It’s hard to know its ultimate scale or how long it will take, but over the coming months the world will be watching the urgent efforts of scientists to develop a COVID-19 vaccine.
At the same time, engineers and academics will develop technologies and models to help businesses and the economy adapt to this extended period of social distancing and Zoom calls.
It reminds us that as much as we depend on our leaders in moments of crisis, we also depend on the tenacity and insights of scientists, the ingenuity and vision of entrepreneurs, and the resourcefulness and boldness of companies to solve big problems.
But we also need investors.
Like COVID-19, climate change is an area where the scale of the problem is so vast and the repercussions so massive – with huge economic and social justice implications – that we need nothing less than a scientific and investment revolution.
Decarbonising our entire economy by 2050 will require two things:
1. Massive investments and innovation in areas like electrification, affordable long-term energy storage, and regenerative agriculture.
2. Investors patient enough to allow these investments to pay off.
For those willing to wait 10 to 15 years for returns, there is an opportunity to focus long-term on energy storage and the technology we need to remake transportation systems.
Electrifying our vehicle fleet is the single biggest opportunity we have to reduce emissions in the transportation sector, but we’ll need a seismic increase in electricity production in order to shift from oil and gas, and provide equitable access to clean transportation options.
This increase in demand for clean power can be met by solar and wind, but will also require long-term seasonal energy storage—batteries that can provide energy when renewables don’t provide enough to keep the lights on.
Two of our clients both backed by Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Form Energy and Quidnet Energy, are doing just that - respectively developing a new type of sulphur-based battery and a pioneering technology that pumps water to store energy at extremely large capacities.
Both are long-term bets but with patient capital behind them, they've got a unique opportunity to bring their unique technologies to commercialisation in the coming years.
One major lesson from COVID-19 is that science matters.
Sometimes it tells us that we need to make a moonshot investment in decarbonising energy-intensive industries like cement and steel production. Other times, science points to simpler but equally game-changing steps, such as how crop rotation, managed grazing, and manure and organic fertilizer management could make the agricultural sector carbon-neutral.
But of all the lessons we’ve learned from COVID-19 as we race toward a solution, perhaps the biggest is that we ignored the warning signals instead of preparing.
With the climate, let’s make the most of this opportunity.
Let’s start that race now and tap the power that innovation has to accelerate change and unlock new and surprising possibilities.
And let’s look to scientists, enabled by savvy investors, to lead the way!
Hyperion are a specialist international search firm working with the most innovative cleantech companies to find exceptional senior level talent.
With our clients we are transforming business and growing a strong and prosperous cleantech economy
To learn more about Hyperion, please take a listen to our Leaders In CleanTech podcast (50 plus interviews with CEO's of clean technology startups/scale-ups, as well as industry leaders in finance/investment) read up on our case studies of senior-level searches with a diverse portfolio of clean technology clients or set up a free 30-minute consultation to see how we can support your plans for senior hires internationally.
None of this is to minimize the importance of near-term investments in proven or close-to-proven technologies. Indeed, investing in sustainable infrastructure and all the jobs that will create can be a cornerstone of the world’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. Everything from building community solar farms to next-generation energy-efficiency retrofits and energy-efficient coatings for windows should be on the table for investors.