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Climate tech investment grows at five times the venture capital market rate over seven years

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VC and corporate investment in startups developing technology enabled solutions to climate change, and the transformation to net zero emissions, grew at a faster rate than VC investment as a whole between 2013 – 2019. In that time, US$60 billion of early stage capital was invested globally into startups contributing to tackling the net zero challenge. 

As Climate Week in New York focuses attention on transforming business and economies to net zero emissions, the new research by PwC examines the global startup ecosystem critical to commercialising the innovation needed to make a net zero future a reality. The first-of-its-kind analysis defines the climate tech investment landscape, and examines global early-stage climate tech deals, volumes, trends, sectors and investors. Climate tech is defined as a broad umbrella of solutions to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across energy, transport, the built environment, industrial processes, and food and land use; in addition to shifts towards less resource-incentive business models, or carbon removal technologies. 

While climate tech is a nascent sector overall in the VC market (approx 6% of total capital invested in 2019), climate tech VC investment increased from US$418 million per annum in 2013 to US$16.3 billion in 2019. That is approximately three times the growth rate of VC investment into Artificial Intelligence (AI) over the same period. 

Key factors influencing investment include capital efficiency to prove and scale solutions; and the potential for the solutions to provide cost effective carbon reduction or removal. 

Nearly half of all venture dollars ($60bn) went to US and Canadian climate tech startups (US$29 billion); China is second at US$20 billion. The European market attracted US$7 billion. Mobility and Transport solutions dominate US and China investment. 

“The analysis shows the urgency of the opportunity, and gap to close, to support and scale  innovative technologies and business models to address the climate crisis,” comments Celine Herweijer, global leader, Innovation & Sustainability, PwC UK. “Climate tech is a new frontier in venture investing for the 2020s.”

“Some of the technologies and solutions critical to enabling this transformation are proven and need rapid commercialisation, which is why venture capital is key. It will not need trillions invested in startups to make a difference. But for the trickier technologies and markets it will need targeted support, including from governments, to make it through research and development, and the early stages beyond which capital increasingly is lining up.”

Drivers for growth

Climate tech related to mobility & transport, heavy industry, and GHG capture and storage are the fastest growing segments in the analysis, followed by food, agriculture, land use, built environment, energy, and climate and Earth data generation. 

Investment in micro-mobility such as e-scooter and bike platforms and wider transport innovation has grown dramatically, recording a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 151%, and representing 63% (US$37.4 billion) of all climate tech funding over the past seven years. The scale of transport innovation has also driven bigger deals.

“The climate tech market is maturing. As a society we are seeing more entrepreneurs launch startups, more investors back them, and an increasing number of larger funding rounds for later-stage high-potential deals.”, said Azeem Azhar, Senior Advisor to PwC UK, founder of Exponential View, and co-author of the report. “But PwC’s analysis shows the ecosystem is still nascent, with key gaps in the depth and nature of funding available to founders and tricky structural hurdles for them to navigate as they scale their businesses.”

Investors 

Climate tech venture funding is coming from every corner of the market.  Investors range from more traditional VC firms and venture funds specialising in sustainability, to corporate investors including energy majors, global consumer goods companies and big tech, government backed investment firms, and private equity players getting exposure to deals earlier.  

The strategic role of corporate venture capital (CVC) in particular, is key to many climate tech startups. Particularly those typified by high capital costs, targeted at disrupting asset-heavy incumbent industries with high barriers to entry, such as in energy, heavy industry and transport. For Mobility & Transport, 30% of the climate tech deals include a CVC firm, and in Energy, 32% of capital deployed came from CVCs. Overall, nearly a quarter of climate tech deals (24%) included a corporate investor.

“The involvement of corporates will be key to the continued success of climate tech – both in terms of their net zero commitments driving demand for new solutions, and their investments into commercialising innovation. It’s not just the financial means they bring, but the commercial know-how, and industry knowledge to help startups navigate how to rapidly deploy and scale new innovations into the market,” comments Celine Herweijer. 

Investment Hubs

Analysis of the top investment centres in Europe, Asia and the Americas shows climate tech startup investment in the San Francisco Bay area (US$11.7 billion) is 56% higher than its nearest rival, Shanghai (US$7.5 billion). Compared with the other regions, Europe is more invested in energy, particularly developing the core technologies for renewable energy generation (predominantly photovoltaics (PV) cells) and energy storage (batteries), demonstrating the potential for regional specialist capabilities to develop in a second wave of development of the climate tech sector, following mobility and transport.

