emissions decreased 20 percent, while its residential population at the same time grew by 27 percent, office floor area increased by 16 percent, and the economy grew by 28 percent.

The reduction in emissions has been attributed largely to the decarbonisation, or ‘greening’ of the City’s electricity supply through wind projects and the widespread installation of rooftop solar photovoltaic systems, as well as improvements in the energy efficiency of new and existing commercial buildings helped along by rebates to businesses.

The Council, led by Lord Mayor Martin Haese, is also keen to try new things, currently trialling the use of smart streetlights along Pirie Street and Hindmarsh Square to increase energy efficiency. The LED lights dim to lower levels if movement sensors don’t detect any pedestrian or vehicle activity, while also monitoring any ambient lighting from sources such as shopfront lighting and temporary festival lighting and adjusting levels accordingly.

Now, with the majority of the City’s carbon emissions coming from transport and electricity, the Council and state government have acknowledged the role startups can play in creating solutions to cut these levels down, and founders in turn are beginning to pay attention.

There are currently ten working to win the Low Carbon Entrepreneur Prize, the first initiative of the Adelaide to Zero Carbon Challenge. As the name of the program suggests, its aim to help Adelaide with its goal to become a carbon neutral city and also position Adelaide as a global climate change exemplar and showcase city for cleantech.

With over 150 teams applying to take part, 11 percent of them international, the Prize has brought to Adelaide the ten finalists to over the next few months develop projects that look to address the issues of energy, transport, waste, and liveability.

In launching the program, Premier Jay Weatherill said, “The Low Carbon Entrepreneur’s Prize is a way for us to encourage the best minds from around the world to develop ideas that will help establish new jobs and new industries in South Australia while helping to make Adelaide the world’s first carbon neutral city.

“We know that many great ideas come from outside Government and we’re keen to see these ideas developed…we want Adelaide to become a global test bed for innovative technologies and this initiative is part of that.”

A government spokesperson said the winner – or winners – will work with the state government to ensure their project is implemented and delivers against the objectives of the initiative, with this collaboration, or crowdsourcing, in effect, also key to ensuring that residents could have a say in how the government does business and plans their future.

The government spokesperson said this is part of its Reforming Democracy policy, which outlines the need for greater involvement of people in issues that affect their lives.

“Carbon Neutral Adelaide provided a great opportunity to use a challenge model in order for people to participate and share their ideas.”

Among the interstate and international teams taking part is Ino8 of Victoria, which has created a ‘leaning car’, effectively a cross between a bike and a car: as efficient and sustainable as a bike while also as safe and comfortable as a car, and Switch Automation, a team from NSW and the US, creating an online energy monitoring system for buildings.

Meanwhile, among the five South Australian finalists is Peats Soil and Garden Supplies, which is working on third generation biodiesel technology made from liquid organic waste materials that can be used in any biodiesel-compatible vehicle, and SustainSA, creating a toolkit that helps deliver carbon neutral heritage buildings.

Armed with $10,000 in seed funding, these teams are working to develop their MVPs ahead of the October finals, with the interstate and international teams required to work in partnership with local businesses to ensure their solutions are well suited and tailored to the local market.

Of course, there are established startups and organisations also helping to lead the charge on carbon neutrality and renewables in the state.

Among these is Seeley International, an air conditioning manufacturer and a global leader in the development energy-efficient cooling and heating, energy efficiency company Embertec, solar panel provider Tindo Solar, and Zen Energy, which is perhaps one of the businesses best known interstate and overseas after bringing on Professor Ross Garnaut as chairman last year.

Creating, essentially, the Australian version of Tesla’s Powerwall, Zen was founded in 2004 by Richard Turner, who came up with the idea after trying to install a solar panel on his kids’ cubby house. It is now working to take entire communities off the grid.

Much of the future of South Australian technology and innovation is being developed at the Tonsley Innovation Precinct, which one can already see becoming the kind of hub that, right now, Sydney and Melbourne can only dream about.

Tonsley - source tonsley.com.au/

Tonsley – source tonsley.com.au/

Built within the old Mitsubishi factory and continuing to feature manufacturing capabilities, Tonsley is supported by global strategic partner Siemens and is home to the New Venture Institute of Flinders University, TAFE facilities, and the likes of Zen Energy and Hills, the inventor of the Hills Hoist and now, among other things, a provider of interactive patient care solutions in the healthcare space.

Though located a fair distance from the city centre, the precinct has an industrial feel that fits perfectly with the idea of building for the future. The colocation of the educational providers with industry is allowing for collaboration between students and industry leaders; through its Hills Innovation Centre, for example, Hills is inviting people to submit proposals for ideas, projects, and startups that can be funded, developed, and commercialised at the facility.

The work being done at Tonsley and across Adelaide shows that there is more to South Australian innovation than just cleantech – there are a number of fintech startups also emerging, ignoring the idea that they need to be on the east coast to flourish, for example – but the dedication across various levels of government to support the push for carbon neutrality could see the rest of Australia and the world look to Adelaide for the right solutions when we – eventually – start to catch on to the need to turn our communities green.

Startup Daily travelled to Adelaide as a guest of Brand SA.

Image: Adelaide. Source: themissingyear.