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A billion reasons to attend our Climate Tech Series: A Conversation with RBC’s Barrie Laver

Toronto Region Board of Trade’s three-part Climate Tech breakfast series is designed to bring together industry experts, policymakers and academics to explore strategies for economic growth and scaling within our region. It provides a critical platform for networking with key players shaping the future of environmental technology.

RBC is our Climate Tech Series’ Presenting Partner, and though the bank’s Venture Capital & Private Equity unit, RBC is making an impact in this arena with a goal to allocate $1 billion over the next six years to support the development and scaling of innovative climate solutions. This new goal underscores RBC’s accelerated push toward climate solutions, channeling investments primarily through growth-equity and venture capital funds, as well as directly into pioneering companies.1

Imagine being in a room with someone who is actively investing in the Climate sector (funds and companies) and could help grow and scale your green solution. That’s what we spoke to Barrie Laver, RBC’s Head of Venture Capital & Private Equity, about where he shared more about how RBC is planning to channel a billion dollars into supporting the development of climate solutions—and how this could be relevant to you and your business.

As we get set to host this new series focusing on technologies that will help our climate, we were fascinated to learn about RBC’s new commitment to invest in innovative climate solutions, through VC funds and directly – to support companies involved in the transition to net-zero. Can you tell us more about this program?

Barrie Laver: At RBC Capital Partners, we’re strategically positioned within the bank’s corporate development team. Our primary mission is to drive growth and innovation by investing in ventures and funds that not only offer financial returns, but also align strategically with RBC's broader goals.

Regarding our new program, it was officially launched in March as part of our annual Climate Report. As one element of RBC’s climate strategy, we announced a new goal: a $1 billion allocation specifically for investments in climate solutions. This new fund is dedicated to supporting companies at the forefront of the transition to net-zero. We’re looking to invest in both global funds that target sectors crucial to our strategic climate objectives and directly in companies, typically co-investing beside one of our fund partners. Since the fund’s inception, we’ve been active in seeking out venture funds that are investing in innovative solutions to some of the most pressing challenges of energy transition, both in Canada and globally, as well as selectively looking at individual companies.

This $1 billion goal reflects our response to the substantial opportunities ahead to address environmental challenges and our capacity to manage and deploy large-scale investments effectively. We’re set to strategically deploy these resources over the coming years to make a meaningful contribution to global efforts against climate change.

Upcoming Climate Tech Breakfast

A fleet of electric vehicles being charged.

I’m sure there are many members of the Board who are thinking, "Hey, I may have a project I’m working on that could be eligible to tap into some of that billion-dollar fund." What projects is RBC most excited to invest in?

BL: As mentioned we primarily anticipate investing in venture funds that are highly respected as investors in companies developing and scaling innovative climate solutions.  We are particularly excited about funding technologies and initiatives that can make a substantial impact on environmental challenges that are directly relevant to our clients, Canada, and our economy. On balance we are keen to support companies that are not only innovative but also where their solutions have matured beyond the initial concept phase. Typically, we look for funds that invest primarily in ventures that are approaching or have reached at least the Series A funding stage, as these projects have already demonstrated proof of concept and are on a more “de-risked” path to commercial scalability and significant market impact.

Collaborations with funds that have deep climate expertise and broad networks are especially compelling to us, as these collaborations can enhance our strategic impacts significantly. We're not just investing money; we're looking to build ecosystems that support sustained innovation and development in the clean tech sector. This approach helps ensure that we engage with ventures that are ready to scale up their operations and have a clear vision for their path forward in the market. 

So for anyone who is now thinking, "I am working on a technology I think RBC will want to invest in," how do they go about pitching their idea?

BL: It's important to note again that we're particularly focused on investing in climate funds, and to that end we are happy to make introductions to funds where we have good relationships and which we think could have an interest. We are working on establishing a dedicated web presence to better serve external interests and streamline communication. In the interim, we encourage anyone interested in learning more about our investment activities or seeking investment to reach out to RBC contacts, or directly to our team members via LinkedIn.

We're particularly focused on investments that are at a Series A stage or beyond—ventures that have already shown some market traction and are positioned for rapid growth. We look for projects that not only innovate but also align strategically with our goals for environmental impact. If your situation fits these criteria, be sure to highlight these aspects when you make your initial contact.

How does this investment initiative fit into RBC's broader role in the Canadian economy and its corporate social responsibilities?

BL: As Canada’s largest bank based on market capitalization, RBC holds significant corporate social responsibilities, especially in areas crucial to the national interest like environmental sustainability. This $1 billion investment in climate solutions is a reflection of one part of RBC’s commitment to supporting our clients and the broader Canadian economy in their transition to net-zero. It underscores our pledge to leverage our financial resources and expertise to foster significant environmental progress, demonstrating our dedication to becoming a leader in sustainability and responsible banking.

Thank you to our Climate Technology Breakfast Series Partner RBC.

[1] For purposes of identifying and tracking investment commitments eligible to count towards this goal and disclosing RBC’s progress towards this goal, climate solutions are intended to include products and services that help mitigate the impacts of climate change and/or support the transition to net-zero. While RBC’s approach may evolve over time, RBC intends to prioritize allocating capital toward solutions that will lead to GHG emissions reductions in Canada and globally. RBC’s investment commitments eligible to count towards this goal may also include support for solutions with outcomes linked to biodiversity, nature and/or adaptation, such as those described in RBC’s Sustainable Finance Framework, among others. RBC aspires to achieve this goal by 2030; however, market conditions, among other factors—many of which are beyond RBC’s control and the effects of which can be difficult to predict—could impact RBC’s ability to invest capital to advance climate solutions over this timeframe.