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Oil majors look to start-ups for low-carbon future

Royal Dutch Shell and BP, among other large oil companies, are reportedly expanding their venture capital divisions as they seek to ensure profitability while navigating the energy transition. More staff are being taken on, budgets are going up and deals are being completed at a faster rate.

Both companies have committed to gradually reducing their dependence on oil and gas production and ultimately becoming net-zero carbon emitters by 2050. While they do have other businesses that will continue for the foreseeable future, such as lubricant production, the reduction in oil and gas activity leaves a large hole to fill with new clean-tech business opportunities.

BP Ventures’ Chief, Meghan Sharp, said that since BP published its plan to reduce oil and production by 40% by the end of the decade, the company has elevated the importance of venture capital to its overall strategy, adding:

“They [BP’s top management] really want the venture capital activity to help us execute on the new strategy.”

Shell Ventures’ Managing Director, Geert van de Wouw, said Shell has also shifted focus from projects that support the oil and gas industry to ones developing greener solutions. He said this has made the division more attractive to potential recruits:

“Nobody wanted to work for us, we were this strange group of people who interacted with startups and I struggled to find good people. There’s no challenge whatsoever anymore.”

Among Shell’s recent investments is a logistics company seeking to avoid empty trucks moving around, which would ironically reduce the demand for oil.

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