Oxford: Launch of the world’s first conservation venture studio

Oxford University, Global Accelerated Ventures, and the research commercialisation arm of the university, Oxford University Innovation (OUI), are launching the world’s first conservation venture studio, The Oxford GAV Conservation Venture Studio (OXGAV).

OXGAV’s mission is to rapidly accelerate novel technologies and innovative solutions addressing the world’s most pressing environmental problems. The studio will support the research and development of exceptionally promising innovations by interdisciplinary scientists across a dozen departments at Oxford University and will enable the outputs of this research to be commercialised and scaled around the world.

Technologies deriving from OXGAV will combat biodiversity loss, climate change, confront energy crises, promote human food security, and predict the implications of landscape change, among others. The studio will also serve as a think tank for thought leadership in conservation innovation.

Professor David Macdonald, founder and director of Oxford University’s prestigious Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU, Department of Zoology) will be the inaugural chairman of OXGAV’s joint steering committee.

Macdonald said: “The biodiversity crisis threatens the moving parts of nature that sustain ecosystems and support humanity. Novel technologies expand human capacity beyond previous imagining. What more potent, then, than to combine the greatest problem on earth with the greatest source of solutions, for the shared well-being of nature and people? At the WildCRU we’ve been developing technologies to serve conservation since the early days of radio-tracking – most recently we’ve been using individual voice recognition to count lions, and monitoring elephants from space.”

Global Accelerated Ventures (GAV), with offices in London and New York, will bring its expertise as a leading innovation aggregator with large multinationals to bear at OXGAV.

Thomas Buchar, managing partner of GAV, said: “We are distinctly honoured to have the opportunity to partner with Oxford University in the creation of the world’s first-ever conservation venture studio designed to solve the planet’s most pressing economic problems, all of which are conservation issues. OXGAV will be announcing more partnerships in the coming weeks and we are truly thankful to Dr’s Macdonald, Calvert, and Montgomery for collaborating with us to bring the conservation venture studio to fruition. This collaborative partnership will redefine ‘impact investing’ and bring accountability to conservation initiatives globally.”

Dr. Angela Calvert, the deputy head of licensing and ventures, life sciences at OUI, added: “Following its contribution to the Covid-19 pandemic, Oxford’s academics are now turning their attention to solving the biggest challenges to modern life: climate change and subsequent biodiversity loss. Through OUI, the university has already created a number of great companies in this space: First Light Fusion, YASA Motors, MOA Technology and Oxford PV, to name a few. It is our ambition that OXGAV will galvanise our world-class academic base in this mission, and greatly aid us in turning out much-needed technologies and companies in the climatech space.”

Dr. Robert Montgomery, professor of conservation science from Michigan State University, has accepted the position of managing director of OXGAV. He added: “Addressing the world’s conservation challenges requires immediate action. I am extremely excited to join OXGAV where Oxford University, GAV, and Oxford University Innovation have demonstrated their commitment to engineering a more prosperous and sustainable future for people, wildlife, and the environment via the commercialisation of technological and entrepreneurial solutions.”

Montgomery is also taking up an academic appointment as a senior research fellow at Lady Margaret Hall (LMH) and a position in WildCRU at the department of zoology. Founded in 1878, LMH was among the first women’s colleges at Oxford. In 2016, it became the first college at Oxford to offer a foundation year programme supporting students from underrepresented backgrounds. In 1986, LMH took a global lead in establishing the first university-based research fellowship in wildlife conservation, the post held by Macdonald, and has been the Oxford College dedicated to wildlife conservation research ever since.

Alan Rusbridger, principal of LMH, and renowned former editor of the Guardian newspaper, said: “LMH is proud of its long association with the WildCRU and the special involvement it gives the college in conservation; the brilliant idea of the conservation venture studio adds another jewel to this already glittering crown, and should galvanize inter-departmental research to the great benefit of wildlife, the wider environment and Oxford.”

OXGAV has been in development for 12 months and will continue to onboard multiple ESG-focused funds and Fortune 500 multinational collaborators and partners.