Is GreenTech a ‘New Industrial Revolution’?
As an early investor in both the healthcare and biotech sectors, I am always on the lookout for good opportunities to support early stage companies utilising the latest advancements in technology, for example the application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning — to improve the health and wellbeing of people across the world. My focus when I first invested in these areas was to support companies whose mission is to help people live longer and healthier lives; and this remains my focus today.
Although our portfolio is predominantly focused on healthcare, I’ve long been an advocate for the powerful convergence of technology and science to unlock the potential to make real improvements to the environment, and this will be an area I look forwards to closely following in the coming months. Green technology is a fast-growing area of investment, covering areas such as waste recycling, marine solar, water purification and reuse, energy storage for solar and wind energy, autonomous greenhouses and renewable hydrogen as a fuel source. It’s also about innovating the tech that underpins clean energy production such as solar and wind, part of the essential drive to move us away from our deeply damaging global dependence on fossil fuels.
The market is still relatively young, but forward-thinking venture capitalists have seen the opportunity, financially and sustainably. A white paper, which was anticipated to be published this autumn, indicates the Government is beginning to catch up with both the environmental and market demand, realigning its priorities to rebuild the economy with a focus on tech such as innovations to capture and store carbon dioxide, hydrogen fuel cells and offshore wind farms — as well as exploring the potential of artificial intelligence.
Boris Johnson built his 2019 election campaign around a promise to help underperforming regions in the UK and this new industrial strategy with its emphasis on green tech is seen as one way to help level the playing field. The future of sustainable societies is inextricably bound up with the ability to create integrated and effective change using all of the talent and innovation we have available. New perspectives are crucial — at all levels.
It’s not enough to have national economic growth if local economies are shrinking and concentrating on flattening regional inequality underlines the recognition that a green recovery from coronavirus can’t be achieved in just one place. The UK needs investment across every part of the country to boost productivity and this includes looking beyond London to industry centres such as Manchester and Birmingham, as well as the science and technology corridor between Oxford and Cambridge. And for tech start-ups working on green initiatives in underperforming regions and looking for investment, this top-level shift could light the fire under a rocket of innovation that is currently still on the launchpad.
Is it a ‘new industrial revolution’? Perhaps not yet. But with a concerted change in industrial strategy that prioritises green tech it’s a chance to rebuild our economy nationally and locally with bricks of opportunity in vital areas such as clean energy, infrastructure and transport. Short-term it can help us to rebound practically from a year of economic and social challenge and restore faith in our ability as a country to create and sustain healthy growth, in the long-term it may prove to be the investment with the biggest return of all — a sustainable, resilient society with a more equal investment in and opportunity for all.