Bill Gates’ climate-focused venture capital fund expands its mission by adding “climate change adaptation” criteria to its investments and providing an investment fund to help start-ups green technologies to build factories and continue their development. The announcement was made at the end of the Breakthrough Energy summit organized this Wednesday, October 19, 2022, in Seattle, by the company.
So far, Breakthroug Energy had focused on “five grand challenges” by backing companies that promise to reduce pollution in power, transport, industrial production, construction and agriculture. . All these efforts are translated as forms of climate change mitigation strategies. Adaptation to climate change, on the other hand, consists of developing means aimed at strengthening protection against the dangers of climate change rather than preventing them.
In an interview, Eric Toone, technical manager of the investment committee of Breakthrough Energy Ventures, said that it is increasingly clear that adaptation will have to play a major role as global emissions continue to increase and that global warming continues.
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“Mitigation will not allow us to achieve this goal quickly enough. As for the suffering produced, it is unacceptable”, he insists, referring to a sentence uttered by John Holdren, former scientific adviser to the former US President Barack Obama, who believes that we have three options to respond to climate change: mitigation, adaptation and suffering.
“Thus, we will continue to focus on mitigation while broadening our scope to include adaptation,” continues Eric Toone.
The company will focus on several areas including ways to help farmers and communities cope with increasingly known or severe droughts. These approaches could include advanced desalination technology or systems to extract moisture from the air. It’s also about helping crops stay productive as Earth’s climate gets hotter, wetter or drier. This could possibly be done through indoor farming and genetic modification.
According to Eric Toone, Breakthrough is also looking at ways to strengthen the infrastructure of global ports. The latter face growing threats from rising sea levels and increasingly powerful storms. Breakthrough’s next investments could be dynamic mooring systems that automatically respond to storm surges, cranes that can operate safely in hotter and harsher conditions, and more robust vessels.
These new investment sectors will come into effect as part of the next Breakthrough fund the company is raising, Bill Gates recently clarified in an interview with Bloom Berg. A statement he reiterated at this week’s energy summit. However, the company has not yet specified the size of the fund or when it will be finalized. To date, Breakthrough has raised two funds of approximately $1 billion.
The fund dubbed “Select” primarily provides the money for “large-scale follow-on” purposes to enable companies to take it to the next level by carrying out demonstrations of their technologies. These projects are designed to test and optimize technologies on a larger scale but not yet at commercial scale. Eric Toone clarified that the funds will primarily, but not exclusively, go to businesses in Breakthrough’s current portfolio.
Temasek, a Singapore holding company that has invested in several other start-ups in the portfolio, will be one of the contributors to the new fund. Breakthrough has not yet announced the size of this fund or revealed the identities of the other investors.
Article by James Temple, translated from English by Kozi Pastakia.
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