Outside of mobility and the dominant US and China markets, Berlin, London, Labege (France) and Bengaluru, India were amongst the top ten cities for climate tech startup investment, attracting US$1.3 billion mainly across energy, agriculture and food and land use. 

The COVID-19 pandemic  reinforces climate tech need and opportunity 

In the short term, while COVID-19 is likely to have caused a lull in VC market activity during 2020, long term investment and potential in the market appears resilient. Over the past year, close to 300 global companies have commited to achieve net zero emissions before 2050. Many of these commitments include substantial pledges to fund innovation.

“Every commitment represents a demand signal—a new customer—in the market for a solution that helps them achieve net zero,” comments Celine Herweijer. “More broadly the increased profile of Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG), increasing government commitments to a ‘green recovery’, and continued rising consumer pressure to respond to the climate crisis is cementing demand for climate tech.”

“Despite significant and promising levels of growth, with just ten years to reduce by half global greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming to 1.5C, climate tech needs a rapid injection of capital, talent and public-private support to match its potential to build and accelerate faster, bolder innovation,” adds Celine Herweijer. 

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Ensuring a More Inclusive Future for Indonesia through Digital Technologies

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While Indonesia has one of the fastest growing digital economies in South East Asia, action is needed to ensure that all Indonesians, especially the most vulnerable, can access various digital technologies and services and realize the benefits, according to a new World Bank report Beyond Unicorns: Harnessing Digital Technologies for Inclusion in Indonesia.

Although the accelerated adoption of internet-enabled services during the pandemic is likely to boost the growth of the digital economy, the benefits of such development could be unequal.

“There are a whole host of opportunities to use digital technologies for promoting better healthcare delivery, and improving access among the underserved but these need to be built on a base of reliable and interoperable data systems,” said Minister of Health of the Republic of Indonesia, Budi Gunadi Sadikin. “The pandemic has generated an unprecedented urgency to make this a reality and has also created a momentum to expedite adoption of digital technologies.

For Indonesia to leverage digital technologies for greater inclusion, the new report emphasizes three policy priorities. The first is to boost digital connectivity and universalize access to high quality internet through efforts such as improving clarity of regulations around the sharing of telecom infrastructure. The second priority is to ensure that the digital economy works for all. This can be supported by better logistics and greater investment in relevant skills for the digital era. The third priority is using digital technologies to provide better public services, improve the quality of citizen-and-state interactions, and build trust in the digital world.

Despite the progress in expanding internet over the past decade, the basic connectivity gap remains a major hurdle in Indonesia. Almost half of the adult population is still without access while the urban-rural connectivity divide has not narrowed. In 2019, 62 percent of Indonesian adults in urban areas were connected to the internet compared to 36 percent in rural areas, while it was 20 percent and 6 percent respectively in 2011. Indonesians in the top 10 percent of the income distribution were five times more likely to be connected than those in the bottom 10 percent.

“Addressing the digital divide goes beyond efforts to reduce the connectivity gap,” said Satu Kahkonen, World Bank Country Director for Indonesia and Timor-Leste.“It will be crucial to help citizens develop the skills to maximize digital opportunities, especially for better jobs. At the same time, it is equally important for the government to address the challenges related to regulations and business environment to enable firms to innovate and compete effectively.”

The proportion of Indonesian adults with access to the internet has increased from 13 percent in 2011 to 51 percent in 2019. Indonesians who are connected to the internet are among the most engaged populations in the world spending as many as six hours a day online. In addition, a large segment of this population is ready to intensify their digital interactions with the government. However, fragmentation of data and an untapped potential of building a comprehensive digital ID framework off the existing ID system are some of the key challenges holding back the government from a broader digital transformation.

Digitally engaged Indonesians are now experiencing how technologies reshape their lives and commercial activities contributing to better consumer experience. However, the opportunities are often limited to a particular demographic group with relatively higher level of skills. Digital gig work is more remunerative than other forms of informal work but is concentrated among urban male workers predominantly in the transportation, storage, and communications sector.

The report recommends the development of a national digital ID framework to enable Indonesians to prove their identity securely online, including a law on personal data protection that is backed by an independent oversight body. It calls for a reorientation from a narrow focus on e-government to a more comprehensive national digital transformation agenda.

