In our capacity as a consulting firm specializing in assisting companies to audit, design, and establish their corporate venture arms—as well as generate deal flow—we often confront the pressing question: What are the best practices in Corporate Venture Capital (CVC)?

Against the backdrop of the sobering fact that the average lifespan of a CVC is a mere 4 years, we recently organized a panel titled “The CVC Survival Game: Insights from European Survivors,” featuring experts from BMW (Germany), EDP (Portugal), and Equinor (Norway).

Moderated by Hélène Maxwell from Aster Fab, the conversation distilled into 8 actionable tips for mastering the CVC game. Link to the YouTube video here.


1. A Clear and Dynamic Investment Mandate

Mariana Costa of EDP Ventures highlights the crucial need for a well-defined, flexible investment mandate aligned with innovation priorities. “It needs to fall within the investment mandate and align with our strategic objectives,” Costa emphasizes. This nuanced perspective underscores the importance of adaptability in the ever-changing realm of corporate venture capital, ensuring responsiveness to emerging opportunities and evolving industry trends.

2. Embracing Venture Capital Best Practices for Success

Margret Dupslaff underscores the benefits of BMW I Ventures’ single-LP, independent approach, drawing inspiration from venture capital practices. “Our independence allows us to make decisions swiftly, giving us a competitive edge in the VC space,” she emphasizes. This structure enables quick risk-taking, facilitating effective competition in the dynamic VC landscape and allowing investment decisions to be made in as little as 10 days.

3. Focus on Impactful Solutions

All three CVCs—EDP Ventures, Equinor Ventures, and BMW i Ventures—emphasize investments in sustainability. Startups in climate tech and energy transition are particularly sought after. Kristine Marie Kvalø Johansson of Equinor brought attention to the need for a focus on solutions that will make a tangible impact. “Working with carbon capture and value chains is something that I think will be necessary, and we have to scale faster,” Johansson stated. In a landscape teeming with possibilities, the key lies in identifying ventures that align not just with corporate goals but with the broader narrative of making a positive impact on the industry and the world.

4. Expect Failures, Embrace Learning

Both EDP Ventures and Equinor acknowledged the inevitability of failures in the CVC game. “This is Venture Capital. It is what it is. Hopefully, we try to minimize them, but they are part of the game,” said Mariana Costa. The ability to embrace failures as learning opportunities defines the resilience of a CVC player. These setbacks, rather than deterrents, become stepping stones for future successes.

Parallelly, Margaret Dupslaff from BMW i Ventures aligns with this learning ethos, advocating for startups to adopt a similar mindset. Encouraging adaptability and openness, she emphasizes the significance of absorbing insights from corporate partners, leveraging collective expertise for mutual growth.

5. Stakeholder Management is Critical

Effective stakeholder management emerged as a critical element, according to Equinor’s Kristine Marie Kvalø Johansson. She highlighted the importance of proving the value of CVC initiatives both internally and externally. “It’s all about being able to prove what we’re doing, not just externally but also internally,” she explained. This dual focus on maintaining external credibility and internal alignment underscores the delicate balancing act that defines CVC success.

6. Beyond Investment, the Transformative Power of Value Creation

CVC transcends mere financial transactions; it’s a strategic pursuit dedicated to creating lasting value. Mariana Costa from EDP Ventures emphasizes, “Focus on strategic return better reflects our DNA as a strategic investor,” prioritizing long-term collaboration over immediate financial gains. With over €100 million in signed contracts between portfolio companies and Business Units, EDP Ventures exemplifies the power of these strategic partnerships, showcasing a commitment to fostering innovation within the industry.

7. Invest in Relationships and Cultivate Notoriety

Investing in relationships is crucial in corporate venture capital, as Mariana Costa emphasizes the need for a close rapport with companies and internal stakeholders. This commitment extends beyond investments and is a partnership at all levels, with early engagement between startups and Business Units enhancing the likelihood of successful commercial contracts. Additionally, Mariana highlights that “VC is all about relationships”, evident not only in managing the investees but also externally. By cultivating external relationships, you can enrich deal flow, boost your reputation and attract startups, ultimately strengthening the reputation of the CVC.

8. Be Selective and Discern Business vs. Investment Cases

Margret further underscores this by sharing insights from BMW Startup Garage (Venture clienting unit that created POCs with Business Units), where knowledge and deal flow are generously shared. As an illustration, she cites a recent instance involving a company with smart tire technology. While the innovation was intriguing for enhancing road awareness in vehicles, it lacked a substantial investment case due to the limited market size—a perspective that aligns with strategic decision-making in the venture capital realm.



EDP Ventures established in 2008, operates globally with a focus on climate tech companies and energy companies driving the energy transition. With a substantial investment of over €60 million, EDP Ventures has invested in 37 active portfolio companies across the globe. Their investment mandate spans from seed to Series B, with an average ticket size ranging from €1 million to €10 million. The portfolio aligns with EDP Group’s innovation priorities, covering renewable energy, smart networks, distributed energy resources, storage, and more.

