New energy: D&FG Elements’ Head of Innovation Nikita Chirkov talks about D&FG’s focus on cleantech
Sustainability is a core focus across the world right now as nations look to reduce the impact they are having on the environment, the economy and people. With many countries setting targets to lower carbon emissions and make positive changes, there’s never been a better time to invest in early-stage deep tech companies who are working to affect real change. We recently chatted to Nikita Chirkov, Head of Innovation, at D&FG Elements to find out the work they’re doing in the clean energy space.
D&FG Elements is part of international business holding DFG and it’s looking to invest in early-stage deep tech companies across six areas: AI/ML in the Internet of Things, Biosphere Purification, Computational Biology, New Data Infrastructure, Applied Quantum Mechanics and Extended Reality.
Discussing their approach to investing Nikita shares:
“We can clearly see many interesting multi-layered trends in deep tech space originating these days. In order to narrow down our focus we have to invest a significant amount of time into research of the major shifts in society and mapping out the specific areas of prime interests for our group”.
With AI/ML in the Internet of Things, Nikita says that D&FG Elements sees many opportunities to optimise their current industrial businesses. When it comes to Biosphere Purification, that’s an area that D&FG want to focus on as a priority.
“All of us know that climate change is here and it’s real, and it’s a massive problem for humanity. We also understand that we need to find the right sector within deep tech, and therefore we think that to be able to clean our water, air and other sources of life, that’s imminent so we need to tackle it first.”
In addition to Biosphere Purification is Computational Biology. Nikita explains:
“It’s a massive area. There you can see a lot of things happening especially now in the post-COVID world We see human to computer device interfaces as a leading trend in Computational Biology – that is why recently we were mostly focused on exploring the developments in this space.
To date D&FG have made one investment and they have a goal to invest in one company per quarter moving forward. Revealing more about their investment strategy, Nikita says:
“This year we are planning to invest in three companies directly.”
“This year we are planning to invest in three companies directly. We’re actually investing in one company per quarter. That’s our plan. We have one investment so far in the computational biology space and now we have three more investments to complete. In addition to direct investments we’re also interested in strategic investments in venture capital funds and co-investment opportunities.”
With the pandemic still affecting most sectors and creating plenty of challenges, Nikita says that he hasn’t seen a big difference in terms of deal volume.
“To be honest, I didn’t feel a big difference in terms of sourcing deals because the volume is still there. We are very much calibrating the universities such as Imperial College, Oxford and Cambridge in the UK, and some American universities as well. Students are still there and they’re still coming up with brilliant ideas. We are looking at early stages so we’re looking at the existing prototype.”
What he has noticed though is that the financial impact of the pandemic could have an impact on businesses that are trying to build and scale.
“When you’re building a business, one part of it is signing up clients to use your service. The clients now are having their budget cuts or they’re changing their priorities. I think that the effect we can see now from the COVID situation is a slight slowdown so far in the pace of building businesses. Uncertainty presented by the global pandemic makes it harder for emerging businesses to find financing and run market fit tests, however as we know from the history turbulent times present many opportunities and many successful businesses originated from recession”.
Find out more about D&FG Elements at https://dfgelements.com/.