All nations of the world face an existential threat as climate change and environmental degradation forge ahead. To overcome these challenges, the European Union (EU) developed the ‘Green Deal’, a strategy to make the EU’s economy more sustainable. The main points of the action plan include moving to a clean and circular economy, as well as restoring biodiversity and cutting pollution.
The first funding of the Green Deal was awarded by the European Innovation Council (EIC): A budget of €307 million will be used to fund 64 selected startups and SMEs. Their ideas are set to support the Recovery Plan for Europe to counter the economic and social damages that arose due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Below are our four favorite game-changing ideas – can you guess why?
Taking ‘power-to-gas’ to the next level
When there is an over-supply of electricity, grid operators are forced to cut down the production of renewable energy due to a lack of storage capacity. The German early-stage company Electrochaea offers a solution for energy that would otherwise be wasted: Via the ‘power-to-gas’ process they are able to convert stranded electricity into biogas which can be directly integrated into the existing grid.
At the core of their proprietary energy storage technology is a biocatalyst called ‘archaea’. This microorganism allows their patented technology to operate on lower costs and greater flexibility than other conventional methods. Besides, their process can use any CO₂ (eg. landfill, dairis, cement plans) as a feedstock in the process which leads to a 50% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of industrial sources.
Harvesting ocean treasures
Alginor aims to make use of one of the world’s most untapped resources: seaweeds. The Norwegian coastline alone is home to roughly 60 million tonnes of biomass in the form of seaweed. Alginor’s harvesting and processing technology paves the way for many opportunities: The total utilization of seaweeds for the production of unique products for application areas such as food, feed, pharma, agriculture, chemicals and materials.
By establishing the first biorefinery in Norway, Alginor wants to offer a broad product portfolio based on only one material. Compared to existing solutions, Alginor will produce fully traceable new products with unique bio-properties, by fully avoiding emissions of raw material, toxic chemicals or process water.
Making solar energy even greener
During the manufacturing process of solar panels, and at the end of their product lifecycle, many raw materials go to waste, in particular ultra-pure silicon and metals. And although silicon is an abundant element on earth, it’s purification process is highly cost and energy intensive. To give you an idea: In order to purify 1kg of silicon, 50kg of CO₂ are released into the atmosphere. Given the alarming amount of greenhouse gases already in our atmosphere, it is RoSi’s CEO Yun Luo’s goal to demonstrate that a circular economy is viable in the photovoltaic industry:
Her technology startup based in France offers recycling solutions to avoid wasting ultra-pure silicon and move towards a more sustainable production model in photovoltaic. Yun Luo is proud to be one of the 22 female leaders to benefit from the EIC’s funding and to be recognized as visionary entrepreneur who will support the Green Deal.
Increasing the potential of plastic waste
Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to clean grease from your plastic lunch box? Well, it’s also a nightmare for plastic converters. Usually, oily plastics are send to incinerators because there is no way of cleaning it without consuming significant amounts of energy and using unhealthy chemicals. Until now!
TUSTI is a high-tech recycling company from the Netherlands that focuses on tackling exactly these difficult waste streams. They developed a process whereby environmentally friendly cleaning agents and waste water are used to purify oils. These oils can then be supplied to biofuel producers. In doing so, TUSTI’s CEO Eline Stiphout aims to turn waste into value and increase the amount of plastic being recycled.
Opportunities for Female Founders
Out of the 64 game changing ideas, we picked our favorite ones led by women. Given our program’s focus on women in tech, we love seeing opportunities for female entrepreneurs increase around the world. Over one third of the selected companies by the EIC are led by female CEOs, which is triple the number of previous years. To increase this ratio, a pilot measure was introduced to the sourcing process in which at least a quarter of the finalists have to have female CEOs.
Are you also an entrepreneur with a high-tech solution for sustainability? If you are looking for support check out our program requirements and sign-up for our monthly reminders to make sure you don’t miss the deadline. Get inspired by what our batch has been up to for the first half of our program – who knows, maybe you’ll be on this page next year!
Do you want to turn your idea into a business and be part of a motivated group of like-minded entrepreneurs?
Applications for the next High-Tech SeedLab batch open in October 2020. If you have questions about the program or your application, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
This program is financed by the European Social Fund (ESF), as well as the State of Berlin.