Wroclaw, Poland. 24 May 2022. Earlier this month, Wolves Summit and PwC Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) announced their partnership with the goal of matching global impact investors with climate tech start-ups in the CEE region. As part of that partnership, they organised on 24 May at the Wolves Summit in Wroclaw a Climate Tech Pitching Track as part of The Great Pitch Contest, held a panel discussion on the state of climate tech investment, and announced plans to produce a CEE edition of the PwC Net Zero Future 50 report. Climate tech start-ups across the CEE region are invited to submit nominations for possible inclusion in the report by 3 July 2022.
Wolves Summit and PwC are pleased to congratulate the following start-ups on their successful pitches and participation in the Climate Tech Pitching Track: MTAP SMART CITY, Agrolink, Astrotectonic, Nanosci, LightMirror, Deeptraffic, Meliora, Inion, S.Lab, Mediprintic.
Special recognition goes to S.Lab and Agrolink, whom the jury selected as the winners of the Climate Tech Pitching Track, and who will now go on to compete in the finals of The Great Pitch Contest on the final day of Wolves Summit this Friday, 27 May. These two start-ups will also receive a pro-bono workshop from PwC and be guests at the Wolves Summit VIP Investor Reception.
“The judging panel was very impressed about the diversity of climate tech solutions showcased today and the high-level of technical expertise demonstrated by the company founders. S.Lab and Agrolink were selected as finalists due to their innovative offerings and scalability opportunities," said José Miguel Salazar, Manager in PwC CEE’s ESG Hub and jury member. "That being said, congratulations to all participants today. There is no silver bullet to address climate change and we need to accelerate the uptake of all the technologies like the ones presented today. We hope to hear soon from these founders about their scale-up story.”
Investment opportunities in climate-critical sectors
The Wolves Summit and PwC partnership was formed to help support and promote the climate tech sector in the CEE region. Climate tech has shown strong growth as an emerging asset class around the world, and investment in this sector can play an important role in portfolio diversification, while also facilitating progress towards climate change mitigation and adaptation.
As the recent PwC report on the State of Climate Tech shows, climate tech has seen increased funding inflows in recent years. More than $222 billion was invested from 2013 to 2021, including $60 billion in the first half of 2021 alone. Over the past two years, the average deal size has jumped from $27 million to $96 million. Climate tech now accounts for 14 cents of every $1 of venture capital invested.
However, climate tech investments have been distributed unevenly, leaving some of the sectors that could have the biggest impact on climate change mitigation underfunded. To date, 61% of climate tech investment has gone towards transforming mobility. Yet transportation contributes only 16% of global CO2 emissions.
Meanwhile, manufacturing is responsible for 29% of emissions and the built environment for an additional 21%. These sectors have received only 9% and 4%, respectively, of climate tech investment dollars.
This imbalance between the sectors most responsible for emissions and the sectors receiving the lion’s share of investment creates an opportunity. There’s enormous potential for investors to fund transformative start-ups in sectors that have previously been overlooked. Moderately sized investments in, for example, smokestack-based carbon capture or green concrete could jumpstart these technologies and create entirely new climate tech markets.
In addition, many current investments have focused on software start-ups because they offer subscription-based business models that are familiar to investors. Software solutions play an important role in reducing emissions, but mitigating climate change will inevitably require more technically challenging hardware solutions.
While hardware start-ups are often capital intensive, they may be able to more directly address emissions. Equally important for investors, start-ups that produce physical technological innovations will have larger moats than software-driven start-ups and are likely to produce stronger returns for investors.
Investment opportunities in underfunded regions
The imbalance in climate tech investment is not only sector-based—it is also geographic. Nearly 65% of all climate tech investments are in the US, while Europe accounts for less than a quarter of climate tech funding. Within Europe, investment has centred on start-ups in London and Berlin. Start-ups in Central and Eastern Europe have been less likely to benefit from the trend towards increasing investment in climate tech, despite recent growth in the region’s start-up ecosystem.
This is in part because founders in CEE lack the networks and connections that founders in Western Europe and the US take for granted. Wolves Summit is actively working to build these connections, but VCs can play an important role in connecting founders, too.
In the meantime, investors need to recognize the opportunity that exists outside of established networks. Whereas many start-ups in the West are working on Series A and B funding rounds, many Climate Tech start-ups in CEE are still in the incubation stage. The introduction of accelerator programs and funds into CEE could dramatically speed up the maturation of start-ups in this region, propelling promising founders, rewarding early investors, and creating new opportunities for climate tech investment.
As an extension of the Climate Tech pitching track, PwC and Wolves Summit held a panel discussion on what more needed to done in order to bring more climate tech investment in to the CEE region. The panel discussion was moderated by Diana Florescu, Strategic Communications Advisor to the Wolves Summit, and featured the participation of José Miguel Salazar Hernández, Manager at the PwC CEE ESG Hub; Ewelina Łukasik-Morawska, ESG Manager at PwC CEE; Elliot Malone, Manager Disruption & Innovation at PwC UK; Maciej Majewski, CEO / Head of Acceleration at Accelpoint; and Michał Sobczyk, Regulatory and Public Affairs Manager at CEE EIT InnoEnergy.
"At EIT InnoEnergy, we continue to witness reverberating turmoil worldwide due to the global pandemic, ongoing climate crisis, and increasing inequality. Through our innovation engine for sustainable energy, we try to support all European projects that provide a positive impact, backed by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology," said Michał Sobczyk, Regulatory and Public Affairs Manager at CEE EIT InnoEnergy. "For us, true sustainability also means an industry that's commercially viable, endlessly innovative, and highly competitive. We make this possible by helping Europe adopt pioneering new technologies without risk or complexity."
The future of climate tech investment
Right now, opportunities to invest in climate tech abound. Climate tech start-ups are working on everything from renewable energy, battery recycling, and decarbonised packaging to low-emission agriculture, carbon sequestration, and green construction.
There are no silver bullets to solving the climate crisis, which means that multiple technologies and multiple approaches are likely to succeed and fuel further innovation. As with investing, the best move is to diversify, which means funding the underfunded and seeking out new and novel technology start-ups in new regions. Investors should look to start-ups whose financial and ecological success are intrinsically linked, such as Climeworks and Carbon Clean, who recently raised €580 million and €100 million respectively.
Despite the quickening pace of investment in climate tech start-ups, some of the most climate-critical technologies and the most promising founders are underfunded in their earliest stages of development. As investment in climate tech continues to grow, investors can maximise their climate impact and their potential returns by focusing on sectors and geographic regions that have thus far been overlooked.
At the conclusion of their Climate Tech pitching track at Wolves Summit, PwC CEE and Wolves Summit officially opened applications for the PwC Net Zero Future 50 Climate Tech Report - CEE Edition. Through this further work together, PwC CEE and Wolves Summit aim to bring to light the climate tech investment landscape and opportunities in Central and Eastern Europe.
Start-ups or scaleups from the following countries are encouraged to apply for the Wolves Summit Climate Tech pitch stream powered by PwC CEE: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Mongolia, Montenegro, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan.
The partnership will continue through the coming months and focus on the preparation of a CEE edition of PwC’s Net Zero Future50 climate tech report, with plans to present the report findings during the autumn edition of the Wolves Summit in October. Read more about the PwC Net Zero Future 50 Climate Tech Report and apply here: https://www.pwc.com/c1/ws
Applications are open until Sunday, 3 July 23.59 CET.