How Asheville’s The Collider Can Help Us Meet the Challenge of Climate Adaptation

Already today, climate change is harming companies’ bottom lines and business models; undermining community disaster planning and recovery; and threatening individual health and wellbeing. The IPCC warned this year in a report later echoed by the U.S. Federal Government in its Fourth National Climate Assessment that the effects of climate change stand to become more severe much sooner than we thought. The need for climate adaptation solutions is clear.

Even clearer is the need for scalable tech solutions that will revolutionize our global capacity to be prepared for the risks and opportunities posed by climate change. In other words: solutions that match the magnitude and sweeping pace of the impacts and risks to which we are exposed. At The Collider, we call these solutions “climate tech.”

Three defining factors characterize these emerging companies focused on adaptation and resilience. One: designing scalable technology; two: leveraging weather and climate data; and three: creating actionable intelligence for the consumer.

What will climate tech solutions enable companies, communities, and individuals to do? Every day, billions of dollars of decisions are being made that could be informed by the use of weather and climate data—but aren’t. From deciding when to plant and harvest crops to making investments in new infrastructure, incorporating weather and climate data is critical. Climate tech solutions will bridge the gap between the petabytes of data that are being collected around the world from places like ship buoys, satellites, tree rings, and weather stations and decision-makers facing the risks of a changing climate.

Here are two examples of forward-thinking companies currently in the climate tech space:

NEMAC+FernLeaf Collaborative: Tech startup, FernLeaf Interactive, recently established a formal public-private partnership with UNC Asheville’s National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center (NEMAC). NEMAC+FernLeaf co-developed the federal resilience process for understanding risk and building resilience to natural hazards. Their newest software tool, AccelAdapt, provides local governments with an increased understanding of vulnerability to help improve decisions made in all local government departments. The tool helps align resilience to existing operational workflows.

The Climate Service: The Climate Service has developed software that runs a comprehensive climate risk analysis for the assets and global footprint of a given corporation. Using climate models and company-specific asset and logistics information, their software empowers executives with the information they need to make climate-informed decisions that span geographic locations and business functions.

In a time when the world is seeing increased extreme weather events, prolonged droughts, ravaging wildfires, and other climate-related environmental changes, decision-makers need access to accurate and affordable tools that enable them to make informed decisions. These technologies will be uniquely poised to provide replicable, scalable solutions that are also tailored to specific industries and risks (physical, transition, regulatory, reputational) and provide significant opportunities (new products, new markets).

Despite the existence of an estimated $23B market for climate-tech services, actual investment, both venture capital and venture philanthropy, in climate tech focused on adaptation and resilience lags behind the risks that climate change poses. Investment in mitigation-focused technologies and work to catalyze those technologies from both venture capitalists and philanthropies is staggeringly higher than it is for adaptation-focused technologies. In 2017 alone, venture capital investment in mitigation technologies exceeded that of adaptation technologies by 3000x.

Development of both the supply and demand sides of the market for adaptation-focused climate tech is sorely needed. In this early moment for the industry, tailored entrepreneurial support programs are needed to provide upfront, patient investment; mobilize the market; and make available other support resources to galvanize the launch and growth of emerging climate analytics companies. Yet, climate tech startups in the U.S. face a key challenge: no dedicated climate analytics incubator exists.

In 2019, The Collider, a nonprofit innovation center for climate entrepreneurship, will be launching a climate tech incubator and investment fund in order to provide resources to address this critical market gap. As an organization, we recognize that an investment in climate tech is an investment that will revolutionize the way society functions in light of a changed and ever-changing climate.

Tory Grieves is Program Director of The Collider’s forthcoming Climate Tech Incubator and oversees entrepreneurship initiatives at The Collider. She earned concomitant MBA and Master of Environmental Management (MEM) degrees from the Yale School of Management and Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, respectively, focusing on social entrepreneurship and impact investing. Tory holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Hamilton College, where she concentrated in environmental policy.

The Collider is a global innovation center dedicated to advancing climate entrepreneurship. We support startups, across almost every sector, that use data to help the world become more resilient to climate change. A non-profit based in Asheville, North Carolina, which is also home to NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information – the world’s largest collection of weather and climate data – The Collider leverages its network of local and global experts to support the growth and development of climate tech startups in pursuit of our vision: a world prepared for climate change.