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02nd May 2024

The UK GreenTech Catalyst Conference: Igniting Innovation 

Jessica Farrow

On Thursday the 25th of April, Halston Group hosted the inaugural UK GreenTech Catalyst Conference. This event was brought about to spark conversation and collaboration between emerging GreenTechs and established heavy industries, to see how we can address key issues in the sector and boost adoption of green technology and practices.   

To tackle the unique and often parallel problems faced in the GreenTech and heavy industries, the day was broken down into two segments. The morning session was crafted to be focused on these innovative GreenTechs that are seeking support to thrive. With a combination of workshops and panels, the morning aimed to provide insight and value to growing GreenTechs. And that is exactly what was delivered!  

Below are some of the core highlights from the day, with quotes and advice from leaders in the sector.  

The Keynote

Delivered by Mike Kefford, UKI Principle IBM Sustainability Software, the keynote set the tone for the day. Mike gave an overview of IBM’s journey to pursue greener practices and how they have approached the transition, giving advice to those that seeking to make similar changes.  

First and foremost, “design for sustainability”. He explained that right now not everything is being designed with sustainability in mind, especially the full lifecycle of an asset. He gave the example of wind farms and solar panels which yes, they deliver sustainable benefits, but you can’t recycle them once they reach end of life which therefore creates unnecessary waste.   

To make something truly sustainability-centric, Mike noted the importance of data. 

“Without data, sustainability is not visible, it’s not actionable, and it’s not operational. We see data as one of the key differentiators. How do you take what you learn today and move forward?” 

He implored the importance of the authenticity of data as “when the data is weak, people don’t trust the products” which can be a massive hindrance to the adoption rate of said technologies. And this data cannot be singular to your business either, it needs to be drawn in from the entire supply chain to consider Scope 3 emissions. 

“We have to be joined up with data and ensure it is authentic if we want to make a real impact.” 


 GreenTech Growth Workshop  

 The next feature of the event included a collaborative workshop, starting with expertise from GreenTech businesses who have, or are in the process of developing ,a route to market, giving their stories of trials and tribulations.   

The panel featured: 

  • Jordan Appleson – CEO of Hark 
  • Lucy Hall – Co-Founder & CEO of Loanhood 
  • Kristan Bullet – Founder & CEO of Humans Not Robots 

It was chaired by Geneveive Leveille, Principle Founder & CEO of AgriLedger. 


The GreenTech Panel

Lucy kicked off the session by providing insight into Loanhood, which was brought about to address the overconsumption and wastefulness of the fashion industry.  

“For clothes, 70% of emissions happen in the production phase – we need to extend the lifespan of clothes. Gen Z and Gen A are demanding sustainability. They only want to work for sustainable companies. There’s a value-action gap – we all want to be sustainable, but it needs to be a convenient switch. Gen Z are pushing the resale agenda but then buying fast fashion from companies that are greenwashing and pushing another agenda.” 

She explained the difficulty of getting the balance right when attracting consumers and not trying to associate negativity with buying new clothes.  

Next up, Jordan delivered insight into how a business can pursue more sustainable practices.  

“It comes down to culture – if a business has that in mind, then people will make decisions top-down without having to think about it.” 

The Workshop

After the insight delivered by those in the industry, we brought groups together to discuss the topics raised in the panel and wanted them to answer the following questions and this is how they responded.

Question 1 – What are the biggest barriers when it comes to route to market?

  • Getting the value proposition right  
  • Stronger policies to encourage adoption 
  • Cost of doing business  
  • Funding  
  • Time from CEOs, especially in those start-ups and SMEs 
  • Gaining lip service from people who say they want to adopt but seeing no real follow-through 
  • Finding the real decision maker 
  • Lack of evidence to back the technology  
  • Green premium 
  • Reliability of green alternatives 

 Question 2 What are the challenges when it comes to the investment landscape for GreenTechs?

