The 2012 National Cleantech Open in Santa Clara, CA asked the question "Has CleanTech Finally Arrived?"
There has been dancing around cleantech for a while; wondering about the continued presence (or not) of subsidies, the practicalities of timing funding and risk management through affiliation, and other tactical concerns of investors. While panelists debated the financial activity in the industry and funding flows related to subsidies and other political concepts, I prefered to look for indicators of growth in intangible assets to see whether the sector seemed to be taking hold or struggling for air, here in the US.
Since the entire conference is organized around the creation of non-fossil fuel energy creation and energy conservation this is certainly covered; however, the attendees also demonstrated that businesses and entrepreneurs are increasingly deeply engaged in cost reductions through transformation to cleaner technologies, mechanisms for helping communities and individuals save energy, soil health, and water reduction.
It's a bit difficult to see the growth in trust and collaboration from the conference, but the process of the Cleantech incubator is relatively mature. Some speakers, notably Rahul Raj, Walmart.com Director, Sustainability + Merchandising Innovation, did speak to collaboration towards energy conservation - in WalMart's case, providing mechanisms for enabling solar conversions.
The conference itself is becoming less insular as well: it's possible to get programs after the fact, as well as speakers' social media credentials.
Finally there are several mechanisms by which alumni participate in the program. This type of longer-term commitment builds trust through repeated commitment. It was lovely to watch the maturation of Hydrovolts, which has participated since 2009.
However a better sense of entrenchment occurs in the area of knowledge building in "green" areas. The prestigious CRC Press, which publishes reference books that are, for scientists and engineers, what the Physicians' Desk Reference (PDR) is for doctors, has an entire category on CleanTech press: http://bit.ly/CRCcleantech. There are six subcategories, with 355 books in total. (Note if you see something you like, they've provided me the following code for a 20% discount: DJL 38. No disclaimers necessary; I'm not getting anything out of this deal.)
Included are upcoming titles such as "Engineering Response to Global Climate Change: Planning a Research and Development Agenda" - the second edition is due out in February 2013, but the first edition is available, and "Chemicals, Environment, Health: A Global Management Perspective."
Nora Konopka, Publisher for Engineering & Environmental Sciences at CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, explained the demand for this knowledge by students and faculty: "Electrical and Mechanical Engineering departments are seeing growth due to increased interest in energy courses...[which are] fast growing, and branching out from the core power engineering curriculum."
I think it's clear Cleantech as an area of intellectual endeavor and as a community, has arrived. The outstanding question is who will participate financially -- funds, private investors, public companies, the government -- and to what degree?