Discovering The Dutch Cleantech Sector

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Cleantech is booming - but how much do you really know about it? Not that much - well, we'll give you insight in the Dutch sector!

While the FinTech industry is getting in the newspapers quite often lately, cleantech entrepreneurship is already there for a longer period of time. Let’s say it has already found a sustainable way of existing. But what is cleantech entrepreneurship all about? And what initiatives are there in The Netherlands? Let’s dive deeper into this!

Cleantech, what?

No matter how many websites you find when googling for a definition of the word cleantech, it’s impossible to find the same answer to this question more than once. Luckily, there’s a cleantech market authority from the United States of America called Clean Edge that formed all definitions into one. Clean Edge defines cleantech as

“a diverse range of products, services, and processes that harness renewable materials and energy sources, dramatically reduce the use of natural resources, and cut or eliminate emissions and wastes.”

In theory this sounds pretty solid, making it possible to brand startups as a cleantech startup or not. In practice, it’s a lot harder though. But, for this time, we’ll leave the hard parts out.

Why Cleantech, why do we need it?

Companies are always looking for cleaner, energy saving, sustainable and cheaper solutions for the work they do. The only thing is that it was done by corporates. Now startups took it over, just because they can be much faster when adopting new technologies. Many corporates see cleantech startups as a testing centre, and they try to acquire these startups if the technology has proved itself. Eneco acquired the Toon (a digital device to track your energy and gas consumption) a few years ago and just acquired the YES!Delft startup Nerdalize.

It’s a fact that corporates need startups to work together, but now there’s coming more and more proof in the form of examples that it’s really happening. During the Global Entrepreneurship Week in Kansas City a reversed pitch session took place. Five of the biggest corporations pitched problems they had in their company to entrepreneurs in the hope that they wanted and could solve these issues. Check out KPMG Innovative Startups’ research on the need to connect between startups and corporates.

What is out there?

There’s some really awesome things happening in the cleantech sector in The Netherlands. I’ve listed a couple of them here.


Climate-KIC (KIC stands for Knowledge, Innovation and Community) offers multiple programmes for entrepreneurs to grow their businesses, including the CimateLaunchpad, the Climate-KIC Accelerator and the Venture Competition. Climate-KIC is ‘Europe’s largest public-private innovation partnership focused on climate change.’ Each country has its own management. The Dutch partner has a strong focus on creating new businesses.

Actually, a lot of Cleantech startups end up here, after they’ve participated in other events and programmes. An great example is Eternal Sun, who have a business on solar panel testing. Click here for a list with all great startups.

Get in the Ring Cleantech

Get in the Ring (GITR) is the largest startup competition in the world, having around a 100 countries connected to the network. Startups go via national finals to the regional finals, from which they go to international finals. This year, GITR has divided its competition into more sub-finals, and one is a Get in the Ring cleantech final. The winners perfectly show how cleantech is rising in The Netherlands. Check it out here!

This year’s winner’s included CocoPallet, a startup that makes low cost transport pallets from coconut waste. They’re making sustainability in Asia possible in a disruptive way!

Rockstart Accelerator

Rockstart offers a 180-day accelerator programme for startups which are focussed on smart energy solutions. Rockstart provides funding, coaching, office spaces, mentorships and network.

Rockstart just hosted their Demo-day, where all 9 participants pitched the development of their products or services. Among them is Bleeve, a marketplace and community for energy saving solutions. They got funded by the DOEN Foundation lately and already closed a deal with 15 municipalities.

CleanTech Challenge

Cleantech is not only interesting for corporates or SMEs, also students are working on cleantech solutions. Every year the CleanTech Challenge (CTC) is organized to facilitate students to start up their cleantech businesses. The CTC is a worldwide network with more than 10 countries connected to the network. On a yearly basis they all come together in London for the international finals. This year’s Dutch winner was Cl-air, a clean air-conditioning solution which decreases CO2 emissions and SMOG.

Cleantech Delta

Cleantech Delta is a network for professionals who highly value cleantech solutions. It works closely with the municipality of Delft and Rotterdam, on which it focusses.

Greenhouse Arnhem

The founder says it’s the Sillicon Valley for cleantech startups in The Netherlands when he talks about the Greenhouse Arnhem. Greenhouse Arnhem supports startups in the development and growth phase of their business. Currently, there are 15 startups in the programme. Read more about it in this article (Dutch only).

Deepwater Energy

Deepwater Energy is currently in the programme. Deepwater Energy came with an solution to generate energy with water in an innovative and sustainable way


The Kiemt is a network consisting of municipalities in the east of The Netherlands who want to support CleanTech initiatives. The have a huge network of investors, SMEs, startups, corporates to support every kind of cleantech initiatives. Click here for the complete list of their network.

Cleantech startups solve world problems with local solutions, and they do it quite well I’d say. And that’s why it’s so interesting for larger companies to get involved as well! There’s a huge market for cleantech startups. Corporates don’t have time and money these days to dive into the cleantech scene, but they do find it very interesting to spot the cleantech trends. This means a large network of interested and interesting companies, a big market and a good opportunity to make some big money!



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