Gareth Burns, head of BP Ventures, is one of the 100 leading corporate venturing professionals in our 2024 Powerlist.

Gareth Burns took over as head of BP Ventures at the beginning of 2023 and has since then overseen a big step-change at the investment arm of the UK-headquartered energy company.

Under Burns’ leadership, BP Ventures has been set up to invest between $150m and $200m each year in startups over the next three to four years. That is equivalent to the amount that BP Ventures has invested so far in the unit’s first 10 years of existence.

“It is a significant step-up in capital,” Burns told Global Corporate Venturing in an interview earlier this year.

More than 90% of the team’s investments will go to startup companies working on technologies related to what BP calls its  five “transition growth engines”. These are bioenergy, electric vehicle charging, convenience, renewables and power, and hydrogen.

The size of BP’s investment team has also been increased to 25 people since Burns took over as head of the unit.

In growing the BP Ventures team, Burns has brought a different approach to the unit. He previously headed Equinor’s corporate investment arm, Equinor Ventures for more than seven years, from 2015 to 2022. He has made the BP Ventures investment team less US-centric and has changed the way that the team evaluates  potential startup investments. There is now more emphasis on working closely with the parent company business units both before and after an investment is made.

“I have tried to bring greater focus to delivering upon the investment strategy. We have made some adjustments to how people focus on different elements. We have got a greater link to the transition growth engines, so that when we are looking at a new investment within a particular segment, it is being compared with all other opportunities within that same segment,” Burns told Global Corporate Venturing.

At the same time, team incentivisation has shifted not just from rewarding team members for making the initial investments, but to acknowledging those helping the portfolio startups thrive and, where appropriate, collaborate with BP business units.

“I talk about ventures being the pointy end of the sphere. It is seeing where the energy ecosystem is developing and moving, and then using that insight to impact what we do at a corporate level.”

Recent investments include backing Electric Hydrogen, a US-based hydrogen electrolyser company, and Eavor Technologies, a Canadian company developing a new form of geothermal energy. Like many energy sector investors, BP Ventures is increasingly interested in India and has backed BluSmart Mobility, an Indian startup building a ride hailing service that uses a fl eet of entirely electric vehicles.

Despite wanting to forge strong links between portfolio startups and BP business units, Burns is also keen to invest in startups working on technologies beyond BP’s immediate business needs. Burns calls this the “explore” space and sees investment in further-out startups as a way to help the
company decide on future strategy.

“What are the new technologies and new opportunities that are being developed sometimes in scientifi c labs, sometimes Equinor around business models? We will look to allocate some capital into that white space with a view to informing what will be BP’s future strategies further out in time,” he Global Corporate Venturing.

“I talk about ventures being the pointy end of the sphere. It is seeing where the energy ecosystem is developing and moving and then using that insight to impact what we do at a corporate level.”

Before joining BP Ventures Burns, an actuary by training, had a 25-year career at Equinor. He founded Equinor Energy Ventures – which later became Equinor Ventures – a $200m investment fund focused on the energy transition in 2015.

Burns puts many of the lessons from his time at Equinor Ventures into practice now at BP, particularly the way that venture investment can be used as a way to inform overall corporate strategy. He says that he relishes the opportunity to use this methodology to help an even larger oil and gas company transition to a lower carbon energy focus.

Burns is also keen to enhance the reputation of BP Ventures as a startup investor and has outlined an ambition to make the unit the “energy CVC of choice”.

Powerlist cover

The Global Corporate Venturing Powerlist represents the 100
individuals spearheading the future of the corporate venturing industry.

These individuals excel in terms of their venturing approach and structure, number and quality of portfolio companies and in their contributions to the corporate venturing profession.

See the full 2024 Powerlist here.