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Younger generation pushes innovative solutions to combat climate change


In the race to develop solutions for mitigating climate change, harnessing the talents of the younger generation is a critical part of the equation.

These talents were on display during the Climate Investment Challenge (CIC), an annual competition launched in 2019 that calls for postgraduate university students to develop innovative financial solutions to address climate change. This could include identifying untapped climate finance opportunities or developing innovative financial structures or instruments that improve the bankability of climate investments.

The competition is a student-run initiative run by the Centre for Climate Financing & Investment at Imperial College Business School in London. The Challenge is sponsored by Candriam, Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners and Standard Chartered.

To be eligible, individuals must be enrolled in a postgraduate degree (Masters, MBA, or PhD-level) at the time of the submission. The challenge is open globally to students from all academic backgrounds. Undergraduate students may participate as long as the leader of the group is enrolled in a postgraduate degree, with students forming teams of two to six members.

At this year’s Challenge, there was a total of 109 submissions. These were whittled down to six finalist teams, each of whom then presented their submission in front of a jury, which included a Q&A by jury members. The industry experts comprising the jury were Koen Van de Maele, Global Head of Investment Solutions at Candriam; Anne Foster, Senior Director & Global Head of ESG Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners; Ben Daly, Head of Transition Finance, Standard Chartered Bank; and Maximilian Bucher, Associate SystemIQ.

“It was truly inspiring to see so much enthusiasm from the teams who presented,” said Koen Van de Maele, “as well as a good sense of solutions that present sound and practical investment opportunities.”

Unique ideas in abundance

The judges awarded the first prize of £10,000 prize to a team of students from Imperial College Business School: Cormac McKenna, MSc Climate Change, Management & Finance and Dáire Brady, MSc Finance & Accounting, along with Mairéad Barron, a student at the London School of Economics studying on the MSc Environmental Economics & Climate Change.

The winners developed SustainAcre, a project which aims to scale up the use of regenerative agriculture practices, while also making sustainable farmland an attractive proposition for retail investors.

The SustainAcre proposal calls for a system where investors can help farmers implement more regenerative agricultural practices in tree nut orchards. Using blockchain technology, investors can use tokens to invest in these practices and help farmers to scale up their regenerative practices in orchard farming. The project aims to restore biodiversity and climate stability, and ultimately shift towards a more sustainable global food system.

The Emerging Market prize of £7,500 went to Coast Haven at the Cambridge Judge Business School, for their development of two new financial products that allow coastal communities and investors to benefit from the economic value of mangrove forests through insurance and insurance-backed carbon offsets.

The Runner Up prize of £5,000 was awarded to Resolut at the Imperial College London who developed a proposal for the development of an app designed to increase engagement between retail investors and companies by building a community around shareholder activism, with the overall goal of empowering retail investors to take active participation in Annual General Meetings.

It’s all too easy to get caught up in the negativity that too little is being done to address climate change. Then you see the innovations on display here and you get a surge of optimism.
Koen Van de Maele Global Head of Investment Solutions at Candriam and a member of the Climate Investment Challenge jury

Reacting to the news of their win, the members of SustainAcre said: “We are really thrilled to have won this year’s competition. Taking part in the Climate Investment Challenge competition has been a very valuable process, which has allowed us to fully explore the challenges faced by global agriculture as a result of climate change.”

The team behind Resolut, the runners up of the Climate Investment Challenge 2022

The runners up said: "The Climate Investment Challenge was a great and challenging experience. It is a unique opportunity for students to explore and develop their own idea in the field of climate finance. Throughout the different stages, we learned a lot and grew as a team. We were impressed by the heterogeneity of the ideas, which also reflected the different backgrounds of the students from all over the world. The final showed that all ideas have real world potential and that innovation in this field is urgently needed."

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