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WEF Launches Coalition to Tackle Harmful Online Content

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The World Economic Forum announced today that it is launching a Global Coalition for Digital Safety which will accelerate public-private cooperation to tackle harmful content online. It will serve to exchange best practices for new online safety regulation, take coordinated action to reduce the risk of online harms, and drive collaboration on programmes to enhance digital media literacy. The full list of members can be found here.

With the growing challenge of health misinformation, violent extremist and terrorist content, and the exploitation and abuse of children online, there is an urgent need for more deliberate global coordination to improve digital safety.

“The Forum recognizes this problem is only growing in size and complexity. This Coalition serves to bring together leaders in the public and private sector to cooperate globally on solutions that will ultimately reduce the consumption and distribution of material that is causing harm – especially to vulnerable members of our population,” said Cathy Li, Head of Media, Entertainment, and Sport Industries at the Forum.

Coalition members highlighted the need to act more proactively when it comes to digital safety and the importance of further cooperation:

“All the processes of the modern world are connected to the internet and information technologies. But at the same time, when we speak about high-tech processes, ‘digitalization’, we always know about the main goal – to create a safe online environment for our citizens. Therefore, the global initiative to create purposeful cooperation between states, organizations and businesses is extremely relevant.”

H.E. Mykhailo Fedorov, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation, Ukraine

“In order to improve digital safety, it is imperative that we accelerate public-private cooperation. This is an area that the World Economic Forum’s Global Coalition for Digital Safety, as an impartial platform, can look into.”

H.E. Johnny G. Plate,Minister of Communications and Informatics, Indonesia

“The significance of national and international collaboration, multistakeholder engagement and investment in holistic solutions to address the proliferation of global online harms has never been more important. I am so pleased to be part of the World Economic Forum’s Digital Content Safety initiative and to have an opportunity to raise awareness about eSafety’s multifaceted approach to helping our citizens have safer, more positive experiences online. Securing harmonization across jurisdictions to avoid a patchwork and fragmentation of online safety legislation, governance arrangements and national online safety measures should be a priority for us all.”

Julie Inman Grant, eSafety Commissioner, Australia

“Global online safety is a collective goal that must be addressed by working across borders as well as by individual nations. We look forward to collaborating with international Coalition members to reduce the risk of online harms and build a safer life online for everyone.”

Dame Melanie Dawes, Chief Executive, Ofcom, UK

“We believe that everyone should be free to share without harassment or abuse.”

Chris Priebe, Executive Chairman, Two Hat Security

“Technology offers tools to learn, play, connect, and contribute to solving some of the world’s greatest challenges. But digital safety harms remain a threat to these possibilities. As the World Economic Forum is uniquely positioned to accelerate the public-private collaboration needed to advance digital safety globally, Microsoft is eager to participate and help build whole-of-society solutions to this whole-of-society problem.”

Courtney Gregoire, Chief Digital Safety Officer, Microsoft

A framework proposed in the new report, Advancing Digital Safety, will serve to better protect users online. It is centred on industry standards, which establish a safety baseline, together with regulation to govern enforcement. Coalition members are committed to charting a course that will resolve key tensions in privacy, safety, expression, business incentives and corporate versus public responsibility to effectively minimize the risk of harms encountered online.

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How digitalization helps Moscow and its citizens

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The unified digital register, an electronic system of interdepartmental interaction, provides departments with access to more than 390 types of documents – certificates, statements and other information needed to provide city services to residents.

The system allows citizens to avoid wasting time collecting a number of documents themselves. Government employees responsible for providing services can receive and process information more quickly.

“Creation and development of the base register allowed Moscow to transfer many state services into electronic form, including services related to construction and realty spheres, where several authorities and organizations are involved. In addition, the electronic interdepartmental interaction helps the staff of “My Documents” centers to provide services to citizens and solve their problems more quickly. Almost all the necessary information is acquired electronically from each other, so that residents do not have to collect certificates and statements themselves. According to the statistics of the Moscow City Information Technologies Department, over the past 10 years, this system has saved Moscow citizens from having to submit more than 400 million documents,” said Eduard Lysenko, Minister of the Moscow City Government, Head of the Information Technologies Department.

Today, the mos.ru website gives users access to a full range of services needed by citizens in certain life situations, such as the birth of a child or purchase of a car. The first service on the mos.ru portal was the “Relocation help under the Renovation Programme” service. At the moment, it offers interactive instructions, notification service for all stages of moving and a service to call movers who will help move things to a new flat.

In the future, the city will continue to develop the mos.ru portal services so that residents will be obligated to visit authorities in person and present original documents as rarely as possible.

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