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Independent Study Opportunity at CBEY: Mapping climate tech

How does climate tech break down into easily understandable categories that can help to clearly explain the work of the investors and entrepreneurs in the space?

Fictive

The Yale Center for Business and the Environment (CBEY) is looking for 2-3 students to conduct an independent study (1.5 credits) on mapping climate tech. Over the course of the semester, the students will define sub-categories of the climate tech landscape by analyzing a wide variety of technologies. The process will be student-driven, with advice and guidance from CBEY staff. The research will lead to a framework that can help shape and inform the growing conversation around climate tech.

Issue Summary 

The route to mitigation goes through innovation.

The world’s leading climate authority, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published a landmark 2018 report highlighting the urgency of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The report outlines four potential pathways for reaching that goal. The pathways are vastly different, but one thing they have in common is a central role for new technologies, all of which fall under the growing category known as climate tech.

New technology needs to complement existing solutions, deployed immediately. But the IPCC pathways make clear that solving climate change depends, to some extent, on technological innovation.

What do those technologies look like in practice? Right now, the term “climate tech” is a wide tent that covers any new technology or platform that in some way addresses the climate crisis. Solutions range from apps that measure an individual’s carbon footprint to renewable energy technologies that could one day power millions of households. 

While these technologies are each nobly chipping away at the problem of climate change, some have the potential to take out much bigger chunks than others. They also entail vastly different risks, benefits, development timelines, and capital requirements.

The goal of this independent study will be to create a framework with consistent language to understand the various forms of climate tech, building on existing work from organizations like Prime Coalition and Breakthrough Energy. Students will gain a broad understanding of the climate tech ecosystem and contribute to a rapidly growing and evolving conversation on the role of technology in addressing climate change.

NOTE: Some of the language in this summary is drawn from this GreenBiz article, written by Ben Soltoff, CBEY Environmental Innovation Manager. 

Deliverable:

A published framework (PDF and/or online) that defines sensible and easily understandable sub-categories for climate tech, along with examples of how various startups and investor portfolios might fit into those categories. The framework should be clear enough that others in the space can use the same language and concepts in their own work.

Stages of Work:
  • Conduct a literature review of existing analyses of climate tech literature
  • Create a rough database of technologies and companies in the climate tech ecosystem
  • Draft a comprehensive framework to map the examples in the database
  • Create consistent language and define key terms
  • Interview entrepreneurs, investors, and experts to discuss the framework, and iterate based on their feedback
  • Test the framework by applying  new companies and technologies 
  • Work with CBEY to share the results externally
Staff & Advisors:
  • Ben Soltoff and Stuart DeCew, CBEY Leads
  • External experts and practitioners
  • Additional faculty at SOM and/or YSE

To apply for this independent study, please send your resume and a statement of interest no longer than one page to Ben Soltoff (ben.soltoff@yale.edu) by September 4. In the statement, please explain any prior experience you may have in the world of climate tech. 

Photo courtesy of GreenBiz