  • Recognising that it is evolving and changing  
  • Stakeholder education 
  • Making grants that are more accessible and don’t require a lot of spending  
  • Confusing and complex landscapes 
  • That vicious cycle of needing money to make money 
  • Proving ROI on the green alternative  

Question 3 – How are you creating a compelling sustainability narrative? 

  • Workshops with SMEs 
  • Building a GreenTech community  
  • Clearer communication on cost 
  • Trying to sell a compelling story with data  




Panel 1 – How to Attract Investment

Our next panel of the day was dedicated to the topic of investment, bringing together leading investment firms to give advice to emerging GreenTechs who are seeking investment at any stage. 


Our panel of experts included: 

  • Samuel Judge, Partner at Page White Farrar 
  • Elizabeth Young, Investment Manager at Par Equity  
  • Stuart Ferguson, Investor at Sustainable Ventures 


The panel was chaired by James Whyman, Associate Director at KPMG Acceleris. 



Supporting GreenTechs Seeking Investment

The first question posed to Samuel by James was, “How do businesses build IP in the right way?” 

“Start-ups that have IP attract 3 times more investment. Businesses need to recognise the value of their technology, but also be able to protect it. A patent is an asset, a monopoly on your technology that is widely respected and gives you peace of mind. However, I would advise anyone considering IP to keep your invention private until your patent application is through.” 


The second question was directed to Elizabeth and surrounded the current investment landscape for GreenTech innovators. 

“From a personal ethos and economic perspective, it makes sense to invest in the sector. However, there are huge problems that need to be solved. A lot of standards are still being set and we do need more investors to invest in the infrastructure space.” 


Next up, the question raised to Stuart was,“What are you looking for in a GreenTech’s investment pitch?” 

“The first thing I look at is the value proposition. What problem are you solving? How? Are you doing it cost-effectively? Has your team got the skillet to see this through? What’s the market opportunity – is it worth the risk?” 


He went onto advise, “Don’t bury your value proposition on slide 8 – make sure important information including your value proposition and USPs are on the first slide. Prove to me you deeply understand your customers and that you’re going to solve their problems.” 

Panel 2 – Business Support for GreenTechs  


Innovative GreenTechs need more than just funding, they need advice and guidance to enable them to scale. So the final panel of the morning session was devoted to wider business support, with both local policymakers and business support initiatives comprising the panel to showcase what is available to growing GreenTechs.  


The panel involved: 

  • Vicky Wilding, GreenTech & Services Lead for Green Economy 
  • Sarah Goodman, Director at Deloitte UK 
  • Fiona Conor, Managing Director at Trust Electric Heating  


Posing questions to the panel was chair Richelle Schuster from CREATICITY.  


Business Support for GreenTechs

To kick off this panel, Fiona gave a first-hand story of Trust Electric Heating’s journey throughout the years, explaining both the things that went well and the struggles they faced along the way. She described how they had faced cash flow problems, and when they did source funding they gave too high a stake away in the business. However, on the flipside she explained how Oxford Innovation had supported them with funding and support and how she just wished she had found them sooner.  

After this story, Vicky enlightened the audience about the business support that is readily available to GreenTechs.   

“WYCA has decarbonisation support that is brilliant and fully-funded. It includes full business diagnostics and support throughout the procurement journey.” 

Sarah finishes off the session by advising GreenTechs on the support/funding landscape. 

“When it comes to grant funding, be strategic. Your time is precious, and some grants are hyper-competitive and therefore may not be worth dedicating a great deal of time to it. To add to this, we are likely to see a new government, but the policy supporting innovation should remain the same. The government is looking for some of those easy wins at the moment rather than being really forward-thinking. The underlying thing they are looking for is job creation.” 



The morning portion of The UK GreenTech Catalyst Conference was full to the brim with insight from experts and collaborative discussion from attendees. To discover what happened throughout the rest of the day, take a read of the afternoon round-up!