The Early Stage Investment for Tackling Air Pollution report paints a comprehensive picture of the nascent air pollution tech sector. Through interviews, desk research and a digital event with investors and entrepreneurs from across the globe, Bethnal Green Ventures highlight the vast scope of companies addressing air pollution and the existing gaps and opportunities in the space.
Air pollution outdoors and inside our homes claims about seven million lives each year. According to data from the World Health Organization, London is 10% over the safe level and more than 20,000 deaths from air pollution are reported every year. With 68% of the world’s population predicted to be urban by 2050, up 55% from today according to the UN, the importance of building more sustainable, healthier cities has never been greater to ensure healthy lives for future generations.
Technology is the key driving force to tackling this issue and while the sector is growing rapidly, it is still in its infancy. There is a significant opportunity for the charity to play a major role in this space. By identifying existing trends as well as the gaps and opportunities in the market, we can better understand how to have the most impact on a problem that affects the health of millions.
The report shows that the sector is very much in its infancy. The data suggests that seed-stage funding is very hard to obtain for air pollution start-ups. This means that while there is a wide range of companies working on air pollution, many of them do not yet have the infrastructure to create their desired impact and there is huge room for growth.
During the initial research, it also became clear that there was a split between the companies who were treating the effects of air pollution and those who are addressing the root causes, and both are needed to create cleaner air for all. Bethnal Green Ventures investigated this to understand the various opportunities and risks associated with each approach and to assess venture capital (VC) appetite for high-risk, high-return, and high-impact investments. The report found that:
The air pollution sector can be broadly grouped into six key thematic areas:
Although each area comes with its own unique set of challenges and possibilities, several issues cut across the sector. These include:
However, despite the difficulties in the space, the report found that there is a significant opportunity to have a positive impact in tackling the health effects of air pollution through investing in and working with early-stage start-ups.
The report made three key recommendations of activities that would maximise this potential:
We will explore what an early stage investment fund, testbed and supportive network could look like in practice.
We will also likely fund a small number of smaller test and learn projects to start building partnerships and learning more about how air pollution-related ventures can help protect our residents’ health.
Bethnal Green Ventures identified over 80 early-stage air pollution companies across the UK and Europe, North America and Asia through their existing networks and desktop research. They interviewed entrepreneurs and investors in 22 companies and invited 15 of these companies to a wider digital event with investors and other stakeholders in June 2020.
Bethnal Green Ventures synthesised the learnings from this process, highlighting the opportunities, barriers and risks as well as recommendations for moving forward.
Bethnal Green Ventures is Europe’s leading early-stage tech for good VC. They invest in ambitious founders using technology to tackle big social and environmental problems.
They have eight years of experience and track record in this space and have backed 127 ventures in this time.