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Andlinger Center News

January 18, 2021

By Molly A. Seltzer

Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership (E-ffiliates) welcomes Mercator Partners as its newest member, expanding E-ffiliates into the financial sector. Mercator, a sustainability-focused asset management firm, is the first investment company to join the corporate membership program administered by the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment.

The company, based in Princeton, NJ, invests principally across transportation, power generation and manufacturing. Scott Hobart, the chief investment officer, said he sees these sectors in the early stages of a long window of structural redesign, which will be defined by several key sources of change including electrification, decentralization, and a move to prioritize sustainability. The company invests on behalf of pensions, endowments, institutions, and high net worth individuals. Mercator is now looking to the Andlinger Center to deepen its understanding of the path to decarbonization across the economy and to help identify where there may be opportunities to facilitate a clean energy transition.

“Our focus has always been on finding the people who are best positioned to comment on these big changes, whether it be in areas like battery chemistry or the most efficient pathways to decarbonize the power sector,” said Hobart.

The firm relies on primary research at its core to inform investment strategy. Martin Fransson is one of three partners at the firm and earned his Ph.D. in physical chemistry with a focus on materials science and catalysis at Princeton. Noting the Andlinger Center’s deep and diverse expertise in areas that will play a large role in a future clean economy, Fransson said the company looks forward to working with experts such as Jesse Jenkins and Chris Greig of the Andlinger Center’s Energy Systems Analysis Group, Claire White who specializes in green cements, and scholars in chemistry and other fields. Jenkins is assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment and Greig is the Theodora D. ’78 and William H. Walton III ’74 Senior Research Scientist at the Andlinger Center. White is associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, and acting associate director for research at the center.

For the Andlinger Center, the partnership represents a move to broaden its corporate membership program and collaborate with the range of stakeholders who are needed to carry out a clean energy transition. Working with Mercator Partners is a first step to collaborating with the finance industry at large.

“Investment is a key piece of commercializing and scaling new clean energy technologies,” said Barry Rand, associate professor of electrical engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment. “Unless there is the capital to actually fund the transition, decarbonization efforts will likely come up short,” said Rand, who is also associate director for external partnerships at the Andlinger Center.

Hobart said there is a need for collaboration between asset management and academia. He echoed that the financial sector must play a critical role in bringing a large-scale transition to fruition. He hopes that the company’s support will open the door to bringing in larger financial firms, and ultimately help shorten the time between the discovery of new technologies and their scaleup.

Hobart said that, for Mercator Partners, joining the Andlinger Center community is a way to ensure he and his investment team are best placed to assess pathways to decarbonization and to further strengthen their efforts in confirming that the companies they invest in are truly sustainable and impactful. He said investing based on environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles has gained popularity in recent years, but investments are often not as “green” and beneficial as they may seem. This partnership, Hobart said, will provide Mercator with insights necessary to back investment models that meet a high threshold in terms of sustainability attributes.

Rand said working with Mercator is special for several reasons. He said the company understands the importance of academic scholarship and how it can play a role in investment decision making and also has a specific declared interest in decarbonization. Rand also emphasized that the firm has a close tie to Princeton and sees value in connecting Princeton’s scholarly community to the private investment sector.

“This is a major milestone for E-ffiliates. Getting the financial services sector, through Mercator, involved directly, and so closely connected to the people who are creating next-generation technologies and solutions, encourages entrepreneurship and technology transfer, and elevates our impact as researchers and as an academic institution,” said Rand.