Public, Private Sector Entities Announce Initiatives to Connect Globally

July 24, 2014

As the world becomes more globally connected, both public and private entities have turned their attention to foreign markets in the hopes of spurring innovation, capital creation, and economic prosperity. Whether their effort is developing international business partnerships, attempting to attract foreign direct investment (FDI), investing in startups, or taking advantage of international demand, the entities establishing these initiatives view long-term economic success for both firms and regions as dependent upon entering the global market place. Initiatives in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island are examples of public sector efforts that are looking for opportunities abroad to support economic growth.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick recently announced the launch of the Universal Partnerships (UP) Program, a new state program to provide grants for the formation of R&D collaborations between Massachusetts companies and international life sciences organizations. Administered by the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC), grants of up to $200,000 will be made to Massachusetts companies so they can engage in partnerships with foreign companies, institutions of higher education, hospitals, and other research institutions. Applications will be accepted year round and an ongoing review will allow for a streamlined process. State officials hope the new program will enable medical breakthroughs by offering Massachusetts companies the opportunity to work with global research partners. The UP Program also is intended to support economic growth across the state. Read the announcement…

In late 2013, the SEDA Council of Governments (SEDA-COG) and its partners announced approximately $3 million in funding for a new three-year program to attract international investment and generate economic growth across 52 rural counties in central Pennsylvania. By leveraging federal grant funding, the program will focus on training and preparing economic development professionals to interact with potential foreign investors. Education efforts will include best practices in how to attract and host foreign investors as well as learning more about foreign cultures and proper international business protocol.  The program is specifically intended to support the growth of the state’s manufacturing industry.

In addition to these public initiatives, two private sector funds were recently established to take advantage of foreign investment opportunities. These new announcements beg the question – what will happen to the availability of capital for U.S. startups as U.S. corporate venture capital and U.S. investment fund managers look increasingly abroad for potential investment opportunities?

Google Ventures, the company’s corporate venture capital unit, announced a new venture fund that will make investments into European startups. According to an article from Bloomberg.com, the fund will initially receive $100 million in funding and be headquartered in London.  Bill Maris, a Managing Partner at Google Ventures, wrote in a blog post on the Google website that Europe’s startup scene has enormous potential and European startups will be essential to the future.

According to the Wall Street Journal, two private investment firms – GSR Ventures and Oak Investment Partners – created a new, venture fund that will invest in cleantech companies with the potential to scale in China. The proposed $500 million G-O Scale Capital fund is intended to take advantage of the Chinese government’s push for investment in clean technologies.  The two investment firms believe that China will be rife with opportunities for cleantech firms and the investors of those companies.

While the Google Venture announcements may raise concern about corporate venture capital shifting toward a more global position, the G-O Scale Capital fund indicates that U.S. startups may in certain sectors be able to leverage the increasingly globalized investment market when domestic investors are hesitant to invest. Although cleantech firms have fallen out of favor with many U.S. investors due to several bad returns on deals, the increasing Chinese demand for clean technologies may provide a revival for cleantech investments. However, cleantech startups and other startups interested in global markets must be able to understand global trends and develop well-informed, internationally focused business growth strategies to unlock the potential of these global opportunities.

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Massachusettsstate tbed, entrepreneurship, cleantech