Billions of dollars worldwide are pumped into the search for clean technology and renewable energy. So far, however, most investment has been in companies that are using conventional business models to fit new technologies into existing systems. A far better approach, say Johnson and Suskewicz, is to create whole new systems.
The authors propose a framework for thinking about clean tech that consists of four interdependent components: an enabling technology, an innovative business model, a careful market-adoption strategy, and a favorable government policy.
Two recent experiments show how this framework can be applied: Better Place, founded by the software executive Shai Agassi, has a network of battery-recharging and -switching stations to support its electric cars and a business model based on selling electricity (miles) rather than vehicles. It has a foothold market in Israel, where gas-powered cars are taxed far higher than electric ones. Masdar City, now under construction in Abu Dhabi, will be a carbon-neutral incubator of clean technologies, supported by the investment, manufacturing, strategy, and academic units of a government initiative. The city is itself a foothold market and will benefit from government subsidies, “free zone” status, and favorable regulations. Both enterprises provide hope for supplanting the oil based economy.