Touchstone Partners, a Vietnam-based early-stage venture capital firm, and Temasek Foundation, a Singapore-based, non-profit philanthropic organization, have on Monday co-launched Net Zero Challenge 2023 (N0C 2023), a global climate innovations competition, in partnership with the Ho Chi Minh City Institute for Development Studies (HIDS).

The trio said in a statement that the competition is to address the funding gap in climate solutions and foster collaboration in Vietnam.

It is noted that traditionally, climate solutions have attracted lesser funding in Vietnam and Southeast Asia compared to other higher profile technology sectors.

In order for climate innovations to achieve scalable and commercially viable impact at an accelerated pace, more support from the government and corporations is required.

In its inaugural edition, the Net Zero Challenge 2023 is one initiative toward the goal of identifying and supporting early-stage climate innovations with the potential to solve environmental challenges at scale.

It focuses on addressing three main climate issues: (i) renewables and carbon removal; food systems and sustainable agriculture; and (iii) circular economy and waste management.

Participating teams will compete for a total prize pool of equity-free grants of VND 15 billion ($630,000) to pilot their solutions in Vietnam, receive global exposure, and gain access to investors, corporate partners, policy makers, and climate alliances, alongside relevant support for the innovators.

Catalyzed by the support from Temasek Foundation, Touchstone Partners will also provide local mentorship and strategic partnerships.

Beside the co-organizers, the judging panel will include local corporates supporting sustainability goals as well as regional venture capital funds.

To be eligible, teams must develop a minimally viable product (MVP) and have obtained proof of value with the intention of commercialization.

The teams can be startups, research teams, corporate projects, and nonprofits that are ready for a large-scale pilot that can pave the way for scalability.

International teams that have commercialized their solutions elsewhere but want to develop a strategic partnership in Vietnam are also welcome to apply.

“At Touchstone Partners, we understand that the complex and interconnected nature of scaling climate solutions requires the efforts of a wide range of stakeholders: investors, industry leaders, domain experts, and government agencies, to achieve a more comprehensive, effective and widely impactful approach,” said Khanh Tran, Managing Partner at Touchstone Partners.

“For us, Net Zero Challenge is a platform that connects the right solutions and technologies to the right partners, and facilitates conversations between public agencies and the private sector,

“Our goal is to build a long-term support system for climate technology innovations to scale sustainably in Vietnam,” he said.

Lim Hock Chuan, Head of Programmes at Temasek Foundation, said that Temasek Foundation has been actively crowdsourcing for groundbreaking solutions globally that can address pressing climate challenges and support innovators’ journey in generating impact at scale.

“Such solutions can drive positive returns for our planet, people and profit,

“With the launch of Net Zero Challenge 2023, we are excited to expand our efforts and tap on the potential of the innovative ecosystem in Vietnam to bring disruptive solutions to the market and collectively secure a greener future for all,” he said.

According to the statement, Vietnam is committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26).

In May 2023, Vietnam approved the National Power Development Plan VIII, showing the country’s determination to gradually eliminate coal and gas-fired power generation and promote renewable energy to achieve the net zero target.

Recently, Ho Chi Minh City rolled out Resolution 98 in support of sustainable development and green economy initiatives.

Teams joining the Net Zero Challenge 2023 will also have the opportunity to partner industry leaders and corporate partners including but not limited to Keppel Land (with expertise in real-estate infrastructure and connectivity), Loc Troi Group (with knowledge in agriculture at scale), and Duy Tan Plastics (with deep insights on material science and recycling) to potentially pilot their projects in Vietnam.

The competition also aims to kickstart a wave of investment for Vietnam’s green economy and in Southeast Asia.

The Investor Partners of Net Zero Challenge 2023 include regional venture capital firms, such as Singapore-based Pavilion Capital and Indonesia-focused East Ventures.

The Net Zero Challenge is envisioned to be a long-term project that facilitates meaningful collaboration for large-scale climate solutions with government agencies, large corporations, and climate-tech innovators.

It aims to set the foundations for a platform and community of sustainable business practices in Vietnam and in the region.

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