Game-changing companies recognized for their leadership in transformative technologies.
New York : Today announced the twelve winners of the 2021 BNEF Pioneers – early-stage companies that are pursuing exciting and important low-carbon opportunities.
The winners were selected as their innovations fill important gaps in optimizing long-haul freight, making sustainable materials, tracking greenhouse gases, valuing carbon sinks and reducing energy and chemical use.
Since the inception of the BNEF Pioneers program more than a decade ago, cheap, clean technologies such as renewable energy and electric vehicles have changed the world. Although these technologies will decarbonize large parts of the world economy, there are still significant challenges to address in achieving net-zero emissions and slowing climate change.
The 2020s will arguably be an even more pivotal decade in the fight against climate change, and the Pioneers competition this year has recognized transformative technology solutions filling some remaining net-zero innovation gaps. In 2021, we solicited applications from companies, non-profits and projects that addressed three climate-tech innovation areas:
1) Managing and optimizing long-haul freight
2) Advancing materials and techniques for sustainable products
3) Monitoring and understanding our changing planet
The competition received over 250 applications from 36 different countries. A team of lead analysts at BNEF evaluated candidates against three criteria: the potential impact on greenhouse gas emissions and the planet; the degree of technology innovation and novelty; and the likelihood of adoption.
The 2021 BNEF Pioneers are:
Challenge 1: Managing and optimizing long-haul freight
• Convoy (U.S.) provides a digital freight network and moves thousands of truckloads around the United States each day through its optimized connected network of carriers, saving money for shippers and eliminating carbon waste.
• Nautilus Labs (U.S.) advances the efficiency of ocean commerce through artificial intelligence. It provides a predictive decision-support solution that drives sustainability and profitability in global maritime shipping.
• Ontruck (Spain) is a digital transportation company that combines automation and machine learning to drive out waste in the logistics process. Ontruck offers an efficient and low-carbon solution to move freight, helping shippers to reduce transportation costs, increasing earnings for carriers, and removing carbon emissions generated from empty trucks.
Challenge 2: Advancing materials and techniques for sustainable products
• Cemvita Factory (U.S.) engineers microbes that use carbon dioxide or methane as a feedstock for the production of carbon-negative industrial chemicals. These chemicals are used by oil and gas, chemical, mining and aerospace companies that seek to apply nature-inspired technologies for reducing their carbon footprint.
• Pyrowave (Canada) electrifies chemical processes in the circular economy of plastics. Pyrowave uses microwave technology to supply the chemical industry with recycled raw materials that are drop-in substitutes for virgin chemicals.
• Via Separations (U.S.) targets U.S. energy consumption that is wasted each year through the process of separating chemicals, by electrifying energy-intensive steps in chemical production.
Challenge 3: Monitoring and understanding our changing planet
• Pachama (U.S.) uses machine learning with satellite imaging to measure carbon captured in forests. Pachama brings the latest technology in remote sensing, satellite imaging and AI to the world of forest carbon in order to enable forest conservation and restoration at scale.
• Planet (U.S.) provides global, daily satellite imagery and geospatial solutions to better manage risk across various sectors, such as agriculture, forestry, energy and natural resources.
• QLM Technology (U.K.) offers its quantum technology to provide an understanding of greenhouse gas emissions in an affordable, accurate, scalable way using camera systems that visualize and quantify emissions as they occur.
• 75F (U.S.) is an IoT-based building management system using smart sensors and controls to make commercial buildings more efficient, comfortable and healthier.
• ECOncrete (Israel) provides technology for coastal and marine infrastructure – increasing concrete strength and durability, while creating ecological value and an active carbon sink.
• Pivot Bio (U.S.) makes nitrogen-producing microbial products that can replace the use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer for cereal crops, giving farmers a crop nutrition solution to achieve more consistent yields and improve air and water quality.
