Australian CleanTech founder John O’Brien has joined Deloitte financial advisory as a partner in the firm’s energy, resources & industrials group, in a sign that the cleantech sector is going mainstream.
While Australian CleanTech will continue to exist and be engaged in industrial development activities, the company’s client work is largely shifting to Deloitte with him.
Cleantech has gone from being a small boutique sector to the mainstream, he told The Fifth Estate in a phone conversation on Tuesday.
“For the last couple of years I have been having heavy industry calling me,” Mr O’Brien said.
Heavy industry was recognising it needed to know about the cleantech sector, and what the risks and opportunities were, he said.
It has also been showing an interest in what technology providers are out there.
Since he shifted to Deloitte a few weeks ago, many big firms have been getting on the phone seeking services, he said.
“There have been a fair few emails coming through saying, ‘We need to talk.’”
There are also champions of sustainable approaches in companies saying to him, “Now we can roll you out to people.”
“It is easier for big industry to use me now because they are hiring Deloitte, rather than hiring a little cleantech thing,” Mr O’Brien said.
Along with working on these new opportunities and consulting for existing clients that have shifted across, Mr O’Brien will also be involved in recruiting of a new team in the space.
He said the firm’s focus initially would be on recruiting people with deep experience in the new energy sector and those with strong commercial expertise. The team will initially be based on Sydney. While Mr O’Brien remains based in Adelaide, a shift to Sydney or another Deloitte office is on the cards, potentially for next year.
Mr O’Brien has also handed over the reins of the annual Australian Technology Competition (ATC) to Pat Mooney from Impact Tech Ventures. Mr Mooney has been a judge on the ATC for many years, and Mr O’Brien will remain involved as a judge.
Mr O’Brien said when he began running the ATC he thought it could lead to new clients for his company. However, the majority of consulting activity generated by his involvement was from industry and government wanting to know about some of the technology coming through.
Deloitte has welcomed Mr O’Brien on board.
“John is a respected leader in his field, helping organisations and governments manage the risks and seize the opportunities from the disruption as we transition to a low carbon economy,” Deloitte energy, resources & industrials national lead Michael Rath said.
“We’re delighted to welcome him to the team and to significantly strengthen our capability in this renewable energy, sustainability and clean technology space advising clients as they navigate the pace and scale of change throughout all areas of their business.”
David McCarthy, Deloitte managing partner financial advisory, said the combination of a changing regulatory environment, investor focus and emerging technologies was “presenting both enormous challenges and opportunities for any company that provides or uses energy.”
Mr McCarthy said Mr O’Brien would allow the firm to further deliver on its commitment to help them “navigate these difficult waters”.