Green Pioneers: Leading the Green and Digital Transition


The workshop focuses on the intersection of innovation, finance, and sustainable development, aiming to align business and startup innovation with the objectives of the Green Deal and the global transition to a green economy. It emphasizes the importance of connecting sustainable technology-focused businesses with investors seeking financial and environmental returns. Key contributors include startups, the European Innovation Council, EIT, technical universities, entrepreneurship centers, incubators, accelerators, various types of investors, and policymakers.

A primary discussion point is sustainable technology development's reliance on sustainable finance. Founders often face challenges in accessing growth capital, particularly for deep tech ventures requiring substantial private investment. The workshop explores shifting investments from environmentally harmful activities towards green initiatives, highlighting the role of impact investing. This approach seeks dual outcomes: financial returns and positive social or environmental impacts, attracting diverse investors like high-net-worth individuals, institutional investors, venture capitalists, and private equity firms focused on sectors with high societal and environmental impact.

The event underscores the business potential in investing in the green economy, citing a UN report on the vast investment opportunities worth $12trillion. It also stresses the vital role of government in catalyzing private investments through various incentives and procurement of clean tech solutions.

The EU's research and innovation policy is examined in the context of global climate technology leadership, especially against technological and geopolitical challenges from the US and China. The workshop will reflect on necessary policy reforms and how the Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform(‘STEP') and the feasibility of a "European Sovereignty Fund" to attract private investors can help the EU to become a global leader in clean industries and the green economy.

Other important aspects include fostering Green Pioneer Ecosystems to support clean tech startups, emphasizing the under representation of women in green ventures and the need for more support, and capitalizing on Europe’s strong science and research base for green tech solutions. The workshop recognizes that climate change effects are global, requiring worldwide solutions and cooperation. The expected outcome is identifying ways to redirect private investments to businesses focusing on climate, environment, and biodiversity, and to devise policy measures that support such investments.

Talking Points

  1. Decarbonization Technologies and Scaling Up: How can we ensure that the most promising decarbonization and clean energy technologies receive the necessary support to scale up rapidly, and what are the main barriers to their widespread adoption?
  2. Innovative Business and Green Deal Alignment: In what ways can innovative businesses be better aligned with the objectives of the Green Deal, and how can their contributions be quantified and incentivized?
  3. Investor Engagement in Sustainable Technologies: What strategies can be implemented to attract more investors to fund sustainable technologies, and how can we balance the pursuit of financial returns with positive environmental impacts?
  4. Policy and Legislation for Sustainable Growth: "Competing Green: What R&I policies for the EU's Path towards clean industries amidst global competition"?
  5. Impact Investing as a Catalyst for Change: Considering the diversity of players in the impact investing space, how can we streamline efforts to direct more private capital towards sustainable initiatives, and what role does government policy play in this
  6. Advocacy for Emerging Green Leaders: How can we amplify the political influence of tomorrow's sustainable industry leaders, ensuring they can compete effectively with established industries and contribute to legislative development?

Workshop Rationale

The event is about highlighting the innovative and pioneering nature of businesses and startups, while also underlining their role in achieving Green Deal objectives and driving the global transition towards a green economy.

The workshop will discuss how to better connect innovative businesses specializing in sustainable technologies with investors who are keen on making investments that yield both financial returns and positive environmental impacts.

Contributors and participants to the workshop include, besides startups and innovative businesses, the European Innovation Council, EIT KICs, Technical Universities, Entrepreneurship Centres, Incubators and Accelerators as well as different types of (impact) investors including venture capitalists, private equity firms and business angels, institutional investors, the European Investment Fund, the European Investment Bank, foundations and philanthropists that invest in impactful ventures, family offices and HNW individuals who are driven by personal values focusing on sectors with high societal and environmental impact.

There is no sustainable technology development without sustainable finance. Access to growth capital is one of the main challenges for founders.

Development of new technologies and in particular deep tech requires huge amounts of private capital. This can only be achieved if we manage to shift investments from climate and environment damaging activities towards green initiatives. Growing activities in Impact investing can play a major role in the financing of green ventures. Impact investment, often referred to as socially responsible or sustainable investing, is a financial approach that seeks to generate both financial returns and positive social or environmental outcomes. Unlike traditional investment strategies that focus solely on financial gains, impact investing prioritizes the dual goal of achieving measurable societal benefits alongside competitive financial returns.

