Home Venture Capital Sky backs £100mn climate investment fund

Sky backs £100mn climate investment fund


British media group Sky will back a £100mn investment fund set up by Brent Hoberman’s Founders Factory to support start-ups focused on climate-related technology.

The new fund will be chaired by Sir Ian Cheshire, former Kingfisher boss and chair of Channel 4, and will bring together a board including climate scientists such as Professor Richard Templer and Professor Cameron Hepburn to help with its investment strategy.

The group will raise £100mn to back early-stage climate start-ups, but will be launched with an existing portfolio of stakes in about 25 start-ups that have been backed in the past by a previous Sky venture fund.

That vehicle, called Sky Ocean Ventures, was set up in 2018 with £25mn of money from Sky. The new fund will also be given the proceeds from the sale of paper bottle maker Choose Packaging to Hewlett-Packard, in which Sky Ocean Ventures held a stake.

Henry Lane Fox, chief executive of Founders Factory, will run the Planet Fund with Jamie Rowles, the former head of investments at Sky Ocean Ventures. The group said that it will provide entrepreneurs with support in addition to capital, working with companies like Ovo Energy, Mindful Chef and ZeroAvia on growing their businesses.

Climate tech financing has grown in recent years but is often focused on already developed parts of the industry such as electric cars and battery production, while investors say that more risky and nascent technology are harder to finance.

PwC has identified more than 3,000 climate tech start-ups around the world, with $87.5bn invested in climate tech in the second half of 2020 and first half of 2021. The US remains the most dominant geography in that period, raising $56.6bn, or nearly 65 per cent of all funding, according to PwC.

Planet Fund will focus on broad sustainability themes including decarbonisation, resource preservation and climate resilience. The fund’s management said that it wanted to help with the funding shortfall for very early stage climate start-ups.

Brent Hoberman, executive chair of Founders Factory, said that decision to team up with Sky would “allow us to invest in and nurture the best climate entrepreneurs.”

The launch of the new venture capital fund comes ahead of London’s Tech Week, which will bring together investors, founders and government officials to discuss ways to boost activity across the sector. Digital secretary Nadine Dorries will unveil a new digital strategy aimed at helping firms grow, and create new high-skilled jobs.

On Monday, the UK’s government-backed Digital Economy Council will release data showing that more than 950 UK tech companies have raised £12.4bn in venture capital funding to date in 2022 — more than the whole of 2020 and putting the UK second to the US and ahead of China, India and France.

Bristol and Oxford both ranked in the top 20 European tech hubs for funding this year, according to the data provided by Dealroom. The UK is now home to 122 ‘unicorns’, companies with a value of more than £1bn, it found.

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