Back in 2020, Mark Carney, then Governor of the Bank of England, described climate change as the ‘greatest commercial opportunity of our time‘.


Clearly, we would all be a lot better off without climate change in the first place, but the need to limit global warming is undoubtedly fuelling a huge wave of innovation and entrepreneurship across the world.


Appearing at a Department of Business Energy & Industrial Strategies Select Committee hearing, Carbon Re Co-Founder Buffy Price set out how the UK risks falling behind other countries, particularly the USA, in its efforts to nurture and grow climate tech start-ups and scale-ups.  She also made a number of proposals as to how the UK government could help the UK tech industry to capitalise on this opportunity.


Buffy commented: “There are brilliant accelerator programs [for start-ups] – Carbon Re participated in the Future Scope Digital Catapult Accelerator program last year and we do really see opportunities for early stage funding, small grants from the government.


However, she continued, “the Coalition for the Digital Economy (COADEC) have identified what they term as the ‘valley of death’ which is where you have the amazing start up funding and then from piloting to commercialization there seems to be a gap in funding and support from the government.”


Explaining the international investment opportunity, she commented: “The investor appetite in the UK seems more conservative than we are seeing overseas. We are looking at our Series A and the Inflation Reduction Act in America is obviously very attractive. We are very interested in the EU’s Green Deal Industrial Plan and we are also looking at Sovereign Wealth Funds overseas. We would love to see those sort of opportunities coming up in the UK.”


This refers to the recent news that the British Business Bank is potentially set to include a sovereign wealth fund element.


Another key proposal put to the committee was the creation of a task force for the climate – similar to the vaccine task force – to focus on the urgency of identifying and rolling out the most impactful scalable climate technologies that are viable today and in the near future. Such a task force would be empowered to accelerate decision-making and invest in scaling and commercialising promising technologies.


Buffy suggested, “What we really want to see is the vaccine task force approach to climate tech. We know that Nature released a report in 2021 that stated it is more important that we reduce our carbon emissions between now and 2030 than hitting net-zero between 2040 and 2050. So we would want to see a partnership with industry and government….to really hone in on those high impact scalable solutions to accelerate decision making and really drive investment in that space.”

Buffy Price also highlighted a number of other specific areas which have been detrimental to the development of the ‘clean tech’ and AI sectors in the UK.


“As a spin-out of UCL and Cambridge universities we are really lucky to benefit from “the quality of the talent that is coming out of those institutions”, however the legacy of Brexit means that keeping that talent in the UK is bureaucratic, costly and painful. “We are bringing in someone at the moment who did his MSc in AI and Energy Systems at UCL – a non-national, and now we are having to go through the UKVI process to bring him back here to work with us in London. This has to change if the UK is actually going to remain a global centre for AI and Clean Tech.”


She also sees the recent cutting of R&D tax credits – on average by 30% to 40% – as “unhelpful” and should be reconsidered; for many startups this may be the difference between surviving and failing.