Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi launches $1 billion corporate venture capital fund

TechCrunch | 1/9/2018 | Jonathan Shieber
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The world’s largest automaker, Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi, has launched a $1 billion corporate venture capital fund to focus on investments in “new mobility” including electrification, autonomous systems, network connectivity and artificial intelligence.

Called Alliance Ventures, the fund has already made its first investment, taking an equity stake for an undisclosed amount in Ionic Materials — a Bill Joy-backed battery technology developer.

Fund - Start-ups - Innovation - Partnerships - Year

The fund said that it will invest up to $200 million in start-ups and “open innovation partnerships” in its first year and expects to invest roughly the same amount over the next five years.

As a strategic investor, the new fund will look to bring technologies developed by its portfolio companies in-house for use across the three-brand alliance that comprises the group. It also intends to incubate entrepreneurs and will make investments across a startup company’s life-cycle.

Deal - Battery - Technology - Developer - Emphasis

That its first deal is in a battery technology developer shows exactly how much emphasis automakers are placing on electrification in the coming years. When it was first going public with its technology Ionic Materials was hailed in some quarters as a “Jesus battery” for its solid-state, cobalt-free battery materials. With the investment the Alliance has agreed to help out with research and development as the Massachusetts-based company looks to bring its solid polymer electrolyte to market.

The roughly $1 billion commitment puts Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi in the pole position when it comes to automakers committing to corporate venturing. Both BMW iVentures and GM Ventures have longer histories with venture capital (and BMW expanded its iVentures commitment to over $500 million for the next ten years), but their funds are...
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