Sir Ronald Cohen’s insights from his second book, Impact: Reshaping Capitalism to Drive Real Change, lay out a methodology for adding impact to the usual risk and return decision-making for investing.
Here is a case study from his keynote delivered at the GCV Digital Forum on September 29.
The power of intentionally adding in impact to traditional investment metrics is impressive. India-based conglomerate Reliance has effectively applied this measure by saying what happens if the cost of phones and data is almost zero – as Arjun Malhotra at Good Capital notes.
But scaling up requires transformative leaps to bypass obsolete technology with built infrastructure, attitudes and sunk costs.
Europe and the US are trying to reinvigorate their economies to do the same. This, however, is hard to do.
At the annual European research and innovation conference last month, Mariana Mazzucato, an economics professor at University College London, said Europe was experiencing “a real Marshall moment” – a reference to the post-World War II Marshall plan to rebuild Europe with US financing – that could be updated to achieve wider goals, such as tackling the climate crisis.
She said: “We have a very large recovery fund, and for the first time in a long time, that fund is conditional on the member states actually investing, having a plan around climate, digitalisation and health. It is no longer about cutting deficits.”
The European Commission has been piloting its European Innovation Capital (EIC) investment scheme to identify and support with blended finance startups trying to achieve these so-called green deal goals.
Its latest report, Deep Tech Europe: The impact of the European Innovation Council (EIC) Pilot, focuses on the results and impacts of the €1.3bn ($1.5bn) three years of the pilot phase before formal launch in January. The report shows 90% of projects funded support the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and crowded in €5.3bn to EIC-supported companies with greater gender diversity among founders.
As news provider Science Business notes, the EIC is also trying to form a forum to bring together entrepreneurs, policymakers and academia, to work on improving Europe‘s innovation ecosystem. But, practically and at first, much rests on the programme managers selected to allocate EIC finance to entrepreneurs. Antonio Pantaleo will focus on bioenergy projects, Francesco Matteucci will manage the portfolio of materials for green energy, while Iordanis Arzimanoglou will look after biotech and Enric Claverol-Tinturé the medical devices space.
A panel with Claverol-Tinturé at the European research and innovation conference, concluded the opportunity set when thinking medical devices alone is huge but too often investors have taken a narrow approach with worries about regulatory or technical risks and unintended consequences of implanting a device in people.
But as with Sir Ronald’s example of allowing glasses to effectively read the page for illiterate people, so the question of devices is so much broader than historically people have considered the sector to be.
Apple has regulatory approach for its watch as a medical device. Thank to Jio and others, almost everyone in the world now carries a phone that can be put to use. Nvidia’s purchase of chip designer Arm for up to $40bn pulls in artificial intelligence into these phones and apps.
The question for Europe is who among its population has the desire to impact global rather than local markets?
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