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Unlocking Early-Stage Investment for Climate Innovation: A Model from WWF India

  • Date: 17 March 2020
  • Author: Dan Riley, Director, International Corporate Climate Partnerships

Clean technology innovation is a key opportunity to grow businesses around the world while protecting the planet, but entrepreneurs need more than a great idea to create a market-ready, final product and a viable business model. Access to incubation support and early stage investment are key ingredients for launching a product out of R&D and towards commercialization at scale. A perfect case study of what this stewardship can look like took place in India earlier this month.

While China and the United States have at times dominated the climate change headlines, decisions made today about the energy future of the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitting country, India, may play an even more critical role in the decades to come. With one of the world’s most rapidly growing economies, a rising population expected to surpass China by 2024, and tens of millions moving into the middle class and increasing their energy demand, India clearly has a pivotal role in the global climate equation.

To strengthen the country’s climate innovation pipeline, WWF India hosted the second annual Climate Solver+ Demo Day event last week in Delhi in partnership with TiE Delhi-NCR. Ten promising startups had the opportunity to pitch their low-carbon solutions to leading investors, government leaders, companies, and other innovation ecosystem stakeholders interested in climate and clean energy breakthroughs.

These clean technology startups were first recognized by WWF’s global Climate Solver initiative, which hosts an annual awards ceremony showcasing promising innovative low-carbon technologies. The Climate Solver+ initiative, led by WWF India, then worked in partnership with DLabs at the Indian School of Business to provide awardees with critical training and business development support to further refine their technologies, pitches, and business models.

Having completed the intensive incubation program, this year's cohort of climate innovators are now, connected by Climate Solver+ to interested cleantech investors during the annual Demo Day event. With these opportunities, three quarters of the Indian Climate Solver innovators have expanded their business operations across all of India or even into international markets.

“Many good entrepreneurs often fail to impress investors if they lack a proper business plan presentation,” said Mr. Hemendra Mathur of Bharat Innovation Fund, who attended a previous Climate Solver+ event. “This initiative by WWF India to provide business planning support…has really helped these ventures sharpen/polish their investor pitch.”

Through this Demo Day and incubation support, Climate Solver+ serves as a leading hub for climate innovation in India. By connecting and empowering more of India’s most promising cleantech entrepreneurs, WWF will help catalyze investment in climate solution technologies that will be impactful at scale. It also serves as a model globally for nurturing innovation and entrepreneurship in the effort to tackle the climate crisis.

Here in the US, WWF supports similar efforts to scale up the use of innovative clean technologies by businesses through initiatives like the Renewable Thermal Collaborative (RTC), a coalition accelerating access to and deployment of renewable heating and cooling solutions, and our international renewable energy programs, which draw on previous success growing the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA). Innovation in the renewable energy space has led to skyrocketing investment, with global renewable capacity growing by more than eight percent for seven years in a row as of 2017. There remains a long way to go in tackling the climate crisis but building on this model of merging innovation and business acumen is an important piece of the puzzle.

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