Impact investing attracts a diverse group of players including HNW individuals who are driven by personal values, institutional investors like pension funds, banks, or insurance companies, foundations and philanthropists that invest in impactful ventures and last but not least Venture Capitalists and Private Equity Firms focusing on sectors with high societal and environmental impact.

Investing in climate and the environment isn’t only for the purpose of a sustainable future, it is the greatest business opportunity of our time.According to a UN report, investment opportunities in the green economy are worth 12 trillion US dollars.

There is no Green Industrial Revolution without Governments

Governments around the world at all levels,national, regional, urban and local can catalyse private investments with grants, guarantees and loans and provide subsidies and tax credits as well as using their purchasing power for procurement of innovative clean tech solutions.

The EU must review its R&I policy with a view to the race for global climate technology leadership amidst rising technological and geopolitical challenges. Together with policy makers from the European Parliament, Member States and the European Commission, the workshop will reflect on necessary policy reforms and how the Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform (‘STEP') and the feasibility of a "European Sovereignty Fund" to attract private investors can help the EU to become a global leader in clean industries and the green economy.

Green Pioneer Ecosystems in support of growing clean tech startups

Founders could greatly benefit from connections between tech hubs and entrepreneurship centres that bring different strengths in addressing climate change and also from improved founder-to-founder relationships. Equally, clean tech founders could benefit from dedicated support from impact venture capital funds and Art. 9 private equity funds that can help bridging the growth financing gap. Connections with corporates, technical universities and innovation hubs globally are needed to develop the full business potential.

Women-led Venture Capital Funds and Female Founders

Green Pioneer women are underrepresented in leading startups and women-led funds are receiving only a small fraction of the total investments in VC funds. However, it is known that women can play a particularly strong role in ventures that address social and environmental challenges, hence they need to receive further support.

The importance of science and research for the green and digital transition

The Horizon Europe regulation states that ‘actions under this programme shall contribute at least 35% of the expenditure to climate objectives.’ 10% has been allocated to address biodiversity and 5% to address clean air. Horizon Europe investments in the digital transformation represent 33% of the total Horizon Europe budget.  

Capitalising on Europe’s strong science and research knowledge developed by ERC grantees, European Partnerships, science, research and technology organisations to enhance green tech solutions and turning scientific knowledge and research outcomes into new green and digital businesses is a major opportunity for European startups and innovative businesses that drive the transformation towards a green and circular economy.

The effects of climate change are global, so the solutions must be as well

Innovations addressing some of the most urgent aspects of climate mitigation are coming from everywhere in the world and often founders need to rely on global connections to scale.

Europe has taken a leading role in shaping a future green economy with its Green Deal initiative. Governments around the globe are putting in place similar initiatives resulting in a global race for clean tech industrial leadership. However, from the perspective of limited natural resources and a growing threat of climate emergencies, there is clear need for cooperation across the planet.

The expected outcome is to identify ways and means to redirect private investments to innovative businesses in the climate,environment and biodiversity spaces and policy measures to increase tax incentives, subsidies and guarantees and to put in place a favourable legislative framework.

Marco Giorgini

EISMEA.02 - EIC Transition Activities and Business Acceleration Services, European Commission

Europe is extremely good at generating ideas and visions of breakthrough tech but it is not so successful pushing these ideas into concrete innovations to the market.

The European Innovation Council is there to help overcome this paradox.

Jochen Brodersen,

Economist, Unit A.5 Access to Finance, DG R&I, European Commission

Many innovative, green solutions need to happen, let us make it in EUROPE now.

Jeroen van Woerden

Managing Director at The Gate, TU Eindhoven

There are big challenges. The first challenge to create entrepreneurial impact is access to funding. Funding is extremely important in the pre-seed phase and in the early seed phase. The second challenge, in the energy transition, for example, is that there is no appropriate regulation for a great, emerging technology. The third challenge is to build proof points since the innovations are not yet recognized.

Jara Pascual

CEO and Founder at Collabwith

The European Institute of Gender Equality published the 26th of October 2023 the report on "Why gender equality is the 'silver bullet' for meaningful climate action", in which they prove our hypothesis of female entrepreneurs and female researchers, being more likely to start sustainable businesses than men.

So, why not review our financial ecosystem, and in particular Venture Capital, to really be impactful? How can we measure this impact in the green and digital transition, if 99% of the funds go to male entrepreneurs?

