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Future Forward: highlighting the importance of backing clean energy innovations

The UK is facing a major shock to our energy supply chain with soaring costs putting significant strains on our communities, businesses and infrastructure. Yet as with so many crises, these incredible challenges also bring the opportunity to accelerate new ideas and bring about long-term change. From new innovations on the rise to leveraging the power of cross-cutting technologies, clean energy innovations are proving to be a hot spot for investment.

On 19th October, we presented the latest in the UKBAA Future Forward investment series, in partnership with SETsquared, this time focusing on the opportunities for investing in clean energy solutions. This half-day online event welcomed a host of incredible speakers from investment and industry, each sharing valuable perspectives on why now is the time to get behind clean energy business and how unifying across industry, investment, academia, and the government is so important as we forge toward Net Zero targets. 

Energy impacts every aspect of our lives, from where we live and work to how we travel and consume goods and services – it is a vital part of our every day life. In order to transition to Net Zero, we need to ensure we are responding to the latest research and developments, supporting key interventions from government, and paying close attention to how we connect the early-stage investment landscape. 

Kicking off the day, UKBAA’s Executive Chair Jenny Tooth OBE welcomed our audience, noting that events like Future Forward emphasise the value of our investment community and how in coming together, we can help drive investment into this important sector. Energy impacts every aspect of our lives, from where we live and work to how we travel and consume goods and services – it is a vital part of our everyday life, and in order to transition to Net Zero, we need to ensure we are responding to the latest research and developments, supporting key interventions from government and industry, and paying close attention to how we connect the early-stage investment landscape. 

We were delighted to have the support of the British Business Bank by way of Julia Groves, Managing Director for Sustainability, who delivered our keynote. Julia shared many valuable perspectives relating to the bank’s approach to sustainability and the integral role ESG has across all of its programmes, activities and initiatives. She noted that as an economic development bank, the BBB focuses on impact, not just in their commitment to enable the transition to Net Zero, but also in how they prioritise sustainability, whilst simultaneously tackling regional imbalances, and diversity and inclusion. When looking at their approach to investing in sustainability, Julia emphasised how the bank maintains the importance of backing the next generation of green technology businesses but equally important for them, is investing in SMEs transitioning to Net Zero targets. We are at a crucial crossroads, wherein we need to invest in the future economy, including businesses creating solutions that will get us to Net Zero, as well as businesses evolving to ensure they are reducing their carbon footprint. 

The half-day event offered many valuable insights on how important investing in clean energy is, as well as how vast the sector is and the depth of opportunity available for change-makers to make a dramatic impact.

Following Julia’s keynote, we welcomed a panel of industry experts to come together to share ideas on how we create more connectivity across the clean energy sector. The panel, aptly named ‘Connecting the dots across the clean energy ecosystem’, focused on the importance of creating a viable pipeline from entrepreneurship through investment and industry, in order to see the next generation of energy-focused technologies really take off.

Jenny Tooth chaired the discussion and was joined by Professor Richard Templer, Director of Innovation at the Grantham Institute, Fillipo Gaddo, Head of Economics at Arup, and Louise Jones, Knowledge Transfer Manager – Energy Systems at Innovate UK KTN. The speakers each shared their perspectives on the important role enabling technologies hold in the next wave of clean energy innovation. The panel added that energy solutions applied to such sectors as construction, manufacturing, and fashion, offer a huge opportunity for disruption. It is just about these solutions being backed at the right time and by the right people.

The panel went on to explore the important role corporates play in driving forward the growth of SMEs because it isn’t just about angel investment alone but rather, how partnerships and investment co-exist to drive growth. Looking from a regional perspective, the speakers shared that we need to start fostering connectivity and encouraging conversation between regions and localities because more often than not, a budding cluster in one region is solving the need of another, but it just hasn’t been recognised yet. If we can create a clear path for connectivity, we have the possibility to launch the UK onto a global stage when it comes to clean energy innovation.

From advanced materials and the circular economy to carbon and waste reduction in the construction industry, there are an array of areas bubbling with innovation right now.

We were thrilled to welcome next, a panel featuring a host of UKBAA members each representing angel groups with an acute focus on investing in sustainability. Roderick Beer, Managing Director of UKBAA hosted this discussion and welcomed, Pippa Gawley, Co-founder of Zero Carbon Capital, Tom Hardy, Co-founder and CTO of Elbow Beach Capital, Cam Ross, CEO of Green Angel Syndicate, Matt Jellicoe, Co-founder and Director of One Planet Capital, and Andrew Wordsworth, Managing Partner of Sustainable Ventures.

This panel was packed with discussions about what innovations are trending in the clean energy space and where investors should be paying close attention to. From advanced materials and the circular economy to carbon and waste reduction in the construction industry, there are an array of areas bubbling with innovation right now. What the panel highlighted as well though, is it is not always about investing in the flashiest high-tech solutions, but also in some of the more practical energy efficiency solutions like insulation retrofitting and how we go about doing that in a smart, fast-paced way. 

Our speakers shared how important it is that they, as investors, each forge relationships with each other so that funding businesses with strong potential to impact our communities happens throughout the full growth cycle from start-up to scale-up. And it isn’t just about those deploying capital at the seed stage our panel shared. It is also about ensuring businesses with angel backing are forming relationships with corporates too because it not only helps get technologies to market but also can accelerate the path toward exiting. 

Closing out the day, we heard from 5 innovative start-ups that are part of the SETsquared community. These businesses represented a variety of solutions within the clean energy space, demonstrating just how vast the opportunity is and also how many angels, regardless of their preferred sector, can pinpoint great deal flow within the sector. From the UK’s only nontoxic, lithium-ion battery to cutting-edge wind propulsion systems decarbonising the shipping industry, these businesses helped to shine the spotlight on why energy innovation offers so much potential.

The businesses included:

Find out more about the businesses here.

The half-day event offered many valuable insights on how important investing in clean energy is, as well as how vast the sector is and the depth of opportunity available for change-makers to make a dramatic impact. We know there are major challenges across the sector, especially given the current energy crisis, but what our speakers emphasised is how with capacity, connectivity, innovative thought, and equity investment, we will see a shift in the energy landscape – one that is significant and for the better.

Head to the Future Forward website to watch each of the sessions and hear from our speakers.

By UKBAA 20 Oct 2022