Last year, the UK ranked third in the world for impact tech investment. During the first three months of 2021, venture capital firms have invested $7.6 billion in UK tech.
Any company that addresses any one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals is categorised as impact tech, which is now one of the most sought-after investment areas.
We have selected eight very impressive London-based impact tech companies working to improve our cities, transport, food and health. Each business is sustainable and is working towards achieving our target of reaching net-zero by 2050.
Vivacity Labs received £5 million funding in Series A round to make cities smarter, safer and more sustainable. The company will expand its AI-based traffic signal system to prioritise sustainable transport means, such as buses and cyclists, reduce congestion, and improve safety. Vivacity Labs has placed AI sensors and “Smart Junctions” across the UK, which gather anonymous data on transport means, traffic flows and travel patterns. This data can be used to improve the transport network and urban infrastructure.
Arrival, now valued at $13 million, manufactures zero-emission electric vehicles for commercial use. Their vehicles are made from a composite material, lighter and cheaper than steel and can be customised to suit specific company needs. The company will begin trialling electric buses on public roads in the UK this autumn with First Bus. Arrival plans to build a network of micro-factories close to cities. Founder Denis Sverdlov recently said that there are more than 560 cities globally with a population of more than 1 million people. Arrival wants to build a micro-factory in each of those cities, which would have the capacity to produce 10,000 vehicles tailored to the market’s specific needs.
Sunswap is a cleantech engineering company developing zero-emission transport refrigeration units that reduce air pollution and noise. Currently, most supermarkets use transport refrigeration units (TRUs) and have secondary unregulated diesel engines to provide cooling. One of these unregulated diesel engines produces the same level of emissions as 60 diesel cars. Sunswap endeavours to bring emissions to zero using solar-powered technology that predicts energy usage and has an adaptive battery capacity.
Better Dairy received £1.6 million in seed funding last year to develop animal-free dairy products. The company uses technology to address the unsustainable dairy market by creating products that are “molecularly identical” to traditional dairy products. The process is very similar to beer brewing and uses yeast fermentation. CEO Jevan Nagarajah says that animal-based dairy farming contributes over 1.7 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year and takes 650 litres of water to produce just one litre of milk. Although plant-based alternatives have become more popular, they are not a wholesome solution as they often lack texture, flavour and nutritional profiles. This is why Better Dairy has been working on an environmentally friendly solution that tastes just as good as dairy.
LabGenius, a biotech company using machine learning to develop new protein therapeutics, closed $15 million in funding last year. Protein therapeutics are used to treat severe conditions such as cancer and chronic diseases and are 30% of total pharmaceutical sales. The company’s platform – Eva, can quickly identify and test new drugs – cutting down the costs and risks associated with drug development. Through robotic automation, synthetic biology and machine learning, they can search through billions of protein designs and test those predicted to be high performing.
Meniga, a fintech company that provides digital banking technology to banks, has raised €10 million in additional funding. This funding will be used to further develop green banking products, which will build on the company’s current carbon spending insights product. Meniga’s carbon insight product allows banks to launch new green products and provide users with detailed breakdowns of their carbon footprints.
Sylvera has developed AI-enabled monitoring of nature-based carbon offsetting projects. Land use is a massive emitter of CO2 and is responsible for 23% of global emissions. Sylvera believes that with the correct data, 20-years of CO2 can be removed as carbon markets scale. The company sets out to provide this data.
Recycleye, the intelligent waste management firm, received £1.2 million in seed funding, alongside grants from InnovateUK and the European Union to develop a computer vision system that, combined with robotics, recovers valuable materials from waste. This system will remove the need for manual waste pickers and bring transparency to waste management by identifying and classifying all waste streams, broken down by material, object and even brand. Two trillion tonnes of waste are produced each year, only around 8% of which is recycled. Recycleye aims to change this and accelerate our transition towards a circular economy.
With COP26, the United Nations Climate Conference to take place in Scotland this year, UK impact tech companies can significantly support the Paris Agreement’s goals, specifically on affordable and clean energy and clean water sanitation. There will be opportunities for companies to engage in the climate change discussion and collaborate on solutions that help meet the UN SDG goals.