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Tech Nation announces second cohort for Net Zero accelerator

Entrepreneurial network Tech Nation has announced the 32 climate technology startups that will be joining the second cohort of its government-backed Net Zero Growth accelerator programme. The companies were chosen to join the six-month programme by a group of 40 judges – including climate specialists, investors and senior representatives of tech firms – based on…

Entrepreneurial network Tech Nation has announced the 32 climate technology startups that will be joining the second cohort of its government-backed Net Zero Growth accelerator programme.

The companies were chosen to join the six-month programme by a group of 40 judges – including climate specialists, investors and senior representatives of tech firms – based on their scalability and potential to help the UK reach its goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The startups are actively working to decarbonise a range of sectors, including seven in energy and electricity, six in transport, four in buildings and cities, and three in agriculture.

Three companies – Carbon Infinity, Supercritical and BxEarth – are focusing specifically on carbon removal technologies instead, with a further three developing and deploying space technology to help companies monitor various climate-related goals.

The Edinburgh-based Earth Blox, for example, is using satellite data to identify deforestation or mining activities, which will help companies act on their supply chains, while London-based Satellite Vu is similarly using a constellation of satellites to measure the thermal footprint of buildings every one to two hours, with the aim of improving energy efficiency.

Other sectors represented in the net zero cohort include finance, smart cities, biotech and life sciences, carbon calculation and washing, with just over a third of the firms focused on creating business-to-consumer (B2C) offerings.

Ripple Energy, a B2C company that allows customers to buy shares in wind farms, was one of the 158 high-growth startups the UK government has taken an equity stake in during the pandemic, as announced by the British Business Bank on 14 September 2021.

“Climate tech is playing an enormous role in reducing carbon emissions. Technology that helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions, either directly or indirectly, across all sectors of society is in hot demand,” said Gerard Grech, founder and CEO of Tech Nation. “But with 40% of emissions reductions reliant on technologies not yet at mass-market scale, there is huge potential still to be realised.

“With these companies needing to scale further and faster than any other technology has before to meet the demand, we are committed to doing all we can at Tech Nation to support and accelerate the growth of the UK’s climate tech scaleups.”

Every startup in the cohort will have access to long-term investment opportunities, education, talent and exposure to industry leaders.

The cohort announcement was also accompanied by new data from Tech Nation and Dealroom, which shows the UK currently has 519 net zero startups and scaleups – a 60% increase on the 323 climate tech companies it had in 2020.

This means Tech Nation’s Net Zero Growth programme will have supported 13% of the UK’s climate tech companies by the end of this second cohort.

Some 30 startups participated in last year’s inaugural Net Zero Growth cohort, including those building electric vehicle infrastructure and services (Elmo and Connected Kerb), creating vertical farms and animal-free dairy products (LettUs Grow and Better Dairy), measuring environmental footprints (Earthly and Ecologi), and improving manufacturing and recycling supply chains (Circulor).

“With Europe recording its highest ever temperature on record this summer, and the latest IPCC report published last month, there isn’t a more urgent time to take climate action. Every successful climate tech company is another step towards decarbonising the world,” said Sammy Fry, net zero lead at Tech Nation.

“I’m proud to say that in the run up to COP26, our pioneering Net Zero growth programme gives these revolutionary, high-impact scale-ups the access they need to investors, insights, education, networks and practical support, enabling the UK to lead our transition to a green economy as quickly as possible.”

Like last year, the programme is being supported by a partnership with banking giant BNP Paribas, as well as through a new partnership with accounting software firm Sage, whose former chief executive Stephen Kelly was appointed chair of Tech Nation in June 2020.

In March 2020, a group of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) led by Rainforest Action Network published the Banking on climate change 2020 report, which found that 35 private sector banks have provided $2.7tn for fossil fuel projects in the four years since the Paris Climate Agreement was signed in 2016.

“BNP Paribas was the biggest European fossil bank in 2019, despite its policy on unconventional oil and gas financing, and – along with Santander and CIBC – saw the biggest percentage increase in its fossil financing from 2018-2019,” it said, adding that this “shows how far the bank is from aligning with a stable climate”.

In response to the report, BNP Paribas said: “It is important to note that the group’s total financing to the oil and gas sector has remained stable since 2016, while our exposure to renewable energies has doubled over the same period.”

In May 2021, the Cabinet Office invited technology startups to develop digital and data-related climate solutions as part of its new Tech for Our Planet challenge programme, which is being run in partnership with government technology (GovTech) accelerator Public.

