Fostering growth of fledgling companies and helping larger ones take root is Lisa Bicker's strategy to bring San Diego to the forefront of the clean technology industry.
As the new president of CleanTECH San Diego, Bicker believes America's Finest City has the potential to become an international center for clean technology. Among the city's assets are its vast availability of sun and wind, international border and a can-do mentality, Bicker said.
"What we have here in San Diego is a culture of collaboration and a mentality of taking a good idea and turning it into an economic engine," Bicker said. CleanTECH San Diego is the brainchild of Mayor Jerry Sanders. After noticing the region was beginning to draw a contingency of clean technology companies, Sanders established the nonprofit trade association. The organization defines clean technology as green, renewable and alternative technology in the industries of energy, water, recycling, transportation, materials, manufacturing and agriculture.
A lawyer with over 20 years experience in the renewable energy industry, Bicker joined the trade association in February. Bicker hails from the San Francisco Bay Area, where she served as president of the California Clean Energy Fund (CALCEF).
Having worked for several startup renewable energy companies, Bicker also brings to the table her experience on the entrepreneurial side of the industry. She is excited about the opportunity to combine her experience to facilitate collaboration between members of the industry, she said.
"I am very hopeful about organizations that combine the private and public sectors," Bicker said.
CleanTECH's members include private companies, city governments and universities including the University of California, San Diego; San Diego State University; the cities of San Diego and Chula Vista; and companies like Kyocera (NYSE: KYO), Envision Solar and Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM).
"When you combine so many interests, the blend is very powerful," Bicker said.
She plans to use that power in advocating for renewable energies on the city, state and national levels. One of the organization's primary focuses is the proposed state-funded research organization to focus solely on climate change, supported by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The creation of such an organization is only a matter of time, and Bicker wants to make sure it is headquartered in San Diego, she said.
The organization would be an asset to the region, drawing more companies. Such a move would create green jobs, despite the poor economy, Bicker said.
"Clean technology is one of the bright spots in this uncertain time," she said. "Clean technology is a growing industry, it's very much in an upswing."
After working with CleanTECH, Spanish company Silicon Industries recently announced its plans to relocate to San Diego, Bicker said.
As CleanTECH's support base grows, the organization strives to find ways for its members to collaborate. The nonprofit will help startups with the commercialization process and link solar companies with other members interested in implementing the technology, Bicker said. The goal is to promote clean technology from a business standpoint.
To showcase San Diego's clean technology companies, the organization hosts various awards. Most recently, CleanTECH San Diego partnered with CONNECT to host the CleanTECH Venture Roundtable. CleanTECH San Diego shares its La Jolla offices with CONNECT, an organization that encourages entrepreneurship in the technology industry. The awards honored the unique innovations of four of San Diego's clean technology companies.
Among the honorees were Ecolite Concrete USA's concrete wall product, Kai BioEnergy Corp.'s algae-based biofuel and Energy Eye's energy saving heating and air conditioning sensors. Scientific Applications and Research Associates also became a finalist for a pollution-free generator that harnesses the power of the ocean's waves.
"I liked the diversity of the finalists," Bicker said. "It shows the diversity of our clean technology industry here in San Diego."
Although CleanTECH is an organization created to advance the interests of the industry, Bicker hopes such technologies will ultimately transform San Diego's landscape and improve the quality of life for residents.
In addition to the environmental benefits, clean technology is beginning to make economic sense. While a segment of the population is interested in environmentalism, many companies are looking at clean technology as a good investment, Bicker said.
"The green industry is not just about feeling good, feeling like you're helping the environment." Bicker said. "The industry is growing well beyond that."