Claire Curry, selection committee co-chair and head of digital industry research at BloombergNEF, commented:
“This year we selected three specific areas – heavy-duty transport, materials and the climate – where BNEF believes technology must play an important role in decarbonization.
For the last decade, the BNEF Pioneers award has been essential in highlighting exciting innovations in solar, wind, storage, smart grid and electric vehicles, to name a few. By focusing on specific themes each year where technology innovation is sorely needed, we hope that the competition will continue to shine a light on important, pioneering innovations.
“We had some particularly strong applicants, making it both fun and challenging to select the winners.
We have chosen nine winners across the three main challenge categories that we believe highlight some important innovation gaps in transportation, materials and climate.
While much transport will electrify or turn to green hydrogen, the heavy-duty goods sector will continue burning fossil fuels for years to come. This makes optimizing route planning, reducing idle time and eliminating empty miles truly essential in the near-term. Our winners Convoy, Ontruck and Nautilus Labs are leading the charge in tackling these problems.
“Displacing petrochemicals from everyday products will be a difficult task, even after we are no longer burning oil as a fuel. Displacing petrochemical feedstock with biomass, or even with added carbon dioxide, will create carbon sinks, trapping CO2 in plastics, fabrics and chemicals.
Our winner Cemvita Factory is looking to do just this. Sustainability issues in the petrochemicals sector include inefficient, energy-intense, manufacturing processes and poor recycling options, which our winners Via Separations and Pyrowave are looking to solve respectively.
“Finally, to truly address climate change we need to understand a lot more about our planet, track emissions more closely and quantify the natural carbon sinks in forests, seas and land.
Our winners for the third challenge category are all using different technologies, including hardware and software combinations, to track our changing planet from the sky (Planet), to spot industrial emissions on the ground (QLM Technologies) and to quantify our valuable carbon sinks (Pachama).
“Alongside the three key challenge areas we also picked three wildcard winners – innovations that did not fit in the selected challenge areas but are each pioneering and unique in their own way.
I’m excited to see the future impact on marine life of ECOncrete’s coastal infrastructure invention; the significant emissions impact that 75F will make on commercial buildings; and the exciting future of sustainable agriculture that Pivot Bio is swiftly building with its microbial fertilizer.”
Video interviews with each of the Pioneers will be posted once per week on the BNEF website at https://about.bnef.com/bnefpioneers/ starting in the second half of May.
Quotes from the 2021 BNEF Pioneers:
“75F is disrupting the building controls industry by leveraging the Internet of Things in a complex and dated space. By doing this, we can make automation affordable and accessible to the majority of commercial buildings that can’t otherwise justify a controls system today. We believe this is key to long-term sustainability, and we are honored to be counted among the BNEF Pioneers striving to build a better world.”
– Deepinder Singh, Founder and CEO, 75F
“We are honored to be named among the 2021 BNEF Pioneers and further encouraged to create a carbon-negative future that we all deserve. A future where humans can live in harmony with nature, and create a sustainable and balanced climate. We are making this possible by applying synthetic biology to enhance natural processes such as photosynthesis for production of chemicals.”
– Moji Karimi, CEO, Cemvita Factory
“To be recognized by BloombergNEF is a huge honor and highlights the importance of Convoy’s mission to transport the world with endless capacity and zero waste. Today, more than 72 million metric tons of wasted CO2 are generated by empty trucks; if the entire industry were to adopt Convoy’s technology, it would reduce CO2 emissions by 32 million metric tons, the equivalent of taking 15 million cars off of the road annually. Convoy is pioneering the movement in efficient freight and we’re just scratching the surface of what’s possible.”
– Dan Lewis, Co-Founder and CEO, Convoy
“Concrete is the second-most consumed material in the world, is responsible for 8% of global CO2 emissions, and is used in about 70% of our coastal infrastructure. As we adapt to rising seas and increased coastal development under more resource stress, ECOncrete provides accessible technology to simultaneously protect assets, and revive marine ecosystems. ECOncrete provides an unprecedented opportunity to build environmental solutions into traditional infrastructure by creating habitat, doubling biodiversity, and storing carbon dioxide. We thank the BNEF experts for selecting our technology.”
