Impact investing is now everywhere, as seen by technology magazine WIRED hosting a conference on the topic in London on 2 November 2022. It covered a range of issues from supply chain, public health and clean energy. For those not able to attend there were some key takeaways for investors and entrepreneurs alike.

  • There is more to life sciences than just healthcare. One of the afternoon's presentations was by a start-up, which is using proteins and enzymes to develop bioplastics and biobuilding materials. Similarly, there was another start-up developing fully compostable materials from microorganisms.    

At the moment many investors in life sciences are focused on healthcare solutions. However, not all of these technologies will be successful…at least in a healthcare context. There may be even more opportunities for life sciences investors who can take their expertise into other sectors.

  • The scientific and academic community need to get better at communication, whether that is with business, the Government or the public more generally. Despite the UK's role as Europe's leading tech-hub, there was still a feeling that more is still needed to help translate the best academic discoveries into new businesses. A number of speakers were keen to see more from business in persuading the Government to develop policies to encourage innovation, particularly to help those starting in the academy.

Perhaps unsurprisingly from a conference hosted by WIRED, there was a general feeling that more good quality scientific journalism was needed to educate the public, whether that is on vaccine safety or climate change.

  • The importance of supply chain. Almost every company talked about the importance of getting supply chain right, whether that is building materials, food deliveries or vaccine roll out. When we assess a business from an impact perspective, it is important to remember that much of the carbon emissions but also waste typically take place downstream of the business itself.

There was also a recognition that the healthcare industry has its own supply chain issues, whether that is in (cold) shipping or medical waste.  However, these challenges also bring opportunities, as new technologies allow data to be gathered across large populates in real time, as well as the potential for de-centralised GMP manufacturing.

There is a lot of discussion at the moment about impact investing going mainstream and fears of greenwashing. However, from a scientific perspective it was great to hear a range of new ideas (often rooted in life sciences) to tackle some of the urgent environmental issues.

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