This Elite European B-School Has Launched A Major Climate Change Initiative

Seven other schools have joined the Creative Destruction Lab since its founding at the University of Toronto Rotman School of Management, with HEC Paris being the latest, in late 2019. CDL photo

It has been called “the 21st century’s biggest business issue.” And though the coronavirus pandemic may have pushed it out of the headlines — and while it may seem that more pressing issues face the world at the moment — climate change is still the sword of Damocles hanging over everyone and everything.

That’s the view of millions, shared by thousands in the business school universe. They may be heartened to learn, then, that one of the most cutting-edge B-school programs in the world is now committed to tackling the problem of climate change.

Creative Destruction Lab, through its newest member school HEC Paris, has announced the launch of CDL Climate, an initiative that will coordinate entrepreneurs, scientists, mentors, and investors in a structured process to increase the probability of success for high-impact and scalable solutions to climate change challenges. The first session will kickstart in October 2020 with 25 climate-focused recruited startups, with a focus on continental Europe and Africa.


Thomas Astebro, professor ofeEntrepreneurship at HEC Paris and academic lead of CDL-Paris. HEC Paris photo

Creative Destruction Lab is a nonprofit organization founded in 2012 by Professor Ajay Agrawal at the Rotman School of Management at University of Toronto (LINK). The program has expanded to eight sites across four countries: Oxford (Saïd Business School, University of Oxford), Paris (HEC Paris), Atlanta (Scheller College of Business, Georgia Institute of Technology), Vancouver (Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia), Montreal (HEC Montréal), Calgary (Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary), and Halifax (Rowe School of Business, Dalhousie University). CDL offers a program for massively scalable, seed-stage, science- and technology-based companies; among the features of its nine-month program is access to experienced entrepreneurs, increasing founders’ likelihood of success. CDL takes no equity and charges no fees, being funded through philanthropy and public- and private-sector partnerships.

HEC Paris joined the CDL network in late 2019; in April, the school began a drive to recruit 25 climate-focused ventures to join the newly launched CDL-Paris’ climate initiative. “The eight-month, early-stage program for science- and tech-based companies revolves around five objective-setting sessions designed to enhance the performance of tech leaders through intense interactions with seasoned entrepreneurs,” according to a school news release. CDL Climate “will focus on innovation areas such as renewable/alternative energy, power storage, infrastructure, transportation, carbon/methane sequestration, select water, ocean and food initiatives aligned with climate solutions, and geo-engineering,” operating from CDL-Paris (HEC Paris) and CDL-West (Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia).

“With the current health crisis, there will be a huge shock to the global economy and its supply chains. CDL-Paris has a vital role to play in reconstructing new and alternative business forms, especially as far as climate and other environmental issues are concerned,” says Thomas Astebro, professor of entrepreneurship at HEC Paris and academic lead of CDL-Paris.


Across its eight schools, CDL has already helped successfully commercialize cutting-edge science and technology companies and created $6.2 billion in equity value. Over 1,500 company founders from more than 30 countries have so far participated in CDL programs, the success of which is exampled in the rise of firms like Energy X, Favor, North, and Roadbotics.

The CDL Climate initiative consists of five eight-week sprints “geared to transform deep tech startups into financeable and scalable companies,” HEC Paris announced. “This is accomplished thanks to the committed mentorship of top entrepreneurs in the field, hands-on guidance from world-leading scientists and economists, advice from some of the world’s best business students, and unique access to business angels and VCs to raise capital.”

Adds Astebro: “The 25 selected startups will be accompanied by the best and brightest of our HEC Paris students, who are involved in the program as part of their MBA degree. For them, this is an intense and hugely enriching experiential learning where they interact with cutting-edge innovators, propose and then see some of their ideas give birth to concrete improvements.”

Applications for CDL Climate are now open and are being accepted online at


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