I would answer the first part of the question simply: CleanTech is any technology that competitively produces equal or greater amounts of utility than the existing substitute through a sustainable process.
As for the second part of the question… My answer, perhaps shockingly, is “probably not”. Can one seriously push around a catch-all that encompasses electrical generation, water, construction, waste management, packaging, agriculture, IT (hardware and software), biotech, nanotechnology, and (gasp!) transportation? These are all clearly established business sectors in their own right, can we now claim that the world has an ‘nascent industry’ which people should prepare for professionally? Perhaps it is an industry in some sense, but I would add “who cares.
The excitement around “CleanTech” is great, and calling it an industry might be helpful because it brings a level of focus and interest into the development of sustainable technologies. If calling CleanTech an industry finally gives the world an accredited and well organized lobby, then let’s call it an industry.
What will increasingly force all industries to innovate and incorporate CleanTech into their operations is the interrelation between environment, energy and international legislation. Once broken down to “utility in exchange for energy and environmental impact” everything becomes a substitute. To get ahead, all executives will need to navigate through global legislation and strive to be increasingly efficient with our global resources, or else consumers will find a competitor that is.
My advice to you… if you want your company and industry to be around in the future become a CleanTechie in what ever you do. That’s it. For further reading on why I think executives need to watch the environment, energy and international legislation and why cleantech will flourish because of the confluence of these three things, read my notes over the next couple days.
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