Across the globe investments in clean technologies have been on the rise for years. According to Bloomberg NEF, clean energy attracted a record US$329 billion in global investment in 2015. With countries like the United States, Germany and China in the lead the rest of the world appears to be in hot pursuit. Or is it?

Competitive advantage for smaller countries
Smaller countries may feel left behind in the race for cleantech patents, economic success and global climate impact. But in fact, these countries may have the perfect competitive advantage. Scotland, for example, is one of the world’s most climate-ambitious countries. It set itself world-leading climate and renewable energy targets and has low carbon industries worth £11 billion a year at the last analysis. And it managed to beat its 2020 climate targets six years early.

“Small nations have the opportunity to take what works and replicate it on a large scale by collaborating across sectors to unlock the barriers to a thriving zero carbon future,” says Ed Craig, Deputy Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI) and Climate-KIC lead for Scotland.

With a population just shy of 5.5 million, Scotland as a whole has fewer people than big name cities like London or New York. Scotland’s cities – such as Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee – are, like most cities around the world, more compact. This makes them ideal as engines of change to drive transformation in the places we live.

Edinburgh, for example, has no shortage of opportunities to put low carbon solutions into practice. The Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal will see £300 million of public money invested in data-driven innovation over the next 10 years. ECCI is working to focus this on low carbon mobility and smart city innovation, with new developments on Edinburgh’s waterfront providing an ideal test bed for radical new approaches.

Scotland’s goals and legal framework
The UK and Scottish Climate Change Acts set world leading legislation to mandate steep emissions reductions and develop effective risk management strategies for climate change. The Climate Change Act 2008 commits the UK government by law to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. Scotland’s 2009 Climate Change Act includes an emissions target, set for the year 2050, for a reduction of at least 80% from 1990.

In January 2017, the Scottish Government outlined plans to meet its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 66 per cent on 1990 levels by 2032. These plans come after Scotland beat its 2020 climate targets six years early.

The Scottish Energy Strategy, published in December 2017, sets out plans for half of Scotland’s heat, transport and electricity needs to be met using renewables by 2030, and for Scotland to phase out new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032.

All this was translated into legal frameworks requiring public and private sector organisations to manage their emissions, explore new sources of energy and manage climate risk.

The role of the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI)
These developments challenged the Scottish university sector to deliver issue-orientated rather than discipline-orientated research. To ensure their research was relevant to and had impact in the real world partnerships were needed with business and government to deliver solutions at scale. This is where ECCI comes in.

ECCI was established in 2010 to take the lead in this emerging space and trigger the collaborative action needed to deliver on Scotland’s climate ambitions. It’s the leading low carbon hub for Scotland and beyond, driving cross-sector collaboration and effective action for a zero carbon world. It joins forces with leading national and international organisations working at the cutting edge of public policy, business and research to drive action.

ECCI’s Ed Craig: “Scotland’s ecosystem brings together the legal framework, expertise and entrepreneurial spark to drive change on a massive scale. Creating thriving low carbon cities isn’t just about curbing climate change. It’s the best way to create vibrant and liveable places with strong economic growth.”

The centre will draw on its role delivering projects, policy expertise and business support for a zero carbon future. This includes its role co-leading ClimateXChange – Scotland’s centre of expertise on climate change – and delivering the Sustainable Scotland Network of sustainability professionals.

Cities cluster together the people, ideas and resources to make low carbon solutions a reality. They are our best chance of creating change on the scale needed. So ECCI is working on several projects, funded by its partner Climate-KIC, to harness cities’ power as wider engines of change.

Ed Craig explains: “Scotland’s world-leading record on climate action is backed by a thriving cleantech sector forging new ground in areas from data to smart mobility.”

Small country leading by example
The numbers are impressive. Low carbon industries in Scotland generated £11 billion in turnover and supported 43,500 jobs in 2014 ( This accounts for 12.9% of the total UK turnover, and 9.7% of the total employment, in the sector – both higher than Scotland’s share of the population.

Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands: “These figures underline both the huge opportunity that decarbonising our energy system presents, as well as the critical importance of continuing to support the sector properly – encouraging investment, generating value, and creating jobs across Scotland.”

The global conversation on fixing climate change hosted by ECCI. November 1-2, Edinburgh

As their official Scottish partner, ECCI is bringing the Climate-KIC 2018 ClimateLaunchpad Global Grand Final to Edinburgh. ClimateLaunchpad is the green business ideas competition that unlocks the world’s cleantech potential. The programme is currently running in 50 locations across 5 continents. The Global Grand Final is where the top-3 start-ups of each participating country get to compete and pitch in front of a renowned jury.

This year’s Global Grand Final promises to be a conversation with 700+ people. Leading minds, policy makers and corporates from across the globe will be flying to Edinburgh to shape this conversation. The line-up of keynote speakers from Africa, Europe and the US is impressive. Among them are Puon Penn (EVP/Head of Technology Capital Wells Fargo), Dawn Lippert (CEO Elemental Accelerator & Innovation) and Edward Mungai (Kenya Climate Innovation Centre). The programme leaves plenty of room for expert workshops and lively networking breaks.
ClimateLaunchpad is part of EIT Climate-KIC, the European Union’s leading program for climate innovation. This year marks the 5th edition of the competition. Over the years more than 4,000 start-ups have enrolled, trained and competed in ClimateLaunchpad. Many of them are well on their way to create global climate impact.

Ed Craig, Deputy Director of ECCI: “It’s an honour for ECCI to host this year’s ClimateLaunchpad global finals here in Edinburgh, capital city of one of the world’s most climate-ambitious countries. We can’t wait to roll out the red carpet for this year’s top ClimateLaunchpad recruits and see them battle it out for the top prizes.”

For more information about the event: