It’s tempting to think that we are in a period of transition. A society that once burned fossil fuels with profligate enthusiasm is now on its way to a greener, climate-friendly future.
In reality, the period of transition has barely begun. Net-zero targets have been set and international agreements signed but now the world is faced with turning good intentions into actions at a time when there are still record amounts of carbon in the atmosphere. So the question is, how can you make effective progress along the road to net-zero in a way that is fair and workable?
That’s a question posed by Reset Connect, a two-day conference, networking event and exhibition taking place this week as part of London Climate Action Week. And as organiser Duncan Reid explains, entrepreneurs are an important part of the mix.
I’m speaking to Reid a few days before Reset Connect opens its doors (June 28/29) and as he explains, it’s an opportunity for businesses and other organisations to get together and learn from each other by sharing information about their own initiatives. Unsurprisingly, there are global brands in attendance – Reid cites the BBC, Hitachi Energy and Pwc – but as he stresses, innovators are also well represented.
Startups and Scaleups
Indeed, among the speaking slots and exhibitors, there are a fair number of representatives from startups and scaleups such as solar power company Bboxx, EV charging network, Connected Kerb, green packing startup Magical Mushroom Company and carbon management tool provider nZero, to name just a few.
All of which adds up to? Well, it adds up to a conference. But can events of this kind ever be anything more than talking shops? Does Reset Connect offer any real opportunities for those Climatetech or Greentech companies that are taking part or attending?
From Reid’s perspective, there has never been a better time to make connections. Clearly, startup founders might be keen to pitch their businesses to potential customers – and in particular corporate entities with large budgets – but Reid stresses that investors will also be on hand at a time when green technology is emerging as a magnet for VC funds.
“What we’re seeing now is that a lot of VC funding is going to climate,” he says. “And we are also seeing new investment coming in from institutions such as insurance companies and pension funds and also private equity.”
Reid argues that companies working in the broad field of environment, climate and sustainability will be at the heart of investment strategy in the coming years, More so, in fact, that fintech, which has been the traditional poster child for the London startup scene for many years.
But there is a degree of education required. Funds are looking for projects to invest in, he says. But to date, they have tended to focus on certain sectors while being unaware of others. “For instance, a lot of money has gone into mobility. Now investors are looking for other projects.” In that respect, the conference provides a forum where founders can connect with potential backers.
In addition, to equity investors, bodies such as the government-sponsored Innovate U.K. and British Business Bank are on hand with grant and loan options while the UAE is offering the £ 3 million Zayed sustainability prize.
A Receptive Audience?
Will much business be done? Like most conferences, there are a lot of speakers – a bewildering number you might say – providing content and thought leadership. The opportunities to do business stem both from networking and the exhibition component.
But let’s face it, big organisations tend to move slowly. Networking is all well and good, but a C-suite executive or the head of an ESG team isn’t necessarily going to invite a founder to discuss a business relationship on the basis of a bit of networking at the end of a long day. So to some extent, this kind of event is about forging relationships that may bear fruit further down the line. But as Reid points out, there will be cases when founders find they have a receptive audience. “There will be big companies there who have problems that need solving now and they have the budgets allocated,” he says.
There is perhaps a bigger point here, green technology is once again coming to the fore. For many founders working in the field, making a difference will mean forging partnerships or commercial relationships with buyers. With London Climate Action Week, once again highlighting the importance of moving towards net-zero, a bit of networking never goes amiss.