Sustainability has taken center stage in the past year. The Biden administration recently reentered the US into the Paris Agreement and committed to reduce carbon emissions at the Climate Summit 2021 Conference. The administration is also doubling down on R&D to fight climate change, calling for $35 billion in climate-related R&D spending as part of Biden’s American Jobs Plan and reviving the Mission Innovation initiative to encourage other countries to follow suit.
Startups have for years risen to the challenge to develop the technologies needed to tackle pressing issues like food waste, greenhouse gas emissions, and wastewater. And to scale these ambitious endeavors, an ecosystem of accelerators has flourished. By identifying and supporting innovation for climate action, these are the accelerators bringing to the fore the best of the best.
|Launched in 2018
|6-month remote accelerator for seed to series B companies
|Supported 36 startups from 16 countries
|Focus areas: Circular Packaging, Smart Agriculture, Water Stewardship, Climate Action, Upcycling, Plastics
The rockstar partner lineup at 100+ Accelerator sets it apart in the sustainable innovation space. AB InBev launched the global accelerator three years ago, and welcomed The Coca Cola Company, Colgate-Palmolive and Unilever as founding partners for this year’s cohort.
“Together, we are striving to supercharge adoption of sustainable solutions by funding and accelerating fantastic innovations that will change the world by making all of our businesses more sustainable,” said AB InBev Chief Sustainability and Procurement Officer Tony Milikin in a press release.
“Sustainable business is smart business, and we are working to solve huge problems that no one company can handle alone. With our combined global reach, we can accelerate progress towards a more sustainable future,” he added.
|Launched in 2006
|World’s largest clean technology accelerator
|Supports 1,600+ early-stage cleantech startups
|$1.2 billion raised by alumni
|Focus areas: Energy Generation, Energy Distribution & Storage, Energy Efficiency, Chemicals & Advanced Materials, Information & Communications Technologies, Green Building, Transportation, Agriculture, Water & Waste
For 14 years, Cleantech Open has been a pioneer in fostering cleantech startups. But the road has not always been easy.
“In the early days around 2010, traditional Silicon Valley VCs invested in things like solar and biofuels that didn’t pan out. They lost money, and it left a bad taste in investors’ mouths,” shares Executive Director Ken Hayes at Innovation Centre Denmark‘s ‘Silicon Valley Going Green’ webinar. “But within the last 5 years, new investors from other parts of the country and new funds like Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Prime Impact Fund have a different perspective. They are interested in investing in long shot, long-term technologies and businesses.”
This year, Cleantech Open made the decision to go global, opening its 2021 virtual accelerator program to international companies.
|Launched in 2009
|Invites climate tech companies that land into strategy, project, or global tracks
|Supported 117 portfolio companies
|Awarded a total of $43 million
|Focus areas: Mobility, Water, Energy, Circular Economy, and Food & Agriculture
Elemental Excelerator takes a systems approach to climate tech, sitting at the nexus of all climate-related sectors with its non-profit model. It leverages strategic partnerships with corporations and corporate venture groups, as well as community-based organizations like nonprofits, governments, and local philanthropic organizations. Elemental’s goal is to bring together the market pull and local community knowledge necessary for the success of its portfolio companies.
Beyond their commitment to social equity, Elemental looks for companies solving the root problems of the climate crisis.
“Are they really solving a big problem?” reflects Kim Baker, Director of Innovation, Water & Circular Economy. “Are they solving something that is a root cause that Elemental is uniquely positioned to support? We’re looking for things that are ultimately solving urgent environmental challenges, especially those facing frontline communities—solutions that are locally deployable, but globally scalable.”
Google for Startups Accelerator: Climate Change
|Launching June 2021 with an inaugural class of 11 companies
|10-week digital accelerator for seed to series A climate tech startups
Launching this month, Google’s newest accelerator will focus on the emerging climate tech sector. As with the company’s regional Google Campuses and specialist accelerators, its climate-focused program offers Google’s own expertise in areas like blockchain, fintech, AI, and cloud computing.
Enexor BioEnergy joins the inaugural class and hopes to use Google’s expertise to scale up its business producing the Bio-CHP system, a retrofitted shipping container that converts organic and plastic waste into energy. Designed for fast deployment and on-site mobilization, the Tennessee-based company strives to work on data solutions, carbon credit logistics, and blockchain applications during the accelerator program.
“We have commitments for a large number of units. They’re the most remote places in the world,” says Lee Jestings, Enexor founder and CEO. “Communicating and managing that data and monetizing transactions that occur that way — we’re excited to see what kind of advice we can get from Google and maybe what kind of hardware and software support we can get from their network.”
|Launched in 2009
|Supported 150+ startups
|$570 million raised by alumni
|Focus areas: Safety, Resilience, Access, and Efficiency
Imagine H2O‘s portfolio is solely dedicated to solving water challenges. This focus allows Imagine H2O to create a dedicated network of partners and sponsors to support water startups in bringing their technologies to market with the non-profit’s zero-equity model.
“Having the Imagine H2O stamp of approval has been a crucial asset for our company, giving us access to industry executives, thought leaders, and top tier investors,” says Aaron Tartakovsky, CEO and Co-Founder of Epic CleanTec, a member of the 2020 cohort.
Epic CleanTec, which develops urban on-site wastewater treatment systems, was recently selected as a finalist for Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas Awards.
Techstars Sustainability Accelerator in Partnership with The Nature Conservancy
|Launched in 2017
|3-month mentor-focused intensive accelerator
|Focus areas: Climate Change, Healthy Oceans, Freshwater & Land, Nature Climate Intelligence
With a myriad startup accelerator programs and a market capitalization of $27 billion, it is no wonder that Techstars has a sustainability-focused program. This year, Techstars opened applications to its third class for a 13-week startup curriculum in Boulder, CO. In addition to the Techstars network of over 10,000 mentors, portfolio companies benefit from the accelerator’s collaboration with The Nature Conservancy.
“They are heavily involved in supporting our startups, and they bring in subject matter experts from around the world to work with our founders,” says Hannah Davis, Program Director. “Given that they are in over 70 countries and all 50 states, they have potential resources for startups from around the world. The Nature Conservancy looks at our climate challenges from not only a tech perspective, but policy, conservation, science, partnerships, and more, which gives our program diverse perspectives and resources.”