Technology features heavily in modern life, but over the last 6 weeks I am sure we have all found ourselves spending much more time at the computer or on our phones. Like all of us at Cornerstone, many people are now set up in their new home offices and in the evenings we all watch the news from our sofas and wait to hear about vaccine development or ventilator manufacture.  

We are reminded more than ever of the value of technologyinnovation and the importance of ensuring everyone has access to this kind of development. Some of us are taking this as a reminder to look to the future and to assess how the experience of lockdown will change our lives going forwards. 

Last week my colleague and mentor, Rebecca Kowalski reflected on how the pandemic has highlighted some of the more important issues that Cornerstone’s new Responsible Futures portfolio aims to tackle. The portfolio focuses on working with the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), one of which in particular seems relevant during this current pandemic – Goal 9: ‘Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation’. 

There are many ways in which the Responsible Futures portfolio aims to makes a difference by investing in areas which target the provision of resources and access to information & communications technology. I’ve been thinking about this in relation to two spaces which are occupying our thoughts at the moment: at home and in healthcare.  

At home 

More people than ever are now dependent on telecommunication and connectivity. For those of us who are still able to keep working we have had to make sure we adapted quickly to an entirely digital world of electronic signatures and video meetings (not forgetting the good old-fashioned telephone call). This challenge will test the business world and highlight those businesses that are forward thinking and willing to engage with new technology.   

Many of my colleagues at Cornerstone are working on a new level, switching between looking after our clients, and helping their 5-year-old with their online assignment on Picasso (his favourite period is Cubism by the way!). Here in Edinburgh, the University of Edinburgh has worked with the Council and donated IT equipment to ensure that school students are able to continue with their studies at home. This is another area of focus for the Responsible Futures portfolio and ties in nicely with SDG 4 ‘Quality Education’. I’ll save that topic for later, but it’s not lost on me that the online education and student learning platforms the portfolio supports has now become an essential part of life. 

In our own time, everyone is enjoying calling family and friends; it is no substitute for a hug, but I think we all appreciate the sense of camaraderie that has evolved throughout this crisisMy husband spends more time checking in with his parents, as his mother works as a respiratory therapist over 5,000 km away in New Jersey and we’ve enjoyed virtual games, quizzes (one of which we even won) and catch ups with wonderful friends.  

There are areas within the Responsible Futures portfolio which fund the development, manufacture and implementation of specialist materials and technology which are placed in the equipment we are using every day and the fibre cables that connect us to the outside world. The portfolio also invests in companies which create software solutions, and certain big-name technology companies that make sure we can have the latest technology and greatest functionality availableAnother theme that has piqued the interest of our portfolio managers is Cyber Security.  Now that more of us are online and connected than ever before, there is a greater need to work on the kind of technology that can prevent this particular form of exploitation.  

Innovation in healthcare 

In a recent memo for the Gates Foundation, Bill Gates called for “innovation to beat the enemy” and found inspiration in the World War 2 spirit of his parent’s generation. It is undeniable that in the midst of this global pandemic, technology has never been more important and is driving the search for a cure to Covid-19. Laboratories around the world are developing tests and researching vaccines and treatments. Microsoft itself has been working on a collaboration called ‘Plasma Bot’ which facilitates plasma donations from those that have already recovered from the virus. Tom Hanks has even been sharing pictures on Instagram of the plasma he’s donated this week if anyone is curious 

Healthcare is one of the main themes of the Responsible Futures portfolio as it also links into SDG 3 ‘Good Health & Wellbeing’. Portfolio holdings can change over time but there has been investment in technology for testing new drugs to take to market, technology to improve clinical research and technology that creates and makes accessible high power lasers and specialist materials that are applied to medical science.  

In the same vein, SDG 3 highlights the need to reduce pollution and contamination in our environment which will substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from related diseases. As mentioned in last week’s letter, the highest levels of pollution have been linked to an increase in Coronavirus cases across the world. Many of us have noticed the clearer air and the less polluted skies since lockdown began and I am personally hoping that this is something we work to keep going once life goes back to normal. The Responsible Futures portfolio invests in green technology in many forms, including in the Lithium batteries which are essential to electrical transportation which is increasing in popularity.  

Technology has become so integral to our daily lives and we have recently been shown the good it can do, so let us continue to use it for good. We are becoming increasingly aware that technology is the driving forcefor businesses to adapt, for learning and development and for medical progression to name a few. As I’ve mentioned various SDGs throughout this piece, you can perhaps see a glimpse of how this all fits together to drive progress and positive change for people and planet. We should continue the drive and focus on innovation and recognize the opportunity in new technology, which is something our Responsible Futures portfolio specializes in.  

As with last week I’ll leave you with another lockdown tip which is a brilliant offering from the Edinburgh Science Festival which is taking place online this year. The festival will showcase videos, articles and games around the theme of the Earth’s elements; Fire, Air, Earth, Water and Aether. It looks fantastic and you can read about the first installment here:  https://www.sciencefestival.co.uk/all-fired-up

~ Ellie Maletto

Please note that the content of this letter is for information purposes only and should not be considered as a recommendation to invest in any particular investment strategy or any individual company.

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