Top 50 Emerging Leaders 2021 continued (in alphabetical order by CVC unit): Jon Rains, investment director, Mott MacDonald Ventures

Jon Rains is an investment director at Mott MacDonald Ventures, the investment arm of UK-headquartered management, engineering and consulting firm Mott MacDonald.

Formed in 2019, Mott MacDonald Ventures targets early-stage companies that are working on improving economic, social and environmental sustainability and infrastructure through innovative technology.

In addition to funding, the unit provides industry and digital know-how, partnering entrepreneurs to solve challenges in urbanisation, climate change and environmental degradation.

Information management through automated process flows was a focus area for Mott MacDonald Ventures in 2020, Rains told Global Corporate Venturing, adding clean energy’s ability to respond to shifted demand patterns will be the emphasis in 2021.

In late 2019, Rains said digitisation has accelerated innovation in different sectors but infrastructure is still lagging because many considered it unacceptable to invest in an innovation project that could fail, according to Mott MacDonald’s Smart Infrastructure Index.

“This is worrying – innovation by its very nature cannot be predicted in advance and does require investment which may not always see returns,” Rains said. “And investing in innovation is essential if technological developments are to deliver improved infrastructure performance. This extends far wider than technology – to processes, procurement and operating models.”

Innovation is a means to an end, according to Rains, who added: “The business need must first be defined and prioritised. From encouraging and capturing ideas, through to review, challenge and ultimately implementation, a sound support structure is necessary to facilitate and foster the right culture. Outcomes must be measurable, whether an initial pilot or full-scale deployment, with target impacts set and results reviewed and communicated.”

Mott MacDonald Ventures invested in sustainability planning software developer OnePlanet in December 2019. Rains commented at the time: “Individuals and businesses have a crucial part to play if we are going to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.”

Edison Fu

Edison Fu is a reporter and Asia liaison at Global Corporate Venturing.