These 17 innovative funds are mobilizing resources for people and planet

In order to truly accelerate change and achieve the UN SDGs, we must create an ecosystem of investment funds focusing on purpose-driven start-ups.

In order to truly accelerate change and achieve the UN SDGs, we must create an ecosystem of investment funds focusing on purpose-driven start-ups. Image: Unsplash

Emanuela Orsini
Digital Content Specialist, World Economic Forum
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  • UpLink, the World Economic Forum's open innovation platform, sources innovative solutions to global issues as outlined by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • The Innovative Funds for our Future Challenge targeted Venture Capitalists and investors focusing on purpose-driven start-ups.
  • 17 investment funds, or Top Innovative Funds, were selected as winners of the challenge and will gain privileged access to capital providers, fellow fund managers, investment experts, as well as investment opportunities among UpLink's network of start-ups.

The world is running out of time to meet its net-zero sustainability targets, and business as usual will not help us reach the UN’s 2030 goals.

That’s why earlier this year, UpLink, the World Economic Forum’s open innovation platform, launched a challenge targeting Venture Capitalists (VCs) and investment funds.

The Innovative Funds for our Future Challenge was an UpLink challenge with a difference. Rather than focusing on sourcing innovative solutions from entrepreneurs, Innovative Funds for our Future focused on helping them find the investment they need to scale up. While the global SDG investing market has more than tripled between 2017 and 2019 to $715 billion, it is still a very small amount compared to the $100+ trillion of total assets under management. Meanwhile, only 50% of the technology needed to achieve net-zero and other SDGs exists – making it much more difficult to meet any of the UN’s SDG targets for 2030. In order to truly accelerate change, we must create an ecosystem of investment funds focusing on purpose-driven start-ups.

The Innovative Funds for our Future Challenge sought VC funds that invest in portfolio companies with a focus on one or more of the following SDG areas: conservation and restoration of nature, the ocean, plastic waste, climate action, circular economy, water, health and/or education.

Innovative investment funds for our future

Out of 70 submissions, 17 funds were selected as winners of the challenge by a selection committee of top fund-of-fund managers, investment experts, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and capital providers. These 17 Top Innovative Funds have become part of the UpLink Innovation Network, and over the coming months will have the opportunity to connect with capital providers, fellow fund managers, and investment experts, as well get privileged access to investment opportunities among UpLink’s community of Top Innovators.

Top innovative investment funds for our future
Top innovative investment funds for our future.

2150 is investing in technologies that are making urban areas more sustainable, from building materials, heating and cooling, as well as a focusing on energy and food solutions.

AERA VC is supporting a diverse group of founders reversing the effects of climate change, with breakthrough innovations in the circular economy, health and climate action.

Barka Fund is focusing on African entrepreneurs who are addressing climate challenges in their communities by offering founders an investment-readiness programme followed by capital investment.

Black Tech Capital is funding Black and other underrepresented entrepreneurs focused on clean tech, as well as partnering with accelerators and universities to ensure viable solutions do not get overlooked.


Chi Impact Capital is investing in companies with positive impact at the heart of their business models, as well as advocating for a shift towards a regenerative economy and a more conscious form of investing.

Circulate Capital is investing in start-ups that reduce plastic waste and fight climate change, and is aiming to unlock $1 billion to prevent 150 million tonnes of plastic pollution from entering the environment.

Click Ventures is funding early-stage start-ups that are positively impacting the planet with solutions focused on the circular economy, education and nature.

Contrarian Ventures is investing in climate-focused technologies in Israel and Europe, and partnering with early-stage companies that are leading the way towards net-zero.

Cross-Border Impact Ventures is addressing massive inequalities in the global investment ecosystem, by prioritising solutions improving access to high-quality healthcare for women, children and adolescents.

Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation is supporting early stage, high impact social enterprises, with over half their portfolio focused on addressing the funding gap for SDG entrepreneurs.

iThink VC is investing in tech start-ups that are transforming Latin America, with a focus on health, education, food and other key regional challenges.

Katapult Ocean supports start-ups that have a positive impact on the ocean, by investing in blue tech companies that are solving climate and biodiversity challenges, as well as providing food and clean water.

Link Capital invests in early-stage companies with a special focus on the energy-transition, as well as software, mobility and technology.

Sentient Ventures is on a mission to remove farmed animals from our food systems by investing in companies developing superior alternatives to animal products.

SWEN Blue Ocean is funding innovations that are regenerating the health of our ocean, focusing on solutions to issues such as overfishing, ocean pollution and the impacts of climate change.

Una Terra is supporting European ESG start-ups with solutions to climate change and biodiversity loss, targeting the removal of 2 gigatons of CO2e from the environment by 2030.

WaterEquity is providing investment capital to lenders in emerging markets, by allowing them to invest in water and sanitation solutions serving low-income communities.

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