Contact: Mariana Costa –

BMW I Ventures established in 2011, has thrived with a significant commitment. Operating with a fully independent fund II of BMW, they have €300 million to deploy. Having invested in more than 60 companies, BMW Ventures typically engages with startups in their Series A to C stages, with an initial ticket size of around €10 million. Notably, 13 of their portfolio companies have reached Unicorn status, showcasing the success of their financial approach. BMW I Ventures focuses on sustainability across the entire automotive value chain, leveraging BMW’s expertise for informed decision-making.

Contact: Margret Dupslaff –

Equinor Ventures, established in 1996, is Equinor’s corporate venture capital arm dedicated to investing in ambitious early-phase and growth companies. This is based on a belief that the innovation, creativity and agility of startups can accelerate the change towards a low-carbon future. Equinor Ventures engages with startups from early to later stages, all this is supported by technical, market and financial guidance, with a strong drive for piloting and implementing the solutions. We are looking to invest around USD 750 million over the next five years and are seeking to allocate 70% of the capital to renewables, low-carbon solutions and future opportunities

Contact: Kristine Marie Kvalø Johansson –

Among the numerous decarbonization solutions under development, three major carbon capture applications stand out today: industrial point source carbon capture, direct air capture (DAC) and bioenergy with carbon capture. Although industrial point source carbon capture appears to be the main focus for most decarbonization roadmaps thanks to increasingly mature and cost-effective technologies driving greater deployment across industrial sites, several challenges must be addressed before it can reach sufficient scale, including policy and regulatory support, access to funding, public acceptance and further cost improvement.

Carbon Capture-as-a-Service (CCaaS) is a business model that is gaining ground in part to circumvent the huge CAPEX hurdles encountered in these type of infrastructure projects. By opting for a one-stop shop solution that handles the entire value chain, hard-to-abate industries can pay to capture their CO2 emissions on a per-ton basis, while other specialized actors take on the risk (and potential financial reward) of managing the full value chain from capture to utilization or storage.

In January, Aster Fab moderated a panel featuring Tim Cowan (VP Corporate Development at Carbon Clean), Silvia Gentilucci (Technology Onshore Planning at SAIPEM) and Michael Evans (CEO of Cambridge Carbon Capture) to discuss the strengths and prospects of the CCaaS business model.

Takeaways from the discussion included:

CCUS adoption must increase 120-fold by 2050 for countries to meet their net-zero commitments

According to the latest Global Carbon Budget published in November 2022, if emissions are not reduced through decarbonization technologies such as Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS), the world will have exhausted its 1.5°C carbon budget – the cumulative amount of CO2 emissions permitted over a period of time to keep within the 1.5°C threshold – in nine years. Indeed, the equation highlighted is quite simple: there are about 380Gt of CO₂-equivalent emissions left in the 1.5°C budget, and right now we use just over 40Gt of it each year.

As such, CCUS is recognized as a necessary piece of the decarbonization jigsaw, but the adoption isn’t moving fast enough. According to a McKinsey analysis, CCUS adoption must increase 120-fold by 2050 for countries to achieve their net-zero reduction goals, reaching at least 4.2 gigatons per annum (GTPA) of CO₂ captured.

The scale of the challenge to achieve net zero is so huge that we need all the best ideas. For hard-to-abate industry executives in the audience, you’re probably looking at energy efficiency as well as alternative fuels. But you’ll still have CO₂ in your process. That’s why we believe carbon capture is a necessary piece of the decarbonization puzzle and CycloneCC, our fully modular technology, will make carbon capture simple, afforable, and scalable.

VP Corporate Development at Carbon Clean

Carbon Capture-as-a-Service (CCaaS): shifting capital cost to service providers, thereby allowing emitters to focus on their primary activities

In 2021, Decarb Connect conducted a benchmarking survey of industry attitudes towards CCUS that revealed that 65% of executives working in hard-to-abate industries see CCUS as ‘critical’ or ‘important’ for reaching their 2030/2050 goals. It also reveals that 41% are favorable to as CCaaS model, while 59% prefer a mix of funded and owned CCUS. In other words, no executive opted for the traditional model of owning and operating the infrastructure themselves.

Thus, the CCaaS business model appears to be a promising way to accelerate the adoption of carbon capture technology for industrial players:

  • No required upfront capital expenditure
  • Duty to contract with each player of the value chain is delegated

“At Carbon Clean, we use our leading technology to capture CO₂. and will work with partners to provide the other crucial elements of the value chain: compression, transportation, sequestration or utilization. Our mission is to work with industrial partners to offer an end-to-end handling of our customers’ CO₂.” Tim Cowan, VP Corporate Development at Carbon Clean.

