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New accelerator opportunity for Bulgarian and Romanian sustainability startups

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ClimAccelerator Black Sea, a program for sustainability startups with solutions contributing to eco-innovation, will offer support to 14 Bulgarian companies. The four-month program, which is jointly organized by Innovation Starter Accelerator, Impact Hub Bucharest, and Climate Vertical Romania, will be supported by the European Technology and Innovation Fund of the European Union. ClimAccelerator Black Sea is set to begin in September 2021. 

In 2021, the program will provide 8 sustainability startups in their validation phase with a grant, amounting to €5K. Three companies in their “initial stage” phase will get the chance to compete for funding of €20K to develop their idea. In addition, three companies that are in an advanced development phase will receive mentoring support for seeking investment opportunities in order to scale their ventures. The startup teams will go through a two-month training accelerator program, during which they will scale their ideas and adapt to their development niches through educational training, networking, and mentoring activities.

The program follows the objectives and principles of the European Green Pact, which addresses climate change and environmental deterioration. As noted by Innovation Starter, the priority areas of the accelerator include sustainable green business solutions, clean technologies, and eco-innovation, with a special focus on solutions that facilitate the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere The program is expected to be launched in Romania in August. 

Bulgarian startups who would like to join the initiative can apply until August 15, 2021. The participants will be chosen by a jury of representatives of WWF Bulgaria, Greenpeace Bulgaria,, and other organizations. In connection with the accelerator, Innovation Starter Accelerator, as part of the Bulgarian-Romanian consortium, organized an in-depth survey to map the local cleantech ecosystem and identify the key trends, players, and needs in the region. The Recursive talked to the team of Innovation Starter, to learn more about the results obtained from the ecosystem mapping. 

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The Recursive: What trends in terms of verticals and solutions did you come across while researching the state of the regional cleantech ecosystem?

Innovation Starter Accelerator: Energy transition, just transition, energy efficiency top the list of trends. Alongside digitalization, the circular economy is also identified as a growing trend. As for the ecosystem, it is flourishing in initiatives, many more players appear on the market and there is a growing awareness of the importance of green startups. However, to see real change, cooperation is needed among key organizations, startups, businesses, governments, and society.

What factors do you take into account when evaluating feasible projects with real potential for development and scaling?

Crucial factors are the team, sustainable business model, and strategy. Specific to green startups, we will be looking at whether there is any hidden harm behind the good that they are doing, the so-called holistic point of view on the business model and operations.

What are the cleantech innovations that will actually make a significant difference for the region?

Those are innovations that will have the ability to be affordable and broadly accepted. As well those which do not carry hidden harm in them. Very often by solving one problem, another one is created. Therefore it is crucial for sustainability startups to take that into account. The more we build bridges in the country and in the region, like the Black Sea consortium between Romania and Bulgaria, the more we will be able to share synergies, knowledge, experience, expertise and build connections cross-border to help us innovate better.

How are NGOs supporting emerging cleantech companies? What are the key stakeholders we should know?

NGOs and similar institutions dedicated to fighting climate change are of huge help for emerging cleantech companies when it comes to shaping policies and legislations, as well as educating businesses and the population on the benefits of the various green initiatives. NGOs are also heavily involved in building civic engagement in society. Other key stakeholders, such as business organizations, hold the power and budget to lead the way to a more sustainable future.

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Viktoria is an Innovation Reporter at The Recursive and a sophomore-standing student at the American University in Bulgaria. Combining her Business Administration studies while mapping the Southeastern European startup ecosystem is a positive-sum game for her as she has the chance to interact with the most active entrepreneurs in the region. Her favorite topics include venture capital structures, investments, as well as innovations in the scitech and fintech sectors.