Investing in Climate-Tech for a Greener Future

Credit: BIRD Foundation

The Eilat-Eilot Conference on Renewable Energy, originally slated for December, has been rescheduled, due to the war, to the end of February. This landmark conference, now in its 10th iteration, remains committed to harnessing the power of the clean energy economy to drive regional development and rejuvenation in Israel, the Middle East, and beyond.

In the face of escalating climate challenges, from soaring global temperatures to increasingly frequent extreme weather events, the call for innovative solutions has never been more urgent. Yet, despite this pressing need, PwC’s annual State of Climate Tech report reveals a concerning trend: climate tech investment is on a decline. In 2023, funding for climate tech startups dipped to levels not seen in half a decade, a decline starkly juxtaposed with the escalating urgency of climate action. “This decline has played out just as the need for innovative ways to mitigate, measure, and adapt to climate change has become more urgent”, it says.

Climate-tech encompasses a diverse array of technologies aimed at mitigating, adapting to, and reversing the impacts of climate change. From renewable energy to energy efficiency, carbon capture, and sustainable agriculture, these innovations hold immense promise in reshaping industries and redefining our relationship with the environment.

In Israel alone, over 800 companies are actively engaged in the climate-tech sector, according to a 2023 report by Start-Up Nation Central. The Food & Land Use, Clean Industry Tech, and Energy Transition subsectors emerge as leaders in terms of number of companies within this landscape. Moreover, the Israel Innovation Authority identifies the five most frequent challenges being tackled by startups as Climate Smart Agriculture, Clean Energy Systems, Sustainable Mobility & Transport, Alternative Proteins, and Eco-Efficient Water Infrastructure highlighting a concerted effort to address critical climate-related issues through technological ingenuity.

However, despite the evident potential, investments in climate tech are lagging. Data from the first half of 2023 in the IAI report reveals a significant decline, with total investments at $551M plummeting by 60% compared to the previous year. This concerning trend underscores the inadequacy of resources allocated to confront the escalating climate crisis.

While the current discourse primarily revolves around established players and initiatives in the climate-tech space, it’s essential to recognize the untapped potential and emerging opportunities within this burgeoning field. One such avenue lies in fostering greater collaboration between startups, established corporations, and research institutions to drive innovation and scale solutions more rapidly.

Furthermore, as we confront the climate crisis on a global scale, there is a growing recognition of the need for international cooperation and knowledge-sharing. Initiatives like the Eilat-Eilot Conference serve as invaluable platforms for fostering dialogue, exchanging best practices, and forging partnerships across borders.

BIRD Energy, in its 15th year, has played a major role in boosting collaborations between corporations and research institutions in the U.S. and Israel
The recent announcement of nine approved clean energy projects, backed by $9.75 million under the BIRD Energy program, underscores the commitment of both the U.S. Department of Energy and Israel’s Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure to drive progress in this crucial domain. These projects span diverse areas, from enhancing soil carbon sequestration in agriculture to scaling up ocean-based carbon dioxide removal technology for the desalination industry. Each endeavor represents a tangible step towards a more sustainable future, underscoring the potential of climate tech to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

In 2018, Based on BIRD Energy’s success, the DOE, MOE, and IIA selected the BIRD Foundation to manage the Energy Center. The Energy Center (a five-year program with a total value of close to $80M) aims to promote energy security and economic development through the research and development of innovative energy technologies in 4 Topics by facilitating consortia of U.S. and Israeli companies, universities, research institutions, and national labs. In early March the Energy Center will convene its fourth Executive Committee meeting. This two-day gathering will provide an opportunity for consortia leaders and members from both the U.S. and Israel to showcase their activities and achievements.

It’s imperative to broaden the scope of climate-tech investments to encompass not just mitigation efforts but also adaptation and resilience-building measures. From innovative water management solutions to resilient infrastructure design, there is a vast array of opportunities to enhance our capacity to withstand the impacts of climate change.

As we chart a course towards a greener future, it’s also essential to ensure that climate-tech solutions are accessible and equitable, particularly for marginalized communities disproportionately affected by environmental degradation. By prioritizing inclusivity and social justice in our approach to climate action, we can build a more sustainable and resilient world for all.

In conclusion, while the challenges posed by climate change are daunting, they also present unprecedented opportunities for innovation, collaboration, and positive transformation. With concerted efforts from stakeholders and a conducive policy environment, climate tech can emerge as a potent tool in our collective arsenal against climate change.

About the Author
Jaron Lotan is the Executive Director of the BIRD (Binational Industrial Research and Development) Foundation. In the past 39 years served in key executive roles with leading Israeli-based technology companies.
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