Results and discussion

Using a comparative case narrative this paper contrasts the results of the solar energy and fuel cell industry. The industries, which have both reached certain market acceptance today developed to their prominence not only in the market place, but also in the investment area and in media attention. The overall media attention towards these industries has been very volatile. While fuel cell had its peak of attention in 2003, it has lost a lot of the media coverage since, while the solar energy industry had its peak in 2012. This pattern coincides with the deal activity in these industries. The correlation between deal activity and articles in the “solar energy” field is approximately 0.90 and in the “fuel cell” field reaches approximately 0.54.

— Industry deals and article

Figure 16 — Industry deals and article

Solar Energy Articles

Solar Energy Deals

Fuel Cell Fuel Cell Articles Deals

Solar Energy Articles


Solar Energy Deals



Fuel Cell Articles




Fuel Cell Deals



0,5353 1

Table 13 — Correlation table article & investments

Articles reporting on solar energy cover a broad spectrum of topics. All actors included in our dictionary get some attention over time. Particularly important are finance and regulation topics, which are covered on average in 45 % or 44 % of all articles. Entrepreneurship gets attention in 13 % of the articles, while innovation gets 11 %. Venture capital only reaches 5 % of the coverage.

— Sector frames „solar energy^

Figure 17 — Sector frames „solar energy^

Similar to solar energy all actors and sub-actors from the dictionaries get attention in the fuel cell article subset. Even the average attention resembles that of solar energy. Still highly important are finance and regulation topics which are covered on average in 40 % or 34 % of all articles respectively. Entrepreneurship coverage lies at 14 % of the articles, while innovation lies at 12 %. VC gets 5 % of the attention. The most significant difference appears on regulation reporting. The solar energy industry as part of the power sector is by nature under heavier regulatory influence, thus explaining this gap.

— Sector frames “fuel cell”

Figure 18 — Sector frames “fuel cell”

Looking at the development of the attention towards actors it is possible to observe the changing importance of those during industry growth. The peak of investments coincides with the peaks in media attention towards finance. This shows the clear connection of reporting on deal activity. Reporting on venture capital nevertheless started only in 2003, after early investments already had already taken place, but before a more established investment area emerged. Venture capital articles even precede real deal activity. This might be due to the lemmings phenomena VCs often have to face. VCs are often blamed for only investing in new topics if others already have already taken the lead and a topic has gained certain attention, including media attention (Cheng, 2009; Haislip, 2010; Lacy, 2008). Innovation reporting starts with relatively high relevance from the beginning, while entrepreneurship topics only start after the start of a more active investment environment. Articles on regulation and policy start quite late as well, as they are a signal of a maturing industry. Comparing the results of the solar energy and fuel cell sector, it is possible to observe that the importance of regulation is on average higher in the solar energy sector. The growth of this industry has been fueled by public interventions and support mechanisms typical for the power sector. Some solar companies profited heavily from state subsidies or guarantees. The other four actors have fluctuating importance, but get on average the same attention over the years.

— Investment stage funding “solar energy” (in mUSD)

Figure 19 — Investment stage funding “solar energy” (in mUSD)

Investments in the solar industry started as early as 1995 in our analysis. Much of the deal activity started eleven years later in 2006. The growth in the following two years was significant. The invested sums peaked in 2008 and dropped drastically during the financial crisis. Recovering investment activity in the years 2010 and 2011, followed by a change to later stage rounds since then speaks to a mature industry not exposed to many new entrants. The fuel cell industry had reached most deal activity in 2004 and most funds invested in 2006. No drop can be recognized after the start of the financial crisis as most VC investments shifted to late stage deals in recent years. This shows that these investments are follow-on investments. Fuel cell might therefore get defined as an already fairly mature industry. This is true to the extent that the industry has not seen many new entrants in recent years and that a consolidation of market forces took place a while ago. Still the technologies are changing and no dominant technology has yet manifested, which speaks to a less mature industry than solar energy technology.

— Investment stage funding “fuel cell” (in mUSD)

Figure 20 — Investment stage funding “fuel cell” (in mUSD)

This paper analyzed additionally to the actors the specifics of the technologies. In general it is interesting to observe that the kind of media used in this research, namely mainstream daily newspapers, rarely reports on the technology details of the industries regarded in this paper. The solar energy industry with “not very specific technology vocabulary” reaches a maximum of approximately a quarter of the articles mentioning solar energy technology specifics. In fuel cell sector news very few technology topics get mentioned with a maximum of 15 % on one kind of fuel cell type. The reporting on solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) is heavily influenced by articles on Bloom Energy, a successful VC financed company using this technology (see Figure 24 in the appendix).

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