Climate tech finds a booster in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is enticing climate tech startups and companies alike.
Driving the news: The Future Investment Initiative, dubbed Davos in the Desert, kicked off in Riyadh this week. Deal announcements have followed.
- GlassPoint, a New York-based startup that makes solar tech to produce steam for industrial companies, disclosed a partnership with Saudi Arabia's development group, the Ministry of Investment, to build an $80 million factory in the kingdom's Eastern Province.
- That arrangement is on top of an existing partnership it has with the Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Ma'aden) to build the world's largest solar process steam plant.
State of play: Other announcements so far from Riyadh include:
- Korean auto giant Hyundai announced it's partnered with Saudi's Public Investment Fund to build a $500 million factory to make both EVs and gas-powered vehicles in Saudi Arabia.
- Danish freight forwarder DSV said on Monday it's setting up a $10 billion joint venture with Neom, Saudi Arabia's futuristic megacity project.
- Last month, electric vehicle maker Lucid Motors said it opened a factory in Saudi Arabian city Jeddah, and the kingdom plans to buy up to 100,000 Lucid vehicles over 10 years. Saudi PIF is Lucid's largest shareholder.
Of note: Five years ago, tech companies and Silicon Valley investors were among those that abruptly turned away from Saudi Arabia following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
- Clearly, that stance has loosened.
- "All the resources that we can leverage into solving [the climate] problem, we should leverage," said Val Miftakhov, the CEO of hydrogen aviation startup ZeroAvia, which counts Saudi Arabia's Neom as one of its largest investors.
- GlassPoint's CEO Rod MacGregor says, "When it comes to reducing emissions, you have to go to where the emissions are."
Yes, but: Others remain cold to the idea.
- "It is immoral to raise money from Saudi Arabia," Founders Fund Partner Keith Rabois posted earlier this month on X.
Big picture: Despite the flow of deals this week, the Gaza conflict could stall Saudi Arabia's foreign investment ambitions.
Editor's note: This story was updated to correct GlassPoint's home state as New York.