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Clean-Tech Job Forecast 2010

Jan 22, 2010 - Kevin Brown and Steve Kyryk - Clean Edge

Kevin BrownWith their fingers on the pulse of clean-tech hiring trends, we asked Senior Partner Kevin Brown and Vice President Steve Kyryk of Hobbs & Towne Executive Search (HTI) to provide insight into the impact of the 'Great Recession' on the industry and areas for opportunity in 2010.

Recession Took Toll on Global and Smaller Clean-Tech Companies Alike

As the global recession took hold, all ventures regardless of their technology and stage of corporate development instituted capital conservation programs until the effects were better known. While the headlines were dominated by the loss of jobs on Wall Street and at large global enterprises like Dow and Dupont (not to mention BP deciding to restructure their alternative energy strategies), smaller next generation alternative and renewable energy companies were suffering the same effects. Companies like Codon Devices, GreenFuel, and VeraSun shut their doors or declared bankruptcy while high profile Tesla Motors laid people off and continued to reshuffle their executive team.

Q4 2009 Marked the Initial Signs of a Clean-Tech Turn-Around, but Job Growth Will be Slow

September 2009 was a month to remember in terms of increased activity on the hiring front with significantly higher numbers of executive recruiting assignments compared to the previous 12 months. Stimulus grants and awards from the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) last Fall set in motion renewed clean-tech job growth with hundreds of millions of dollars awarded to clean-tech companies leading to hires in both the private and public sectors. We also saw considerable increase in activity from both investors and their portfolio companies such as Amyris pursuing partnerships with three sugar and ethanol producers in Brazil (Bunge Limited, Cosan, and Acucar Guarani) while raising additional capital in 2009. And as credit markets thaw and larger projects move forward, we expect a continued increase in hiring at larger energy companies in 2010.

Clean Tech is Attracting Top Quality Talent

As clean-tech matures, more and more companies are looking for experienced engineers, managers, and other professionals who have a background in process technologies (petrochemicals, semiconductors, oil and gas, or industrial biotech) and want to make the switch to clean tech. At the executive level, and as described in Clean Edge's Clean Tech Job Trends 2009 report, smart grid companies are poaching high-level expertise from major information technology and software companies:

  • In mid-2009, Silver Spring Networks, a leading developer of grid networks, lured Judy Lin away from Cisco Systems where she had been senior vice president of the company's Ethernet switching technology group. She now serves as chief product officer for Silver Spring.

  • Not long before Lin's move, John Spirtos left his post as senior vice president of Comverse Technology – a communication and billing software provider – to become head of corporate development and strategy at GridPoint, one of the top grid network platform developers.

    In another sign of a maturing industry, solar industry veteran Dan Shugar is at the helm of his third solar company – Solaria – a low-concentration PV module manufacturer. Previously, Shugar managed the Solar Projects & Research Group at PG&E before becoming CEO at PowerLight -- which was later acquired by SunPower.

    Growth Area: Water

    We continue to see growth in the water industry. Not confined to traditional water purification, we see exceptional growth potential among companies pursuing advanced materials (NanoH2O) and novel processes (Oasys Water) or utilizing synthetic biology to control the influx and efflux of water molecules through live cells (Danfoss).

    Growth Area: Smart Grid

    Investors have shown a keen and almost unyielding focus on smart grid opportunities as we slowly start to add intelligence to the antiquated electric grid. We have seen a couple of great new technologies during the last few months coming out of energy management companies such as Tendril Networks and Powerit Solutions. The utility software developer GRIDiant is currently hiring for a number of positions.

    It's Time to Make a Decision on Carbon Policy

    While stimulus grants are serving to jumpstart technology programs and some first generation renewable energy manufacturing facilities, a large portion of the money actually found its way to projects that were in the pipeline in 2007. The only way to drive long-term clean-tech industry growth is with a clear and meaningful policy on carbon. Not a policy branded conservative or liberal with a bunch of hidden carve out dollars for pet projects; just a federally binding decision so companies, investors, and the rest of us know the rules of the game. Once the rules are set investors and entrepreneurs can go to work with greater confidence, resulting in millions of new jobs being created across the country.


Updated: 2016/06/30

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