Anna-Maria Spyriouni

Head of Europe at Climate Bonds Initiative

At Climate Bonds Initiative, we think that creating a large, predictable and climate friendly pipeline of expenditures and projects is the key to achieving net zero. This requires the development of science based policy frameworks and investment in innovation. We applaud the work of the Knowledge for Innovation #K4I and wish to encourage you to continue providing this useful platform connecting the EU level and green pioneers. Last week’s workshop in the European Parliament, highlighted the need to prioritise EU funds to technologies that will help achieve the EU Green Deal targets.

Dan Jing Wu

CEO at VivArt-X B.V.

VivArt-X revolutionizes breast reconstruction, offering a synthetic biomaterial to enhance cell engraftment. Addressing the limitations of current methods, it minimizes reoperations and complications. Recognized as a top startup in Brabant 2023, VivArt-X has earned the Gerard & Anton Award and the European Innovation Award, promising improved post-surgery recovery and quality of life.

Ilija Vuchkov

CEO at Emkice

The ACRID Network, comprise 9 associate and candidate countries, more than 144 experts and more than 200 entities. The network, connected with K4I since 2014, and aligned to the EIA Manifesto, emphasizes Research & Innovation, and support the Green, and Digital transition.

It underlines the opportunity of linking Western Balkan countries closer to the EU and strengthen cooperation among other in the areas of research & innovation as a major driver of the digital and green transition raising the percentage of pro-european citizens in the pools in these countries.

Ilse Bakker

Manager Sustainable Finance at Nextwave-Infinium

Regulations like CSRD and potential changes to SFDR aim to enhance transparency and sustainability in finance.

Many EU corporations are unprepared for CSRD's imminent disclosure requirements. Beyond improving ESG data, effective sustainable finance requires holistic approaches and better data management to combat greenwashing and drive innovation.

Lidia Aviles

Founder of AELSTONE, EU Climate Pact Ambassador, Principal at SIGF

Energy, ICT, and Knowledge are critical elements combined.

That’s why SDG17 is imperative for growth.

Ljubomir Kekenovski

Full time Professor, Faculty of Economics-Skopje

Fundamental economic changes are needed: define the fundamentals of circular economy; distinguish between linear and circular; describe metrics for measuring sustainability; learn how sustainability can drive innovation; describe innovations that improve sustainability; describe business benefits of transitioning to a circular business model; promote sourcing policies that prioritize sustainable businesses; and incentivize consumption practices awarding greater circularity.

Nele Marie Terveen

PhD Candidate, TU Munich

The Circular Economy and Sustainability Ventures Lab at TUM VL empowers startups for global environmental impact.

Focused on CleanTech, it translates research into scalable, circular businesses. With a commitment to sustainability, the lab supports startups through coaching and a global network, fostering innovation in climate action and resource management across various domains.

Patrizia Luchetta

Founder of Charlotte in red

In the past 18 months we have been busy understanding and preparing for reporting under the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive.

We offer innovative tools and technologies to either improve sustainability of other companies or facilitating the data collection for reporting to startups. We look at sustainability in its broad sense from different perspectives.

Ricardo Marvao

Co-founder at Beta-i

Ten years ago, innovation was seen as a theatre. Sustainability today is the same. The Chief Sustainability Officers, if they have no power, if they have no seats at the boards, they cannot make the company comply with the rules. For this we are launching a program on training for the CSOs to have power to change things and make the metrics not a theatre, but rules applied by the companies, according to the rules of the European Institutions.

Soraya Gadit

CEO and Founder at Inocrowd

InoCrowd redefines global innovation by connecting Seekers with a diverse pool of experts using advanced AI and Machine Learning.

With over 1.6 million registered experts, InoCrowd boasts a 95% success rate in finding solutions, such as the recent breakthrough in environmentally sustainable metal surface treatments. The vision is to be a global catalyst for innovation.

Maria Alejandra Pulido

EU Sustainable Agri Lead at Climate Bonds Initiative

To achieve the global transformation to a low carbon economy, it's important to understand that fostering transition plans isn't just a choice—it's necessary to aim for greater ambition, inclusivity, and alignment with the Paris Agreement.

In Climate Bonds, we believe that such pathways accelerate the flow of finance to support the transition of sectors such as agri-food toward net-zero, resilient, and sustainable systems. Within this context - coherence among policies, harmonised metrics, and collaboration between stakeholders is the key!

Liina Laas

Founding Partner, The Better Fund

I can confirm what Jara Pascual mentioned regarding the significant link between female founders and green and clean tech innovation. We discovered this not only through data and research but also organically. Currently, I am raising an impact fund that invests in gender-diverse teams. As we analyse the deal flow, we observe that more than 70% of it has an impact.