– Ido Sella, CEO, ECOncrete
“As the leading fleet performance optimization solution in ocean shipping we are honored to be recognized as a BNEF Pioneer. Ocean commerce emits roughly 3% of global human-made greenhouse gases – and its share of global emissions will continue to rise as greater efficiency is being achieved more quickly on land and in other sectors. Yet 30% of the fuel consumed at sea can be saved with better decisions driven by the adoption of machine learning and artificial intelligence. We’re proud to be leading this change helping ocean shipping businesses reduce their carbon footprints while also improving the financial returns on their fleets.”
– Matt Heider, CEO, Nautilus Labs
“As a pioneer in digitizing road transportation, we are honored to be recognized by BNEF. At Ontruck´s core is the industry’s most powerful routing algorithm that reduces kilometers driven empty from over 40% to 15%. We are well on our way to drive a step-change in efficiency across the 600 billion-euro trucking industry in Europe, using technology to build a new future for logistics in Europe, one that is efficient, transparent and sustainable.”
– Iñigo Juantegui, CEO and Co-Founder, Ontruck
“Being named as a BNEF Pioneer, alongside highly respected entrepreneurs and leading innovators, is an honor for Pachama. We are delighted that our technology is being recognized and validated as a means to accelerate global decarbonization, and grateful for the doors this opportunity may open allowing us to further scale our technology and impact.
By harnessing AI, LiDAR and satellite imagery, we have established a credible forest market, founded on unprecedented levels of accountability, accuracy and transparency. Our technology will enable a new standard of assurance in carbon markets, and mean that more and more individuals and organizations can invest with confidence to achieve climate goals, all while supporting our global forests.”
– Diego Saez Gil, CEO, Pachama
“On behalf of the entire Pivot Bio team, we are honored to be one of the BNEF Pioneers. Our microbes are the solution to growing crops in a way that is regenerative and optimizes crop production, and BNEF’s recognition reinforces the impact the team and our customers are making to grow more food and slow climate change.
Developing a product that helps the world’s farmers be more productive and more profitable, while making their operations more sustainable, is a triple win for farmers, the agriculture industry, and the planet.”
– Karsten Temme, CEO and Co-Founder, Pivot Bio
“We’re absolutely thrilled to be recognized as a BNEF 2021 Pioneer. When we founded Planet 10 years ago, we did so with the intention to provide a deeper understanding of our complex and ever-changing planet, so that we could better protect it. We’re honored to have our space-based technology and data recognized as a scalable solution that can help measure and monitor progress towards a more sustainable future.”
– Will Marshall, CEO, Planet
“At Pyrowave we believe the future will be electric and that electricity will power a broad range of innovations serving circular economy and sustainable materials. We pioneered the development of the most advanced industrial microwave-based platform applied to circular economy of plastics enabling closed-loop low-carbon plastics.
BNEF’s recognition highlights Pyrowave’s vision and hard work in developing a ground-breaking technology, enabling new possibilities in addressing a growing global issue.”
– Jocelyn Doucet, CEO, Pyrowave
“QLM is proud to have been named as a 2021 BNEF Pioneer, and appreciate the opportunity to publicize how our quantum gas cameras will enable the widespread continuous monitoring and control of industrial greenhouse gases like methane.”
– Murray Reed, CEO, QLM Technology
“Via Separations is thrilled to be part of the esteemed group of BNEF pioneers. Building on the shoulders of the industrial giants before us, Via’s technology augments existing manufacturing infrastructure, providing process intensification while reducing carbon emissions and energy usage. We can’t wait to learn, grown, and drive change with this cohort. ”
– Shreya Dave, CEO, Via Separations