Man on a Cleantech Mission: A VC Visits the U.K. (Day One)


London: Sunday June 8, Noon *

We knew we had arrived when we came out of the underground station at Westminster and looked up at “Big Ben” and Parliament. We really knew we had arrived when traffic from both directions (look right, then left) stopped to let us cross Abingdon Street. Four members of the U.S./U.K. cleantech trade mission team lugging our bags down Abingdon Street towards our hotel, we looked like the Beatles crossing Abbey Road but with less hair and more luggage. We opted to take public transportation so as to fully experience the U.K. ‘s green infrastructure but quickly realized that you need to plan differently if you are going to “ride the tube.” The nice thing is that you can get from inside Heathrow Airport into Center City London very easily, which incents one to do so…

So what are we doing here besides enjoying a rare sunny, blue sky day in London? From my point of view (and that of Flagship Ventures, to extrapolate), cleantech and sustainability are global topics. Energy supply chains, carbon emissions & their impact, and the interconnect of both to economic growth, are inarguably global. Most countries are far ahead of the U.S. in regulatory frameworks, cleantech adoption, and in societal behaviors. So in short, we are here to learn, to create a dialogue with U.K. cleantech leaders, and to come home smarter and more able to forward the cleantech agenda in the U.S..

Keep an eye on this space, where I’ll update you on the ambitious agenda that Kirsten Chambers of the UK Trade & Investment team has put together for us. Over the next five days, we will be in London, Cambridge, Manchester, and Newcastle, all critical nodes for the U.K. cleantech ecosystem. We’ll be meeting U.K. -based investors, policy makers, non-profit leaders, cleantech entrepreneurs, and the top executives energy infrastructure companies.

Now off to lunch and wander about the City…

* Jim Matheson is a general partner with Flagship Ventures in Cambridge, MA. He is part of a small Boston contingent visiting Britain this week on a clean energy fact-finding and information sharing trip organized by UK Trade & Investment. He plans to file regular updates throughout the week.

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