Iron Man actor Robert Downey Jr launches funds in environmental fight

Hollywood actor Robert Downey Jr is looking to sustainable technology to tackle issues like deforestation and microplastics. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - As inventor Tony Stark, Hollywood actor Robert Downey Jr transformed into superhero Iron Man. Now the Oscar nominee is taking action against environmental threats to the planet.

Downey, 55, is looking to sustainable technology to tackle issues like deforestation and microplastics.

The star of movies such as Iron Man (2008) and The Avengers (2012) announced on Wednesday (Jan 27) he was launching venture capital funds, aiming to "accelerate groundbreaking technologies that are addressing the world's largest environmental challenges".

Downey's FootPrint Coalition, founded in 2019 and made up of "investors, donors and storytellers committed to scaling technologies to restore our planet", has already invested in companies like Ynsect, which breeds mealworms, and Cloud Paper, which makes bamboo toilet paper, among others.

Now he wants to "quickly mobilise more people and catalyse more capital".

"There's groundbreaking technologies we're going to vet and... keep doing what we're doing, finding the best in class and accelerate scaling them up," Downey told Reuters.

"We feel (the funds) is a move towards just a little bit of democratisation in this usually very exclusive space."

FootPrint Coalition Ventures will have an early and late-stage fund, with a US$5,000 (S$6,660) quarterly subscription fee and minimum one-year subscription.

It says it wants to invest in food and agriculture technology, sustainability-focused consumer products and services, energy and transport, materials and industrial tech, education, media and advanced environmental solutions.

"Rather than raising money infrequently from very large anonymous institutions... we do the opposite," Mr Jonathan Schulhof, who will co-lead FootPrint Coalition Ventures, told Reuters.

"We raise money constantly because it's constantly an opportunity to tell the story and activate and mobilise the audience."

Downey, who also took part in a panel about the Arctic at the virtual World Economic Forum on Wednesday, narrates short videos made by his creative team on the coalition's site, talking about topics like aquaculture and deforestation.

"I always feel that if you have great content and the community feels that, the audience grows, that helps us with our access to deals and then we get better outcomes," Downey said.

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