Qatar fund eyes Irish cleantech companies


AER SUSTAINABLE ENERGY; SOLARPRINT; RED-T; IKON SEMICONDUCTOR:REPRESENTATIVES of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund joined venture capital firms from Europe, the UK, US and Japan earlier this month to hear investment pitches from several Irish cleantech companies.

Sources who attended Enterprise Ireland’s annual investor day in London said it was the first time that financiers from the Middle East had attended the event, demonstrating the calibre of the Irish companies present.

It is believed that the executives were scouting for investments that fit strategically with the aims of Qatar’s ministry of energy, pointing to a particular interest in the four cleantech firms that were among the 25 Irish companies there.

Among the VCs that attended were London-based cleantech backers WHEB Ventures, which has a stake in Limerick-based bin-weighing firm AMCS Group. Intel Capital and Braemar Energy Ventures, both of which have backed Limerick-based Powervation, were also there.

Seeking to raise €2 million was Aer Sustainable Energy, a UCD-based biofuel technology developer. The company recently recruited Donal Mac Nioclais, former commercial manager of wave energy firm Aquamarine Power, as chief executive.

Aer’s prospective customers include a US biotech leader, two of the most advanced algae fuel developers in the US and a US defence contractor.

Sandyford-based solar cell developer SolarPrint aims to raise €6 million. The company, shortlisted for The Irish Times Innovation awards in 2010, has already trialled its cells (diagram above) with 18 prospective customers and plans to prove and then scale volume production in conjunction with a manufacturing partner. A key target market for SolarPrint is in powering wireless sensors, especially for monitoring motion, gas or energy use in a building.

Clontarf-based energy storage firm Red-T hopes to raise €5 million as it develops flow batteries so that it can target the $6.5 billion market in powering telecoms masts.

The fourth cleantech firm, seeking to raise €3 million, was LED technology firm Ikon Semiconductor, whose target customers include lighting firms, manufacturers of LED driver modules and power supply companies. The company successfully raised a second tranche of seed funding of €800,000 earlier this year and says its technology may also be suited to the PC power supply, offline battery charging and LED bulb retrofit markets.