Kew Gardens secures multi-million pound climate change investment | Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens has secured a multi-million pound investment to help commercialize its research into climate-resilient crops, zero-carbon fertilizers and plant- and cell-based meat and dairy products.

Greensphere Capital, a sustainability-focused fund, aims to invest up to £100m in work carried out by Kew, a research institution and one of Britain’s largest botanic gardens, as well as other organisations, to commercialize and expand the study in the management of risks around the climate crisis and the loss of biodiversity.

The funding is designed to boost research into some of the world’s most pressing challenges, including how to feed a growing global population amid rising temperatures and an increase in extreme weather events.

In addition to sustainable agriculture, the investment will help pay for additional researchers to study botanical and fungal sciences, habitat restoration, agriculture and forestry, with the ultimate goal of turning some projects into companies.

Greensphere – which was founded in 2011 and was the first fund manager of the government’s Green Investment Bank – is investing through its climate incubator, Gaia Sciences Innovation (GSI).

Based on an area of ​​320 hectares in south-west London, Kew is home to a collection of almost 17,000 species of plants collected from around the world during its more than 260-year history, as well as its living collections in the gardens of his at Kew and Wakehurst. in Sussex.

The organization is also home to the Millennium Seed Bank, an underground collection that aims to preserve for the future over 2.4 billion seeds from around the world, including almost all of the UK’s native plant species.

Kew believes the link with Greensphere will allow it to use its collections, particularly when freed from the short-term funding cycles typically found with two- to three-year grants for academic research projects.

A non-departmental public body, Kew receives almost half of its government funding through the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) but said it does not have “what is called an intellectual property budget”.

“It’s a huge opportunity to increase the impact of the work we’re doing on biodiversity,” said Prof Monique Simmonds, deputy director of science at Kew.

However, she added: “It’s not like we’re commercializing Kew.”

“Our collections expertise, gathered over 260 years, gives us a springboard from which to provide information. Where plants were found in the past, they may not be found now, giving us an indication of what might happen with climate change,” Simmonds said.

“How can we work, not just academically to publish papers on it, but how can we help on the ground, with people, to be able to get money that maybe goes to those communities, to help them understand the value of their plants.”

Greensphere’s investment will initially be used to hire around 20 young researchers, with the aim of developing up to 10 companies.

The money will also help increase laboratory space dedicated to this type of work, which GSI believes will strengthen the UK’s role as a scientific and entrepreneurial hub.

The investment firm found that many ventures it could have invested in that aimed to tackle biodiversity loss or climate change were not based on scientific evidence, which initially prompted discussions with Kew.

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“If we were to invest in natural capital at any scale, it would be dishonest to do so without the proper science. A bit like building a road without civil engineers,” said Divya Seshamani, managing partner of Greensphere Capital.

“We discovered that the science was much less developed than it could be. There were no ready-made companies, but there were clear solutions. We thought it could do with some funding, a commercial structure, to try to bring the science into the company and it would benefit Kew, giving it an additional revenue stream.”

Kew currently has over 350 scientific staff working on projects with partners in more than 100 countries worldwide, including a permanent base in Madagascar, considered a critical site for biodiversity loss.

Kew has previously only created one spin-out from its research, a company called Polypharmakos – formed in 2016 to discover and develop new antimicrobial agents from natural products – set up with the University of Cambridge, through a £500,000 investment from the university.

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