Scottish startups driving digital solutions in the race to net zero
As humankind faces its greatest challenge yet – how to combat the devastating environmental impacts of climate change – the need for new ideas to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and pollution has never been greater.
In the lead up to the Cop26 summit in Glasgow next month, those new technologies and innovations will demand support from world leaders who must take bold policy and practical decisions in order to avert a looming climate catastrophe.
The number of commitments to net zero by governments, regions, cities and businesses doubled internationally between 2019 and 2020, and according to the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI), this “snowball-effect demand signal” has set the stage for an “explosion” of investment in climate technology globally.
The think tank says climate tech represents a “major strategic opportunity” for the Scottish economy and has called on the Scottish Government to launch a ‘moonshot’ campaign with a target to double the size of the emerging sector by 2025.
Scotland is already playing a leading role in the development of climate tech across a diverse range of sectors – including energy, agriculture and transport. Ahead of Cop26, we consulted with industry experts to throw the spotlight on Scottish startups developing technological solutions to the climate emergency across multiple sectors.
Food production: Glasgow-based Enough, which recently raised £35.7m of new funding to scale up production of its sustainable food ingredient, is a rising star in the climate tech space. Using the natural process of fermentation, Enough creates Abunda mycoprotein – a product that is rich in protein and fibre and is designed to mimic meat. The process produces 97 per cent fewer carbon dioxide emissions than beef and 80 per cent fewer than chickens.
Waste management: Edinburgh-based Topolytics has been hailed as a leading analytics player in the global waste management tech sector for helping producers to understand how much waste they generate by type, what happens to it, and its associated carbon impact. Its data platform WasteMap uses machine learning to make waste and resource management more transparent, more efficient and more effective commercially and environmentally. The software company was recently chosen by Google and SAP as one of the top five ‘circular economy’ technologies globally.
Environmental: Space Intelligence is an up-and-coming Edinburgh-based startup, applying artificial intelligence (AI) to big data from space to address environmental challenges. The company, which more than doubled its headcount last year, turns satellite data into “actionable information”, helping governments, companies and organisations worldwide pinpoint and act in environmental hotspots. Last year, Space Intelligence participated in Scottish Enterprise’s flagship development programme, Unlocking Ambition, selected for its ability to help Scotland’s green economic recovery from Covid-19.
Agriculture: Edinburgh-based agritech startup Crover is behind a first-of-its-kind robotic device designed to limit food waste. Its unique machine can fluently “swim” in stored grains, monitoring their conditions and reducing losses due to spoilage, as well as avoiding a drop in quality of crops. Every year, globally, 20 per cent of harvested grains are wasted during storage. Crover has raised more than £600,000 in innovation prizes and grants is now gearing up to advance the development of the Crover device.
Simec Atlantis Energy
Energy: Edinburgh-headquartered Simec Atlantis Energy is a pioneer in the field of sustainable power. The global developer of renewable energy boasts more than 1,000 megawatts of power projects in “various stages” of development, including the world’s largest flagship free-stream tidal power project, MeyGen, located in the Pentland Firth. In July it was reported the project has exported over 37GWh of clean power to the UK grid – breaking every record for tidal energy production set so far.
Waste management: Tech startup Reath, which specialises in reusable packaging, is on a mission to build the digital infrastructure required for businesses to transition to the circular economy. The Edinburgh-based company recently secured six figures in pre-seed funding.
Workforce: Pawprint, based in Edinburgh, is an employee engagement app which empowers workers to measure, understand and reduce their carbon footprint at home, work and beyond, before channelling it towards their organisation’s climate targets.
Water systems: Award-winning Waterwhelm is commercialising membrane technology for low-carbon wastewater treatment, desalination and renewable energy generation. The Edinburgh-based water-tech’s vision is to make water available and affordable for all, regardless of location or climatic conditions.
Intelligent Growth Solutions
Food production: Vertical farming specialist Intelligent Growth Solutions (IGS) create “precision controlled indoor growing environments” for crops. The Edinburgh-based company’s internet-of-things-enabled sustainable solutions are internationally recognised as “best-in-class”.
Education: Edinburgh-based Earth Blox, which has just been selected to participate in the Tech Nation’s Net Zero growth programme, uses satellite imaging technology to help companies observe large areas from space. This enables businesses to rapidly identify unsustainable activities around the world.
Food production: Edinburgh-based Seawater Solutions is tackling the disruptive impact conventional agriculture has on climate change by growing salt-tolerant crops – like samphire – with seawater. The startup is working with coastal farmers around the world to create the carbon capturing wetlands.
Waste management: Carbogenics, an Edinburgh University spin-out, produces sustainable carbon adsorbents from difficult-to-recycle organic waste, like coffee cups. This product can remove odours and pollutants from wastewater, can be used as plant fertilizer and for carbon sequestration.
Smarter Grid Solutions
Energy: Smarter Grid Solutions (SGS), a Glasgow-headquartered energy software company, creates products which are used to manage power grids and market participation in energy systems with high volumes of distributed, clean and flexible energy assets.
Agriculture: Edinburgh-based Iceni Earth is a digital platform used to support farmers to sustainably manage their land and assess how it is changing over time. The mobile app makes it easy for farmers to gather and visualise data.
Energy: Katrick Technologies, a Glasgow-based startup, uses patented means to capture and convert energy from waste heat, wind and waves into mechanical vibration and use it to produce carbon-free electricity.
Construction: IndiNature, based in the Scottish Borders, is leading the way in bio-based materials, converting sustainable crops into natural fibre construction insulation.
Energy: Solaraskit is an impact-focused business aiming to tackle climate change and improve energy access. The Edinburgh-based startup is behind the world’s first flat-packable solar water heater, which can be easily transported and set up in 20 minutes.
Transport: Having created a system that allows electric vehicle drivers to charge in a way that’s green, cheap, immediate – and without the need for a driveway at home – Stonehaven-based Trojan Energy are doing their bit in the race to net zero.
Energy: Electronics company Synaptec, based in Glasgow, uses innovative technology deployed on existing infrastructure to “radically” enhance power system protection, automation, and asset management – supporting the growth of net zero energy systems.
Construction: Glasgow-based arbnco is an award-winning building performance software company. Its data analytics platform allows businesses to optimise their property portfolios to operate as “healthy, efficient and intelligent green buildings”, helping accelerate their transition to net zero.
Also playing their part in the green tech revolution…
Construction: Integrated Environmental Solutions in Glasgow
Waste management: Scrapp in Edinburgh
Water systems: Cascade Water Products in Arbroath
Construction: Gecko Glazing in Edinburgh
Agriculture: Agricarbon in Dundee
Transport: Elektrek Explorer in Edinburgh
Waste management: IntelliDigest in Edinburgh
Energy: Dukosi in Edinburgh
Environment: R3 IoT in Glasgow
Contributor thanks to: Alisdair Gunn at Glasgow City Innovation District, University of Edinburgh, SCDI, Scottish Edge, Scottish Enterprise and Accountech.