Imperial College London

Major donation for climate change entrepreneurship

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The team behind Arborea, a startup developing ‘bio solar leaf’ technology to improve air quality. Arborea is one of the many clean tech startups supported by Imperial in recent years.

Arborea, which develops new tech to improve air quality, is one of the many cleantech startups supported by Imperial in recent years.

Imperial is to launch a new cleantech accelerator for green startups, thanks to a £2.5M gift from HSBC UK.

Over the next four years, The Greenhouse will provide around 85 UK startups developing services or technologies with potential for impact on climate change with a structured programme of support and training. Over a period of twelve months, each participating team will receive expert advice on technology and commercial development, with the aim of becoming credible and investable businesses. 

Teams will compete for up to 30 places per year at The Greenhouse, with a two-day bootcamp providing an opportunity for teams to develop and pitch ideas. The most promising will then go through to the next phase of the acceleration process.

Professor Richard Templer, Director of Innovation at the Grantham Institute and one of The Greenhouse founders said: “We will be looking to identify teams with really original or innovative ideas that can have real climate impact. We will also closely consider the merits of the founding team, the uniqueness of their idea, scalability, and chances of success.”

After completing the bootcamp, teams will move into the 12-month accelerator programme, participating in a series of workshops and seminars, and receiving one-to-one business and technical support. The focus in the first six months will be on customer discovery, with teams refining and testing their product and business model. In the second six-month period, the emphasis will be on commercialisation, with teams seeking investment, potential customers, or both.. The goal is for each team to have a self-sustaining business by the end of the programme, or in the months immediately following it.

When joining the Greenhouse, all teams will receive an initial cash grant, which can be used to develop their business, thereby supporting them in the transition to working on their ideas full time. A further discretionary grant will be available for teams in the later stages of the programme.

The generous donation from HSBC UK will support the full range of The Greenhouse activities, from teaching and skills development, to the grants for participating teams. 

I am excited about the innovative solutions that we will see emerging from The Greenhouse, and their contribution to helping accelerate a global transition to net zero Professor Richard Templer Director of Development for Chemistry and Director of Innovation at the Grantham Institute

Professor Templer thanked HSBC UK on behalf of the College: “We are thrilled to be working with HSBC UK on this programme, which quite simply would not be able to proceed without their generosity. I am excited about the innovative solutions that we will see emerging from The Greenhouse, and their contribution to helping accelerate a global transition to net zero.”

Amanda Murphy, Head of Commercial Banking, HSBC UK said: “Companies, especially startups, that are developing cleaner technology often struggle to access the networks, financial backing and business mentoring required to succeed. Our partnership with Imperial College London will support UK innovators who are pioneering new frontiers in climate change solutions, giving them the very best chance to grow and thrive.”

The teams comprising the inaugural cohort are:

  • Algreen (developing the first 100% biodegradable labels from seaweed)
  • Nourisol (developing sustainable & cost-efficient biofertilisers, with algae isolated from farmers’ soils)
  • Carbon Infinity (developing advanced sorbent materials and modular units for the direct capture and removal of carbon dioxide from ambient air)
  • Construction Carbon Footprint Scheme (helping builders to easily calculate, certify, and properly offset their embodied carbon)
  • Cryogenx (delivering portable cooling capacity comparable to an ice bath with only 2% of the resources)
  • Dodo (helping companies become carbon neutral by connecting directly to a company's accounting systems).
  • Filia (incorporating solar panels into external blackout blinds)
  • Greener Beans (synthesising multiple environmental indicators to create a single comparable sustainability score for supermarket products)
  • Hopes Sustainability (aiming to engage pupils at every UK school with climate change issues)
  • Mana Biosystems (creating a hybrid insect rearing technology to commercially and sustainably scale BSF farming in sub-Saharan Africa)
  • Nanomox (developing a low energy, sustainable, and cost-effective process to produce advanced materials)
  • NuOceans (designing a circular economy model for the manufacture of sandals using unrecyclable ocean plastics)
  • Olwg (developing an integrated clean energy project screening / decision-making tool that considers technical, commercial, and carbon accounting factors)
  • The Tyre Collective (developing a device to capture tyre wear, preventing harmful particles from entering our ecosystem)
  • Treeconomy (developing remote sensing technology to more accurately calculate woodland and forest carbon stocks, and monitor ecosystem change)

The partnership with Imperial is part of HSBC’s global Climate Solutions Partnership, which aims to unlock barriers to finance for companies and projects that tackle climate change to bring them to scale while also delivering for people and nature.

 A select number of businesses from The Greenhouse will go on to participate in HSBC’s global Climate Solutions Partnership innovation accelerator, powered by WWF’s Impactio platform, which will help further scale climate solutions, supporting business innovations in partnership with leading universities, research institutes, incubators and accelerators.

The Greenhouse is part of a new centre for climate change innovation, a major joint initiative between Imperial and the Royal Institution, based at the Royal Institution’s central London headquarters, and announced in March 2021. The centre will bring businesses, entrepreneurs, policy makers, academics and the public together around climate change innovation, creating a focus for London-based innovators to implement global change through pioneering, practical solutions.

Over the past decade, the College has produced more startups in these fields than any other UK university. Imperial was a founding partner of the Climate Knowledge Innovation Community (Climate-KIC) and, since 2012, has delivered the Climate-KIC Accelerator programme, one of the world’s leading climate change solutions accelerators. In just nine years, 64 startups have graduated from the programme, raising over $275M in investment and creating over 1,200 jobs.

See the press release of this article

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Daniel Mapp

Daniel Mapp
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