The UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) is entering an exciting new partnership with the potential to expand the impact of its science through nature-based solutions. Sustainability investor Greensphere Capital will raise a £150 million fund designed to invest in and expand world-leading start-up and spin-out businesses that successfully commercialise solutions which mitigate against the dual crises of climate change and biodiversity loss in the UK and internationally.

Greensphere is partnering with UKCEH and other science institutes and organisations to form the Gaia Sciences Innovation partnership. This will invest in businesses linked to these institutions, generating investment for science activities, including agriculture, biodiversity, forestry and habitat restoration with real-world applications.

UKCEH will identify, assess and progress viable potential new investment opportunities arising from our research and commercialise these as spin-out companies. Creating a spinout company involves identifying the technology, innovation and research, building a team to develop the opportunity and securing funding to establish and grow the business.

Dr Stuart Wainwright, Chief Executive at UKCEH, commented: “We are excited to be a founding institute in this initiative, which will catalyse innovation across UKCEH, generating solutions to global environmental challenges such as reversing biodiversity loss, improving soil health, mitigating climate change and managing landscapes sustainably. This presents a fantastic opportunity to maximise the impact of our research and innovation, as well as to build new science collaborations across partner institutes, so that together, people and nature can prosper.”

Alongside UKCEH, the partnership brings together leading institutions that are home to more than 4,000 researchers and conservationists, including Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, ZSL, University of York, and via the Anglia Innovation Partnership, the Earlham Institute, John Innes Centre, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Quadram Institute, The Sainsbury Laboratory, and the University of East Anglia. 

Divya Seshamani, Managing Partner at Greensphere Capital, said: “In the face of the global climate and biodiversity crises, we urgently need more investment into solutions based on the best available science. Mitigating these real risks requires evidence-led, science-based solutions, not anecdotes and spin.”

The focus of the fund is on solutions that mitigate the impact of climate change and biodiversity loss, with a focus on three primary areas: 
•    Making agriculture and forestry more sustainable and enhancing or restoring land and water-based ecosystems, with applications such as natural pest control, green fertiliser and products that enhance soil health, afforestation and habitat restoration advisory, enhanced carbon dioxide sequestration, and improved watershed management.

•    Providing technology and expertise that can underpin and unlock green financial markets. This includes technologies to measure, monitor and verify biodiversity and climate impacts, such as for environmental DNA collection and sequencing, sensors for tracking water and soil health, computational genetics, and AI for assessing climate and nature-related risks.

•    Investing in solutions that improve the resilience of human supply chains (from food to medicine) and ease pressures on ecosystems or adapt to changing conditions, for example through climate-resilient food crops, developing alternatives that displace drivers of deforestation such as meat, dairy and palm oil, and using plants for drug discovery or producing bioactive compounds.

Greensphere Capital’s press release announcing the partnership is available on its website.