Innovation Pillar: Phase 1 Summary

Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) as outlined in the Paris Agreement is a monumental problem. The key to meeting such lofty global climate goals is finding solutions that can scale to meet its size. That’s where the Innovation Pillar, which brought together experts from World Resources Institute (WRI), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), HSBC and a global network of local NGO partners, comes in. For the last couple of years, the Innovation program – part of the Climate Solutions Partnership (CSP) — curated, reviewed and mentored high impact climate focused ventures from around the world, assisting in their journey to secure investment to scale their unique-yet-replicable solutions.

The Innovation Pillar worked with nine ventures throughout the previous year, building capacities around impact measurement and pitching, as part of the Great Fashion Decarbonisation Opportunity, in partnership with Textile Lab for Circularity, the Apparel Impact Institute and Fashion for Good. Co-designing the challenge with industry partners was not only crucial to engaging startups, but also identifying specific industry-wide hurdles to scaling climate innovation. The pillar convened multiple industry focus groups in the fashion sector to discuss barriers facing innovations in the industry and foster collaboration with individuals across the sector. The challenge culminated in the pillar's first investor pitch event, where three investors requested introductions to ventures after the event. Directly connecting to potential investors is another massive challenge for startups that this pillar addressed. Overall, the pillar hosted six pitch events that brought together investors, industry, start-up ecosystem players and colleagues across the partnership who are interested in climate innovation.   

The partnership between the Innovation Pillar and the cohorts of forward-thinking businesses helped identify markets and methods to scale up climate solutions, in collaboration with leading universities, research institutes, incubators and accelerators and key industry players.

Pillar Highlights

The Innovation Pillar team developed a comprehensive suite of tools, including an application form that acts as a tool for start-ups to evaluate their business holistically across impact, technical and business criteria; curator assessment criteria to review climate start-ups; a guide on how to land on impactful problem areas and convene the right players; a playbook on how to run global pitch events; templates for briefing documents and more.

100 experts lent their unique knowledge to the start-ups via direct interactions or through their input into the pillar’s newly developed resources. Twenty-nine new ventures received specialized pitch-coaching sessions, improving their ability to attract interest from key stakeholders. Their enhanced funding skillset led to acquiring investment and interest from 33 new individuals, companies and organizations who financed clean tech for the first time.

Moving Forward to Phase 2: Innovating Financing for Sustainable Infrastructure

Starting in May 2023, the WRI Innovation team pivoted to launching a sustainable infrastructure project preparation facility in partnership with HSBC India: Financing Green Infrastructure Lab in Mumbai. Focused on the city of Mumbai, the project will address barriers in infrastructure finance, strengthen project bankability and diversify financial options for infrastructure by engaging new and different kinds of investors and alternative finance sources. The new work aims to help develop financially sound project proposals towards increasing investment in mitigation and resilience projects under the Mumbai Climate Action Plan.

One project revolves around the expansion of a biodiversity park, as well as adding an educational element to make the benefits of Nature-based Solutions (NbS) projects more accessible to the public. While the park serves the broader public, developing the plan creates opportunities for financiers and regulators to innovate new mechanisms and build partnerships to address and balance risk and find scale. Illuminating the mutual gains from improving the biodiversity park secures buy-in from all stakeholders, the nexus of public-private partnerships.

The other project builds financing models for retrofitting and instituting tech upgrades for taxis and auto-rickshaws. Fifteen years after these fleets were told to switch from petroleum and diesel fuel to natural gas, they’re being asked to electrify their vehicles. The Indian e-rickshaw market alone could reach $5 billion by 2025. Electrifying these popular modes of transportation requires optimal risk-sharing between the private and public sector and business models that appeal to private and commercial financiers. Convening stakeholders is a critical component to project success. Scaling existing solutions or innovating new ones means bringing government officials, unions, equipment manufacturers and financiers to the table. Bridging the gap between what is possible and what is necessary for a clean transportation sector can lead to a massive reduction in emissions while supporting the livelihoods for millions of drivers in the country.