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The Greater Zurich Area is a vibrant hub for the cleantech sector, underpinned by the Swiss people's commitment to sustainability and environmental innovation. The nation's advanced environmental policies, like the Swiss Energy Strategy 2050, draw significant investment in green technologies. Despite its small size, the Greater Zurich Area's focus on precision and high-quality solutions makes it a standout in the cleantech sector. Collaborative efforts with the EU complement these strengths, representing the collective effort needed to address climate change. We spoke with Tim Duehrkoop, founder of Xilva, to gain his insights on the evolving cleantech ecosystem and Xilva’s role in this promising field.

Tim, given your background leading and growing businesses, how do you see the landscape of cleantech startups evolving, and what role does Xilva play in this evolution?

Currently, it is a very dynamic space. I started my entrepreneurial journey in the pioneering phase of the Internet in the 1990s, and the current state of cleantech reminds me of this period: Everybody realizes that something transformative is happening, and has to happen, but nobody knows who is going to win. Our approach is essentially the same as the one we had with my previous company Namics during the Internet boom: With Xilva, we deliver quality and value to our clients, don’t jump on every hype, and advance the state of the ecosystem – this will make us successful in the long run.

 

Can you name a few players? What makes them unique?

In Zurich, I would name Climeworks, Southpole, Globalance, Inyova, and Übermorgen Ventures. Climeworks is a pioneer and world leader in technology-based carbon dioxide removal, Southpole is an early global leader in carbon credit markets, the bank Globalance is revolutionizing the Swiss private banking model by implementing a sustainable approach, Inyova brings sustainable investing to the affluent and retail segments, and Übermorgen Ventures supports sustainability-focused startups.

5 factors that make the Greater Zurich Area a cleantech hub:

  1. Strong universities: Renowned institutions like UZH, ETH, and ZHAW provide talent and collaborative research opportunities.
  2. Cleantech ecosystem: A thriving community of cleantech companies fosters innovation.
  3. Investor interest: Considerable investments in cleantech fuel the sector's growth.
  4. Public support: The broader public is interested in cleantech, creating a supportive environment for sustainable initiatives.
  5. Sustainability leadership: Greater Zurich is at the forefront in fields like circularity and biodiversity, solidifying its appeal for cleantech companies.

In general, which location factors are important for cleantech companies? And why?

Comparable to other startup industries, you need an ecosystem with strong individual factors, and strong connections between them: Access to talent, research cooperation opportunities with universities, a favorable regulatory environment, other companies in the space, and a general openness for the topic in broader society.

 

Coming back to Xilva, why did you choose to do business in Greater Zurich? Did you evaluate other metropolitan regions?

I think Greater Zurich ideally combines these location factors: With UZH, ETH, and ZHAW, there are strong universities in the relevant fields. There is a robust ecosystem of cleantech companies, with considerable interest in the field from the broader public and on the investor side. This enthusiasm across all relevant areas – universities, investors, and the general public – translates into hands-on support on many levels.

There is a robust ecosystem of cleantech companies, with considerable interest in the field from the broader public and on the investor side. This enthusiasm across all relevant areas – universities, investors, and the general public – translates into hands-on support on many levels.
Tim Duehrkoop
Tim Duehrkoop - Xilva, Co-founder & CEO

Can you elaborate on how Xilva's digital infrastructure for forestry investments contributes to addressing climate change and promoting sustainability?

In one sentence: We make it possible to invest with confidence in forests. Healthy forests are a great climate and biodiversity solution and a super valuable natural asset. Many investors know this and have made large investments in forests. Assessing impact, quality, and risks can be challenging though, and this is where we come in: Our standardized assessment tools help investors understand what is going on – so they can invest with confidence in forests. 

 

Startups are often seen as laboratories for innovative solutions. In what ways is Xilva pioneering new approaches to reforestation and carbon removal?

What sets us apart is our integrated approach – we don’t look solely at finances, project leadership, forestry intervention design, carbon, biodiversity, or social impact. Instead, we combine all these factors into one complete picture. Only with this approach can the full value of a forest for nature and for humans be captured, while understanding and mitigating the risks to ensure the success of the forest project. Luckily, technology can contribute a lot – it allows us to cross-reference and analyze vast amounts of data and provide analysis at scale.

 

Can you tell us about any recent successes that Xilva has had in the cleantech and sustainability space, and how these align with your vision for addressing climate issues?

We have recently been quite successful selling our assessment tool Xilva GRADE. Our client list includes large companies, financial investors, and specialists in the field. This success has multiple benefits: business for us, validation opportunities for our tools, and it means that these organizations invest in forests, which is what we wanted to achieve with Xilva in the first place.

Sustainable business region

Sustainable business region

The Greater Zurich Area is at the forefront of Switzerland's journey towards a sustainable future. With a deep-rooted commitment to the environment, this region is a hub for businesses fostering innovation and environmental responsibility. Discover how the Greater Zurich Area navigates the evolving landscape of sustainable business and innovation.

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Sustainability Teaser

The Greater Zurich Area is home to the highest concentration of technological excellence in the most stable environment in Europe. What’s your vision for the location to attract even more sustainable, impactful businesses?

It starts with the hygiene factors for startups: Low regulatory and bureaucratic burdens, practical and straightforward taxation, and the availability of office space. Further, it's essential to keep the momentum of the success factors mentioned before: Having leading universities actively involved in the field, providing access to talent and fostering research collaboration, nurturing a robust investor ecosystem, generating public interest in the field, and taking a leadership role in areas such as circularity and biodiversity protection.

One specific area that is a bit overlooked is “green fintechs” – tech companies active in sustainable finance. Here, Greater Zurich can combine its strengths in technology and sustainability with its well-developed financial sector. This is a great opportunity with a perfect “brand fit” for the Greater Zurich Area!

 

 

About Tim Duehrkoop
Tim Duehrkoop is the co-founder and CEO of Xilva, a cleantech startup specializing in digital infrastructure for forestry investments. Driven by a passion for addressing climate issues, he co-founded Xilva to make a meaningful impact through reforestation and sustainable investments in Switzerland. Tim is a strong advocate for startups as laboratories for climate solutions and is actively engaged in promoting sustainability in the Swiss startup ecosystem.

Swiss cleantech innovation ecosystem and related documents

Swiss cleantech innovation ecosystem

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