Climate innovation is gaining attention as an imperative piece of the net-zero equation. With more government funding allocated for clean energy research and development than ever before (thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act), and private investment increasing substantially, carbon-free energy technologies are beginning to receive the attention, and dollars, they will need to create impact. As speed is one of the most critical variables in the climate change battle, expedient timelines to scale these technologies are crucial for success. This is where corporate buyers can play a pivotal role in the innovation ecosystem – by providing necessary capital, product validation, and demonstration opportunities for pre-commercial technologies.
Beyond rapidly deploying existing technologies that are available today, there is a need to signal demand for the next generation of technologies that will close the gap in the “hard to decarbonize sectors” and generate long-term storage capacity. Deploying capital through investments or offtake agreements is the primary mode to influence market signals. Private capital from large energy buyers to complement public investment can carry clean energy solutions through fatal later-stage funding gaps.
While flexibility to provide financing may be a high barrier of entry to get involved in the cleantech ecosystem, it is not the only avenue to exert influence. Also salient is the feedback and validation large customers can provide to startups, ensuring that their efforts are strategically focused based on the needs of customers. Further, customers can step in to provide an environment to test new technologies and demonstrate proof of concept. Customers should consider what role they are positioned to play in accelerating the deployment of these imperative technologies.
Accelerators, like Third Derivative, are working with innovators, investors, and offtakers to expedite the rate of climate innovation through a collaborative ecosystem approach. Their commitment to connecting a diversity of stakeholders and providing guidance and support, increases the likelihood of startup success and results in gigatons of carbon dioxide removal. Through working with an accelerator, corporations can engage with pre-screened startups that have been vetted for criteria like climate impact, scalability, feasibility, and additionality. Engaging with an accelerator can provide a viable inroad to leveraging emerging solutions and complimentary next generation carbon-free energy technologies to contribute to emissions reduction and reliability goals.
CEBA recently sat down with Third Derivative and Microsoft to discuss ways to effectively engage in the cleantech ecosystem. A few key insights included:
- Anyone can get involved. There are avenues to engage for all levels of commitment and means. Providing granular feedback and information to startups about what needs consumers foresee and how they will use their technologies can provide the certainty and transparency necessary to expedite product development.
- Breaking silos in pursuit of collaborative efforts across the innovation pipeline, from entrepreneurs to offtakers, is the most effective way to create the biggest impact. Accelerators provide an inroad for buyers to access this diverse ecosystem.
- We must incorporate environmental justice principles and consider impacted communities when deploying capital and solutions to ensure equitable and inclusive progress.