Bill Gates Leads $1 Billion Investment Fund Supporting Clean Energy and Transportation

Bill Gates is leading a $1 billion clean tech investment fund backed by other technology leaders and venture capital firms.

Launched in concept by the co-founder of Microsoft a year ago at the Paris Summit, Breakthrough Energy Ventures was officially unveiled Monday. Its mission is to increase investment in early-stage cleantech research supporting clean energy, transportation, and other economic sectors.

The $1 billion 20-year fund has been backed by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Virgin Group’s Richard Branson, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, leading venture capitalists John Doerr and Vinod Khosla, and other luminaries.

“I am honored to work along with these investors to build on the powerful foundation of public investment in basic research,” Gates said. “Our goal is to build companies that will help deliver the next generation of reliable, affordable, and emissions-free energy to the world.”

Breakthrough Energy Ventures is dedicated to researching potential emissions-free solutions in five sectors: energy, transportation, agriculture, manufacturing, and buildings. Four investment criteria need to be met to find financial backing: ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least half of a gigaton; potential for attracting outside capital; demonstrating “existing scientific proof of concept;” and a requirement for patient and flexible capital. It is a 20-year fund, with long-term expectations.

The Breakthrough Energy Ventures website features a long list of projects backing low-emissions transportation research. Energy and fuel efficiency seems to be the bellwether rather than embracing one specific technology.

The spectrum of vehicles and fuels are covered. One research project supports development of energy dense batteries for electrified transportation. Another delves into biomass liquid fuels production.

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Gates’ fascination with energy efficient vehicle technologies goes back a few years. In 2012, he invested in EcoMotors and its Opposed-Piston-Opposed-Cylinder engine.

That engine uses two horizontally opposed cylinders turning a center crankshaft and does not use valves or a cylinder head. Gates was impressed that it offered 15 to 50 percent improved fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions, and has 60-percent fewer parts.

UK Climate Change and Industry Minister Nick Hurd sees the new fund combining support for emissions reductions and economic development.

“The transition to a clean energy system is well underway in the UK and around the world,” he said in an emailed statement. “[This announcement] is a great opportunity for British innovators in the UK low-carbon sector, which is already worth over £80 billion ($102 billion) in turnover. Again we see how reducing emissions goes hand in hand with commercial opportunity.”

GreenBiz


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