abrdn and University of Edinburgh Unveil £7.5m Centre for Investing Innovation

Three core priorities will shape the initial work of the centre - and sustainability is one of them.

Innovation in the investment sector is the intention with asset manager abrdn and the University of Edinburgh creating an industry-academic partnership.

They will establish the Centre for Investing Innovation with funding of £7.5 million over five years from abrdn. It will be based within the University’s Edinburgh Futures Institute.

Alan Coutts, Investment Chief Operating Officer, abrdn, will chair the Centre’s Strategic Opportunities and Futures Board, with Sotirios Sabanis, Director of Knowledge Exchange at the School of Mathematics, acting as lead for the University of Edinburgh as Centre Director.

Stephen Bird, CEO, abrdn, comments: “Together we will explore the great societal challenges of sustainable investing and explore new ways of creating financial wellbeing in a rapidly changing world.”

Professor Peter Mathieson, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, adds: “Through our partnership with abrdn, our multidisciplinary researchers will be working with a global asset management business to help shape the very future of investment.”

The mixture of boffins and business people is a useful combination in the pursuit of profits. The two entities want to get a new understanding of investment-related social and environmental sustainability issues.

The partnership has been supported by Edinburgh Innovations, the University’s commercialisation service.

Three core priorities will shape the initial work of the centre.

First up is ‘Sustainability’. abrdn wants to be at the forefront of future trends differentiating outcomes associated with environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors.

Next, ‘Thematic investing’ is naturally about focusing on long-term trends – and in turn getting a positive return for clients.

The last is ‘Innovating investing’ which will be used to embed technology, data science and artificial intelligence into abrdn’s business.

The issue of sustainability in the tech sector has truly caught on.

As reported last month, the theme of sustainability’s genesis formed part of the discussions at the Tech Show London event.

For instance, Dr Murray Simpson, Global Director – Sustainability CoC, IBM, believes “sustainability is the new digital”.

He had plenty of stats to share. For example, 100+ countries are committed to net zero emissions, while 54% of consumers are willing to “pay premium for sustainable brands”. The latter figure might be a bit disappointing but with more awareness this number could rise.

On top of that, 59% of investors expect to buy or sell holdings based on environmental sustainability factors; while 68% of the workforce are more likely to accept jobs at environmentally responsible organisations.

Along with abrdn, many firms are well aware of COP26 and the opportunities. As eWeek UK reported last year, the Chancellor talked about his plans to “rewire the entire global financial system for net zero”. To make this happen, there will be “better and more consistent” climate data, sovereign green bonds, mandatory sustainability disclosures, “proper” climate risk surveillance and “stronger” global reporting standards.

Plenty of UK tech startups are alive to the possibilities. In a variety of scoops, eWeek UK has discovered ReforestPay’s tree-loving launch; carbon insurer Kita; sustainability data platform Supernova; and Expect’s decarbonisation management platform.

Antony Peyton
Antony Peyton
Antony Peyton is the Editor of eWeek UK. He has 18 years' journalism and writing experience. His career has taken him to China, Japan and the UK - covering tech, fintech and business. Follow on Twitter @TonyFintech.
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