The goal of the fund, called Breakthrough Energy Ventures, is to boost and use pre-existing government research regarding climate change and green energy, which may now be under threat from Trump's fossil-fuel-loving administration.
"We don't have any inside knowledge of what the energy policies of this administration will look like," Gates told the Times. "It's possible they will reduce energy research. But it's also significantly possible they would increase energy research."
Trump, who has been skeptical of climate change for years, recently stated that "no one knows" if climate change is real, despite mountains of evidence, research, and near-universal consensus by scientists that it is.
Trump has nominated several global warming doubters to his cabinet, including vocal climate-change denier Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency and Exxon Mobil Corp. CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. Tillerson was formally announced as Trump's nominee for secretary of state early Tuesday, reaffirming the likelihood of a U.S. government with a financial stake in undermining global efforts to stop climate change. Tillerson, who also has ties to Russia, has said his company refuses to invest in green energy because "we choose not to lose money on purpose."
A recent study conducted by MIT found that the "venture capital" model — investors putting seed money into an idea and hoping for a big payoff — is "broken" when it comes to renewable energy. But Gates, who has invested in humanitarian efforts ranging from polio eradication to scholarships, says his latest project is looking at green energy from a different angle: with scientists at the forefront.
"We're going to have a very deep scientific team both at the companies itself and as our advisers," Gates told the New York Times. He noted that Breakthrough Energy Ventures would rely on scientific expertise "way more than any venture fund would have" and is going to use partnerships with the University of California system to take advantage of government-backed research.
Last year, Bill Gates announced he would invest $1 billion of his own money – a fraction of his $90 billion net worth – into clean energy research. At the time, Gates wrote in Quartz:
If we create the right environment for innovation, we can accelerate the pace of progress, develop and deploy new solutions, and eventually provide everyone with reliable, affordable energy that is carbon free. We can avoid the worst climate-change scenarios while also lifting people out of poverty, growing food more efficiently, and saving lives by reducing pollution.
As for what, exactly, the fund is planning to invest in, "Anything that leads to cheap, clean, reliable energy we're open-minded to," said Gates, who is serving as chairman of Breakthrough Energy Ventures.
Gates also told the Times that he and Trump have spoken briefly on the phone since the election, but he would not disclose what they had discussed.