For corporations above a certain size ESG is no longer optional, and for the more forward-looking it can be more of an opportunity than an obligation.
In early 2022 WAE was acquired by Fortescue Metals Group, probably the most forward-thinking mining company in the world, who have publicly committed to converting their iron ore operations to real zero by 2030 – a staggering commitment, and one backed by a $6bn investment into Fortescue Future Industries to acquire and / or develop the technologies to enable this unprecedented transition.
Sainsbury’s too, is committed to reducing its carbon emissions and becoming Net Zero by 2035 within its own operations. To date, the retailer has invested in over 3,000 energy saving initiatives in the last decade, including LED lighting and over the next 20 years will invest a further £1 billion in programmes to support Sainsbury’s in reducing its environmental impact.
Sainsbury’s identified venture investment as one of the tools to help their transition to Net Zero and were looking for a partner with tech venture expertise, deal execution and portfolio management to help source and select the best opportunities. The retailer recognised that tackling the climate crisis at the speed and scale required collaboration rather than relying on existing technologies to deliver the necessary solutions. New, disruptive technologies and innovation would be key to enabling businesses to achieve their Net Zero targets.
WAE are a well-established deep-tech investor via the FWT funds (formerly Foresight Williams Technology), an investment joint venture with Foresight Group, which made WAE the ideal venture partner for Sainsbury’s.
Launched in 2022, Sainsbury’s Innovation Investments (S2I) is a collaboration between Sainsbury’s and WAE and is designed to be more than simply a regular corporate venture capital fund. To qualify for investment, companies must be developing technologies that will contribute to Sainsbury’s target to achieve Net Zero within its own operations, and be relevant to one of four key areas: energy efficiency, heating and cooling, water and food waste, and logistics. Sainsbury’s recognised that technologies need to be shared and the wider the technology can be deployed the better benefit for the environment.
This follows the successful path forged by an earlier collaboration between Sainsbury’s, WAE and Aerofoil Energy, on Aerofoils, a simple but beautifully engineered product that saves ~15% of energy on open-fronted supermarket refrigerators which has now been adopted by Sainsbury’s and many other grocery retailers in the UK and overseas.
Sainsbury’s and WAE intend to repeat this success with S2I, bringing capital and market to start-ups developing new ground-breaking Net Zero technologies.
- Investment opportunities for S2I can be submitted via the S2I portal.
- Investment opportunities for FWT can be submitted via the FWT Portal.
- For enquiries about venture collaborations with WAE please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julian Peck is Investment Manager in the Technology Ventures team at WAE, responsible for investing both the FWT and S2I funds. He is an engineer with experience as a founder and in tech transfer at Cambridge Enterprise.