The challenges related to how technology can be used to drive more sustainable consumption within the home, how it can promote better land use and waste management practices on farms, how to better capture and share energy consumption data across the grid, and how it can boost community engagement so that more people can have their say on climate priorities and initiatives.

Two further challenges related to how tech can be used to make financial services greener, and to support aquatic ecosystem protection, including ecosystem recovery and preventing biodiversity loss.

Net Zero Growth cohort roundup

ACT Blade – Edinburgh, energy tech

ACT Blade’s vision is to produce the next generation of wind turbine blades for a net-zero future. The company is developing a lightweight and modular blade using sustainable and cost-effective processes and materials capable of delivering a step-change increase in energy production and reduction in costs.

Ambue – Oxford, proptech

Ambue gives people information and advice to use energy more efficiently in their homes. It does this by creating a unique digital twin of each home, which is used to analyse the energy use and automatically generate technical documents so that contractors can carry out the work. Users save energy and money, put less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and help combat global warming, according to Ambue.

Better Origin – Cambridge, agritech and foodtech

Better Origin develops and operates insect bioconversion solutions that allow farmers and food producers to turn food and agricultural wastes into valuable nutrients through insects. The company’s goal is to democratise access to insect farming so that any farmer can access insect waste repurposing possibilities, in turn helping to reduce the footprint of agriculture.

Bx Earth – London, agritech and foodtech

Bx Technologies fuses technology with nature to transform how it grows food. The company is breaking new ground to digitalise and change the way we produce food through software-as-a-service (SaaS) operational tools on farms and creating a market incentive to change practices. Two products tackle the supply and demand of independently verified, data backed, fully transparent carbon offsets and ecosystem service provision from food production – LOOOP and Earth Exchange.

Carbon Infinity – London, carbon removal and offsetting

Carbon Infinity is developing a cost-effective, modular technology called direct air capture (DAC), removing carbon dioxide directly from the air in the atmosphere. Advanced carbon-capture sorbent material and module design, combined with waste heat or renewable energy and water, can be used to form the building blocks of the industrial economy; whether non-petrochemicals, plastics, synthetic fuels for aviation or shipping, and atmospheric carbon-enriched products (concrete, carbon nanotubes). Carbon Infinity is initially focused on facilitating the de-fossilisation of hard-to-decarbonise sectors.

Catagen – Belfast, transport tech

Catagen is a clean air data company providing emissions testing services to the world’s leading car and motorcycle brands. It uses a proprietary toolset to help these brands meet or exceed global emissions standards. Using this knowledge and data, Catagen is developing PED, a new product which mines the unique data and uses models to create a software technology platform to inform individuals about their emissions footprint to create behaviour change.

Electric Assisted Vehicles (EAV) Limited – Oxford, transport tech

EAV is the leading provider of last-mile transport solutions specifically designed for evolving urban environments – making them zero-emission, low cost, reliable and future-proof.

EMSOL – London, transport tech

EMSOL deploys leading-edge air pollution monitoring in conjunction with state-of-the-art, real-time vehicle-tracking technology. By intelligently combining these datasets, EMSOL can, with “unparalleled accuracy levels’, identify the who, what, where and when of pollution. This allows EMSOL customers to evolve from passive to proactive in their climate ambitions and to achieve their net-zero goals.

Gardin – Oxford, agritech and foodtech

Gardin’s remote sensing technology aims to empower food producers by monitoring and delivering insights on plant health versus the growth environment to reduce waste and make growing food more sustainable. Gardin’s full-stack solution is engineered to measure plant crop physiological traits such as photosynthetic activity, biotic and abiotic stress and nutritional density. It will also drive correlations between the physiology of the plants/crops and the growth environment so producers can make meaningful interventions exactly when needed.

Magway – London, supply chain and transport tech

Magway is an all-electric, zero-emissions, low-footprint, high-capacity delivery system. It has the capacity to take up to 90% of online delivery vehicles off our roads, drastically reducing congestion, pollution and the carbon footprint of shopping online. Magway can deliver the equivalent of 20,000 40ft container loads through each 1m diameter pipe per week. – Reading, energy tech’s platform aims to eliminate all wasted energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from buildings, automatically and without any extra burden to occupants. The m.e platform focuses on Small Power, sometimes known as Plug Load power, which can account for up to 40% of a commercial buildings’ energy consumption and has no useful management system. The platform is de

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