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Bill Gates kick-starts huge innovation fund

An influential group of investors led by Bill Gates has committed to invest $1 billion over 20 years in technologies that can help solve global energy and climate challenges.

An influential group of investors led by Bill Gates has committed to invest $1 billion over 20 years in technologies that can help solve global energy and climate challenges.

The Breakthrough Energy Coalition (BEC), a group of leading investors including the likes of Richard Branson, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has launched Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV) to finance emerging energy breakthroughs.

The goal is to support technologies that help to deliver affordable and reliable energy that can reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to near zero.

The venture will collaborate with other investors, governments, key research institutions and corporate partners to guide its trajectory - prioritising scientific expertise and a long-term horizon.

‘Next generation’

It is hoped that the fund will complement national public funding streams, recognising that many innovators struggle to attract private investment at the commercialisation stage.

Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and chairman of BEV, said: “It is extremely exciting for us to launch this fund. I am honoured to work along with these investors to build on the powerful foundation of public investment in basic research. 

“Our goal is to build companies that will help deliver the next generation of reliable, affordable, and emissions-free energy to the world.”

The 20-year fund will focus on five key areas: electricity, transportation, agriculture, manufacturing and buildings. It will consider technologies that have potential to deliver significant reductions in emissions and can demonstrate proof of concept. 

Mission Innovation

It will not be confined to any segment of the investment pipeline and will be able to engage in everything from seed and early-stage investments, to building companies and commercialisation.

The venture intends to work closely with Mission Innovation, a global initiative of 22 countries and the EU to accelerate energy innovation through research funding. BEV will focus its investments on the innovations likely to come through these public research pipelines. 

A supporting ‘Landscape of Innovation’ document has been published online to outline the broad mix of technologies that the coalition believes are deserving of both public and private investor attention.

‘British opportunity’

Commenting on the launch, government minister for climate change and industry, Nick Hurd, said: “The transition to a clean energy system is well underway in the UK and around the world. This welcome announcement gives that process even more momentum.

“It is a great opportunity for British innovators in the UK low carbon sector, which is already worth over £80 billion in turnover.”

The venture is not currently assembling its team and is not considering any investment opportunities. It will post more information on its website when it opens for submissions.