In February 2011, while working for Unipart, I wrote a presentation entitled Electric 2020, in which I predicted that the car industry would be on the road to full electrification by 2020. It turns out I was right, but do admit that I got the reason wrong: I expected oil to reach $1,000 a barrel.
The fact that I was right about the outcome, but wrong about the reason is actually a good thing. The oil price is just an economic indicator. Demand for oil is not exceeding supply and the incentive to go on investing in extraction is therefore reducing. This is a trend that will continue and must inform our future investment decision making.
The smart money is no longer chasing hydrocarbon extraction or other activities that have a negative impact on climate change. The logic is very simple: all the evidence points to the fact that we must reduce global emissions to net zero by 2050. Even if you don't believe this, enough other people now do and you are likely be left behind.
As Bill Gates points out in his new book and excellent Zoom chat with Alok Sharma yesterday, to get to Net Zero by 2050, from our current emissions rate of 51bn tonnes of CO2 per year, is a huge task. Can we do it in just 30 years?
The 10 years since I made my Electric 2020 prediction have flown by. But I took some of my own advice and have spent the last decade working out how to do something about it. Engineered products and solutions are fundamental if we are to achieve this objective. I founded Productiv, where we have worked on over 50 product development projects that reduce emissions, not only helping to create sustainable solutions, but also refining the engineering processes and know-how to accelerate such development in the future.
Meanwhile, the UK government has also been doing its part. For the past decade, all grant funding has had to demonstrate a positive impact on the environment. The result is thousands of inventions and innovations coming out of the laboratories and sheds around the country. If you want inspiration, just have a look at the list of thousands of projects funded by Innovate UK.
We are now in a great position to use the next 10 years to get those innovations out of the labs and sheds and into production. If we do this for as many as possible, by 2030 we will have 20 years left for them to scale up to stand a chance of having a positive impact on the 2050 Net Zero objective.
While this is definitely the right thing to do to save the planet, it also makes absolute sense from an investment perspective. We are starting to see the investment management industry turn its resources towards funding “impact” businesses and makes this a core part of future strategy. Between now and 2030, the pressures and urgencies of climate change are going to become increasingly apparent, with government policies and other drivers growing ever more powerful. Put simply: invest in future solutions now, so that they are ready for the inevitable surges in demand.
This is why I also founded Clean Engineering, an investment company focused on developing engineering solutions to the climate crisis. We provide a combination of expertise and capital to drive impact. Over the next 10 years, we will invest in multiple technologies and get them ready for production and scale up. If you would like to join us as an inventor, innovator, investor or delivery partner please get in touch.
18th February 2021