Putting theory into practice: EIT Climate-KIC Pioneer innovating the Greek maritime sector

To tackle complex climate challenges, we need a broader perspective by fully diagnosing systems to determine which solutions will make a greater impact. This is the objective of Pioneers into Practice, one of the most established EIT Climate-KIC educational programmes. Germany-based Angelo Batalla, an experienced sustainability and technology strategist who participated in the 2020 Pioneers into Practice programme, sets a perfect example of how learnings on systems innovation thinking can be applied in a real-world setting. During his time in the programme Angelo teamed up with the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) to assess the ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) performance of Greek ports under HRADF’S purview.

Building on his experience in sustainability and climate technology in the EU, US and Latin America, Angelo joined the Pioneers into Practice programme in 2020 to expand and scale his professional experience at the EU level. The six-month programme provided him with the platform, tools, and methodology to solve complex issues with a systems approach. Angelo’s experiences and participation in the programme led to a strategic collaboration with HRADF– the main organisation responsible for leveraging Greek private property.

“My commitment to developing sound sustainability strategies and tackling climate change is what led me to EIT Climate-KIC’s Pioneers programme. I saw the programme as an opportunity to combine my experiences in corporate, private, and entrepreneurial settings with organisations committed to tackling sustainability challenges and climate change. EIT Climate KIC’s systems approach was novel and practical. The programme design fostering cross-European collaborations showed me that the institutions involved, and their leadership were committed to addressing today’s sustainability challenges through interdisciplinary and cross-cultural approaches. Learning, shaping, and driving the sustainability and climate change agenda of EU countries was inspiring. I chose the Pioneers programme because it was an excellent opportunity to work with high-impact institutions and provided me with the platform to bring my experiences to the table to drive change.” 

Angelo Batalla, Pioneer 2020

During the Pioneers programme Angelo worked with HRADF on testing the capabilities and scaling up opportunities for the newly developed digital ESG evaluation tool for ports and other assets, including airports, highways, real estate and energy companies. Developed by the HRADF in collaboration with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and Global Sustain, the tool is designed to assess the sustainable performance of assets by using key performance indicators, based on international best practices and frameworks like the EBRD Performance Requirements. The tool allows users to rate assets based on specific criteria, receive recommendations for ESG improvements and monitor progress towards sustainability transition over time.

“HRADF offers the opportunity to develop the state’s value-added assets and attract Foreign Direct Investments in key sectors of the Greek economy. We strongly believe that, under the right conditions, the Fund can be an important strategic partner in the country’s sustainable development efforts. Moreover, the adoption of ESG criteria can increase transparency and help attract sustainable investments,” said Maria Christantoni, Sustainability Officer at HRADF adding that this is one of the few cases in the world where a privatisation fund is incorporating sustainability into its procedures and develops its own digital ESG rating tool.

Recently, HRADF included the sustainability pillar in its founding law, stressing that special attention should be paid to contributing to the achievement of the goals of the European Green Deal“As the Fund enters a new era, we have decided to participate in the Pioneers programme to strengthen our sustainability operations and strategies. We also saw a great opportunity to work with innovative concepts such as systems innovation introduced by EIT Climate-KIC. We interviewed Angelo and the whole team felt from the first minute that he would be the best associate thanks to his strategic thinking on sustainability. That’s how our journey started,” said Maria.

During the programme, Angelo assessed many ports of the Fund’s portfolio using the ESG tool. His collaboration with the Fund involved aligning different perspectives on sustainable finance, EU taxonomy and the EU Green Deal, at the same time leveraging his experiences on technology and sustainability to bring a wider perspective. Capability testing and scalability of the digital ESG tool were also the main components of his work, and the analysis of his results enabled the sustainability team to develop an assessment framework on the readiness of companies to adopt climate technologies.

“The collaboration has been extended beyond the duration of the programme. Angelo has already contributed to the development of the strategic priorities of the Fund’s sustainability policy for the next three years, with a focus on promoting the uptake of green technologies as one of our strategic objectives. As for the tool, we would like to make it available to all companies in the Fund’s portfolio to monitor their ESG performance and develop a benchmark system for European ports,” – Maria said about the current cooperation.

The Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) was established in 2011. The philosophy of the HRADF is to act as a strategic partner of the Greek state in order to attract investment, increase the growth potential of the Greek economy, strengthen its international credibility and create national wealth. The Fund is a growth multiplier, its mission being to maximise the revenues of the Hellenic Republic by developing public assets and creating added value for the Greek economy, people, investors, local communities, the labour market and the environment.

The HRADF is a Partner in the Deep Demonstration of Resilient, Net-Zero Emissions Maritime Hubs, which aims to transform the Port of Piraeus into a green and innovative port that delivers high-quality services to the global value chain, drives economic prosperity, sustains a healthy environment, and enables thriving communities through shared aspirations and collective accountability. Key to this Deep Demonstration approach is targeted stakeholder collaboration and concrete on-the-ground innovation. Since its launch in 2019, the programme has been running in two of Europe’s largest container ports (the Port of Valencia in Spain, and Piraeus in Greece), as well as with the Cyprus Shipping Registry.