Specialist fund manager Greensphere Capital announces it is bringing together the world’s largest group of globally-renowned bioscience and environmental science institutes to launch the Gaia Sciences Innovation partnerships. Greensphere will raise a £150 million fund designed to invest in and scale world-leading businesses that successfully commercialise solutions that mitigate against the dual crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.

Gaia Sciences Innovation brings together leading British partner institutions that are home to more than 4,000 scientists, researchers, and conservationists, including RBG Kew, ZSL, University of York, UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, and via the Norwich Research Park, which includes the Earlham Institute, John Innes Centre, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Quadram Institute, The Sainsbury Laboratory, and the University of East Anglia.

Based across the UK with a particular focus in regional research hubs such as York and Norwich, the fund will invest into start-up, spin-out and scale-up businesses linked to these institutions, that can help tackle biodiversity loss and climate change. These companies will then benefit from ongoing access to leading-edge scientific expertise in areas such as plant, fungal and animal sciences, ecology and hydrology, soil and microbiomes, and engineering biology.

The wider arrangement will see partner organisations benefit from any new spinouts through profit share (via co-ownership) and license fees which allows organisations to fund future research and further build their organisational capacity. The spin-out companies should also provide a virtuous loop of valuable data from operating environments for scientists to refine and improve intellectual property.

Divya Seshamani, Managing Partner at Greensphere Capital, said:

In the face of the global climate and biodiversity crisis, we urgently need more investment into solutions based on the best available science.  Mitigating these real risks requires evidence-led, science-based solutions, not anecdotes and spin.”

 “Britain is home to many of the world’s best bio and environmental science researchers, but the commercial potential in their breakthroughs is too often being overlooked. We want to unlock a pipeline of exciting ventures that are based on brilliant ideas, that operate with scientific integrity, that are grounded in a contextual understanding of the complex natural systems and are alert to the risks of unforeseen consequences.”

The fund will focus primarily on investments across three focus areas:

  • Greening real assets: making agriculture and forestry more sustainable and enhancing or restoring land and water-based ecosystems, with applications such as natural pest control, green fertiliser and products that enhance soil health, afforestation and habitat restoration advisory, enhanced carbon dioxide sequestration, and improved watershed management.
  • Green fintech: providing technology and expertise that can underpin and unlock green financial markets. This includes technologies to measure, monitor and verify biodiversity and climate impacts, including technologies for environmental DNA collection and sequencing, sensors for tracking water and soil health, computational genetics, and AI for assessing climate and nature-related risks.
  • Human supply-chain resilience: investing in solutions that improve the resilience of human supply chains (from food to medicine) and ease pressures on ecosystems or adapt to changing conditions, for example through climate-resilient food crops, developing alternatives that displace drivers of deforestation such as meat, dairy and palm oil, and using plants for drug discovery or producing bioactive compounds.

In December 2022, international governments agreed the Kunming-Montreal global biodiversity framework with a goal of halting biodiversity loss by 2030, protecting 30% of the planet for nature. According to World Economic Forum, $44 trillion of global economic value is moderately or highly dependent on nature and its services, making up over half of global GDP. ZSL and WWF’s Living Planet Index reveals that since 1970, there has been a 69% decline in global monitored wildlife populations, and it is predicted that by 2050 1 million species are on course for extinction. This fund sets out to address these interdependent challenges of climate change.

Professor Monique Simmonds, Deputy Director of Science at The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, commented: “Addressing biodiversity loss and climate change through science is at the heart of Kew’s mission.  When we work with others, innovate and deliver science-based solutions, we know we will see change. It is now a question of pace.  We are ready, we have the knowledge and the expertise, but it is the arrival of critical funding that will help us realise the solutions.”

 Matthew Gould, Chief Executive at ZSL, commented: “This is a brilliant opportunity for us to expand our impact and scale ZSL innovation at the kind of speed the world needs. It means our scientists and conservationists will have access to experts and investors as they develop solutions for our planet.”

 Professor Charlie Jeffery, Vice-Chancellor at University of York, commented: “We have some of the best researchers working on solutions to many of society’s most challenging environmental issues. This vital collaboration highlights the University’s commitment to creating a fairer and more sustainable future for all by harnessing knowledge from our discovery-led research to provide innovative solutions in the global fight against climate change and biodiversity loss. We look forward to working with Gaia Sciences Innovation on a range of exciting projects that have the potential to make a real difference to the world we live in.” 

 Roz Bird, CEO of Anglia Innovation Partnership (AIP), the science park management company at Norwich Research Park, commented: “The research and innovation at Norwich Research Park is important because it is addressing global challenges like food security, human disease and the effects of climate change. Companies on the campus spinning out of the research community are developing new ground-breaking technologies that will benefit society and the environment and contribute to the economic growth of the UK. We are delighted that as a result of AIP’s enterprise strategy this new partnership with Gaia Sciences Innovation has been formed which will help businesses on the park campus to grow and succeed.

 Dr Stuart Wainwright, Chief Executive at UKCEH, commented: “We are excited to be a founding institute in this initiative, which will catalyse innovation across UKCEH, from reversing biodiversity loss to improving soil health and mitigating climate change to managing landscapes sustainably.  This presents a fantastic opportunity to maximise the impact of our research and innovation, as well as to build new science collaborations across partner institutes, in order that together, people and nature can prosper.”