Financing Fusion Energy2022
The case for investing in fusion energy has never been greater, given increasing global energy demand, high annual carbon dioxide output, and technological limitations for wind and solar power. Nevertheless, financing for fusion companies through traditional means has proven challenging. While fusion startups have an unparalleled upside, their high upfront costs, lengthy delay in payoff, and high risk of commercial failure have historically restricted funding interest to a niche set of investors. Drawing on insights from investor interviews and case studies of public–private partnerships, we propose a megafund structure in which a large number of projects are securitized into a single holding company funded through various debt and equity tranches, with first loss capital guarantees from governments and philanthropic partners. The megafund exploits many of the core properties of the fusion industry: the diversity of approaches to engender fusion reactions, the ability to create revenue-generating divestitures in related fields, and the breadth of auxiliary technologies needed to support a functioning power plant. The model expands the pool of available capital by creating tranches with different risk–return tradeoffs and providing a diversified “fusion index” that can be viewed as a long hedge against fossil fuels. Simulations of a fusion megafund demonstrate positive returns on equity (ROE) and low default rates for the capital raised using debt.
Quantifying the Impact of Impact Investing2022
We propose a quantitative framework for assessing the financial impact of any form of impact investing, including socially responsible investing (SRI), environmental, social, and governance (ESG) objectives, and other non-financial investment criteria. We derive conditions under which impact investing detracts from, improves on, or is neutral to the performance of traditional mean-variance optimal portfolios, which depends on whether the correlations between the impact factor and unobserved excess returns are negative, positive, or zero, respectively. Using Treynor-Black portfolios to maximize the risk-adjusted returns of impact portfolios, we propose a quantitative measure for the financial reward, or cost, of impact investing compared to passive index benchmarks. We illustrate our approach with applications to biotech venture philanthropy, divesting from “sin” stocks, investing in ESG, and “meme” stock rallies such as GameStop in 2021.
Funding Long Shots2019
We define long shots as investment projects with four features: (1) low probabilities of success; (2) long gestation lags before any cash flows are realized; (3) large required up-front investments; and (4) very large payoffs (relative to initial investment) in the unlikely event of success. Funding long shots is becoming increasingly difficult—even for high-risk investment vehicles like hedge funds and venture funds—despite the fact that some of society’s biggest challenges such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, global warming, and fossil-fuel depletion depend critically on the ability to undertake such investments. We investigate the possibility of improving financing for long shots by pooling them into a single portfolio that can be financed via securitized debt, and examine the conditions under which such funding mechanisms are likely to be effective.