Two competitions to accelerate the revolution: one from a corporation, one from a government

In an era of populist leaders prepared to ignore both the clean energy revolution and the imperatives for it, favouring wilful denial and incumbents that are uneconomic or soon to be, companies and governments with eyes open face much greater leadership responsibilities than they would have in a world unified by respect for the rational. One of their options in this role is the staging of competitions to reward front-running revolutionary innovators. Let me describe two such competitions, under way at the moment, that I am exciting by and involved in.
DSM is a global science-based health, nutrition and materials conglomerate which began life as a miner of coal, among other things – DSM originally stood for Dutch State Mining – and is now one of the world’s front-running transnational corporations not just on climate change but sustainability across the full spectrum. That journey in itself is an inspiring story, but if you want to be truly inspired (and based on my own experience, shaken up emotionally) watch this short film of what DSM believes science can do for the state of the modern world.
I am proud to be a consultant to this company, and that two solar organisations I founded, Solarcentury and SolarAid, are partnered with them and others in the Bright Minds Challenge. This is a competition that seeks to reward entrepreneurs with renewable energy solutions that are ready to scale, with a specific focus on solar and energy storage solutions. Applications close on 1st February and the winner is announced in June. The prize is in kind: a basket of expert help aiming to turbocharge the winner. Here is what innovators at Solarcentury have to say about it all.
The Start Up Energy Transition Award is an initiative of the Germany government. This competition seeks to create a platform with a clear focus on scaling up innovation to make global energy transition a success while speeding up efforts against climate change. It aims to identify the most promising start-ups worldwide working on energy transition, and offers a different prize model: 5-digit prize money in each of the 5 categories. Applications close at the end of January, and the winners will be awarded at the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue in March 2017. This is a key event in the climate calendar for the coming year, especially given Germany’s chairmanship of the G20. It is organized by the Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) and the Federal Foreign Office (AA). I am proud to be an ambassador for it, and for SolarAid to be a partner.
So if you are a clean energy innovator reading this, or if you know of someone who is, you have three weeks to get applications in, if you haven’t already. And of course, the great thing about these competitions is that positive outcomes can transpire even if you don’t win. The key thing about revolutions is to act. If you do that, you create the space for good things to happen.
We are all going to need a lot of good things to happen, to countervail the bad that we seem locked into, in the year ahead. As such, both these competitions are microcosms for hope.