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.