On Tuesday, Nordic real estate investor NREP, the EUR 7.1 billion ($8.6 billion) private Danish investment fund partly owned by insulin biotech firm Novo Nordisk, announced that it is launching a venture capital fund. The fund, to be called “2150,” will invest with the goal of accelerating sustainable transition of the built environment. 2150 has made its first investment in “clean concrete” firm CarbonCure, whose carbon formula aims to cut CO2 emissions from concrete production by 500 million tons every year.

2150 closed with initial commitments of EUR 130 million (around $157 million), and support from Danish investment manager Chr. Augustinus Fabrikker, life science investor Novo Holdings and the Danish Growth Fund (Vaekstfonden), a division of Denmark’s Green Future Fund. Other institutional investors and European real estate developers, owners and managers representing more than 16 million square meters of real estate investment also committed capital to the fund, which aims to become one of Europe’s largest sustainability-focused venture funds.

NREP Chairman Mikkel Bülow-Lehnsby, who is also a founding partner of 2150, says the new venture fund reflects NREP’s long-standing commitment to a green transition of the built environment.

“The scientific consensus is clear: The world cannot achieve the necessary reductions of CO2 emissions without fundamental changes to how we build and operate real estate. At the same time, the real estate industry cannot deliver the required reductions without better technological solutions. We launch 2150 to accelerate the development and adoption of such technologies,” Bülow-Lehnsby said.

NREP has been an early adopter of new technologies in real estate, ranging from the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in urban planning to applying new deep-geothermal technologies to achieve CO2 neutral heating. The company has also raised the bar for sustainability in the built environment, including the construction of the world’s ‘s first 100 percent up-cycled concrete building, as well as the ‘UN17 Village’, a pioneering large-scale project that aligns to all of UN’s 17 SDGs.

“AI and other technologies hold an enormous potential to solve urban challenges. As we work to improve the sustainability of our millions of square meters, we often meet sustainability challenges that could be overcome with better technology. With 2150, technology investing works in close collaboration with real estate industry participants to bring forward solutions that can deliver a scalable, material impact on urban sustainability,” NREP CEO Claus Mathisen said in a formal statement on the fund launch.

Gigacorns wanted

2150’s investment strategy will focus on major unsolved problems across every element of the built environment–what the company calls the “Urban Stack”– from the way that cities are designed, constructed, and powered, to the way people live, work and are cared for.

“We look for scalable innovations such as new materials used in construction, or deep technologies for improving efficiencies and minimizing waste. Importantly, we will only invest where sustainability impact can be measured,” said Mikkel Bülow-Lehnsby.

The first 2150 fund will seek to build a portfolio of roughly 20 companies, each with a potential to become a so-called “gigacorn,” a commercially successful company with the potential to reduce or mitigate gigatons of CO2.

2150’s first portfolio company is CarbonCure Technologies, a Canadian firm whose innovative technology injects recycled CO2 into fresh concrete. The injected CO2 reacts to form nano-sized mineral, making concrete stronger and thus reducing the need for concrete, which currently accounts for 8 percent of global CO2 emissions. Using low embodied carbon concrete, CarbonCure is targeting an annual reduction of 500 million tons of CO2 emissions by 2030, equivalent to taking 100 million cars off the road each year.

CarbonCure’s technology is currently used by nearly 300 concrete producers. Support from 2150, along with other investors including Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, and the Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund, will enable CarbonCure to accelerate its global expansion.

“We couldn’t have asked for more mission aligned and strategic investment partners to decarbonize the built environment,” said Robert Niven, CEO and founder of CarbonCure, responding to news of 2150’s investment.

To help source, screen and validate sustainable technologies, 2150 is supported by an experienced advisory board of technologists, scientists, designers, and urban experts. The advisors include architect and founder of BIG, Bjarke Ingels, the Director of Princeton’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, Dr. Lynn Loo, Unity’s head of AI Danny Lange, former Chief Sustainability Officer for the Obama Administration, Christine Harada, EDGE Technologies Founder Coen van Oostrom, and renowned urbanist and academic, Richard Florida.

Based in London, Copenhagen, and Berlin, 2150 will act as a facilitator connecting technologies which address the biggest problems of the urban environment with a broad ecosystem of players in the urban value-chain. The fund’s final close is expected by mid-2021.

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