Scaling the CCUS industry will require action by governments and investors

Tax credits, direct subsidies and price support mechanisms are beginning to encourage investment in CCUS. The US, for example, has a 45Q-tax credit that provides a fixed payment per ton of carbon dioxide sequestered or used. The IRA (Inflation Reduction Act) has increased the amount of the credit from $50 to $85 a ton for sequestered industrial or power emission, and from $50 to $180 a ton for emissions captured from the atmosphere and sequestered.  In other words, they provide a direct revenue stream immediately improving the investment case for low-carbon technologies, such as CCUS. What the IRA calls tax credits, the EU calls State Aid. Yet, the panelists affirm that while the EU led the whole decarbonization movement for 30 years, the EU is now behind in terms of policy.

It is going to be very challenging for CCUS as it currently stands to make the whole thing stack up. I don’t think the carbon tax will be the viable way forward in the long-term. We need other incentives, as the US are currently doing with the IRA. Many innovative policies are starting to come out of the US and this will encourage innovative companies to set up operations there, giving the US a competitive advantage over the UK and EU in what will become a significant new industry.

CEO of Cambridge Carbon Capture

There is a need to scale the whole carbon capture value chain

Another element is the uneven distribution of storage sites across Europe. Often illustrated as the ‘chicken and egg’ paradox, there is a need to scale the value chain as a whole, including storage infrastructure. Indeed, a carbon capture plant will not start operating until the captured CO₂ can be transported and then either permanently stored or used.  Similarly, no large-scale carbon storage project will be financed without clear commitments regarding the origin and volume of CO2 to be stored, as it determines the financial viability of the overall project.

In Italy, there are plans to build infrastructure using depleted reservoirs in the Adriatic Sea for local storage of CO₂. Without adequate transportation and storage infrastructure, industry will not be able to adopt carbon capture technologies.

Technology Onshore Planning at SAIPEM

Norway’s Longship project, which is sponsored by the Norwegian government, aims to solve this problem by supporting the whole value chain from carbon capture to transportation and storage. Captured emissions will be transported by tankship and stored deep underground using Northern Light’s open-access CO₂ transport and storage infrastructure.

Garnering public support

Finally, speakers also emphasized that addressing public concerns around the safety of these technologies will be paramount. Communicating that carbon capture is safe, effective and a needed method of climate change mitigation, can help bring people on-board and ensure that projects overcome development hurdles. “I think honesty in the media about the situation would be a true incentive. If the public understood how urgent the situation is, and understood more about the technology, there would be a lot more action”. Michaels Evans, CEO of Cambridge Carbon Capture

Institut Choiseul – The new conquerors of the economy

It is a study carried out independently by the Institut Choiseul. It identifies, lists and ranks the 150 leading companies that are conquering their markets and highlights their leaders. The New Conquerors of the Economy ranking pays tribute to the structures that lie between the start-up nation and the CAC 40 companies. To carry out this ambitious and unique study, the Choiseul Institute called on numerous experts and screened several hundred companies in order to establish a ranking that respects the major geographical and sectoral balances.

The partners

Within the framework of Choiseul – The New Conquerors of the Economy, the Institut Choiseul has benefited from the support of partners whom we would like to thank: Forbes, Antidox, Aster Fab, BNP Paribas, BNP Paribas Banque Privée, BNP Paribas Développement, Mawenzi Partners and Progress Associés.

The support and confidence of all these players were essential to the completion of our work, the publication and distribution of this unique and innovative ranking.

Download the full ranking

Resilience, sovereignty and impact are all concepts that converge towards the same vision of a responsible company anchored in its social, economic and environmental ecosystem. Only in this way can our SMEs and SMIs become (and remain!) the conquerors of this new economy.

Director of Aster Fab

We are delighted to be part of LeadershIP4SMEs, an EU research project under H2020, which aims to help IP-centric startups & SMEs better leverage their IP assets to access adequate funding.

Intellectual property rights (IPR) can be an ignored value due to intangibility and missing ways / methods to consider it for the funding and investment of SMEs and start-ups. The EU-funded LEADERSHIP4SMEs project will support innovative SMEs and start-ups to improve and strengthen, and thus valorize their IPR, facilitating their access to adequate funding that is vital to their growth. The project will set a platform of specific tools to:

  • Strategically manage and place IPR in the business model and plan to attract
  • To define the most value-creating business strategy;
  • To better value and protect their intangible assets;
  • To generate business and encourage collaborations;
  • As well as to help identifying financial guarantees, at regional, national and
    European level.

The platform relies on a compilation of the best practices in the domains of IPR management, business acceleration and funding that allows a better valuation of IPR and acts as an online hub of support from IPR, innovation and business support, and private and public funding and cooperation.

In addition to the implementation of this platform, a support program for startups and SMEs is being deployed, with the aim of operationally helping beneficiaries to effectively leverage their IP assets to stimulate their growth.

The LEADERSHIP4SMEs consortium is made up of 8 European partners with complementary expertise about intellectual property protection and the financing of companies with high growth potential: Aster, BCR, bwcon, Bugnion, CNRS Innovation, Iceberg, INNOVA, KMU Forschung Austria.

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