At Aster Fab, we are the architects of the climate industrial revolution, partnering with emission-intensive industries to transform them into the engines of a sustainable future.

Defining the Decarbonization Battlegrounds

Carbon-Intensive: Sectors that generate high levels of CO2 emissions, typically from the use of fossil fuels in their production processes. These sectors are a major contributor to climate change and a key focus of decarbonization efforts.

Emission-Intensive: Sectors that generate high levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including not just carbon dioxide (CO2) but also other potent gases like methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). This extends beyond carbon-intensive, as sectors like agriculture can also be emission-intensive due to methane emissions from livestock and nitrous oxide emissions from fertilized fields.

Energy-Intensive: Sectors that consume large amounts of energy, regardless of the source of that energy. This can include both carbon-intensive and low-carbon energy sources. Reducing energy consumption through efficiency improvements is an important strategy, but these sectors must also transition to low-carbon energy sources, such as renewable electricity, hydrogen, or biofuels, to achieve deep decarbonization.

Hard-to-Abate: Sectors where achieving deep emissions reductions is particularly challenging due to technical limitations or a lack of viable alternatives. This typically includes carbon-intensive and energy-intensive industries like steel, cement, chemicals, aviation, and shipping, where alternatives to fossil fuels are limited or costly.

Quantifiying the Emissions Challenge

Figure 1 – Global Emissions by Sector


According to data from Rhodium Group’s 2021 net GHG emissions report:

  • Industry accounts for 29% of global emissions, driven by industrial processes and the use of fossil fuels as feedstocks and energy sources. Manufacturing processes such as cement production, steel manufacturing, and chemical production emit substantial amounts of CO2 due to high-temperature processes and chemical reactions. Cement production alone accounts for around 5% of global CO2 emissions, making it one of the most carbon-intensive industrial processes. Decarbonizing manufacturing processes entails an important need for energy efficiency through industrial electrification (electrifying process heat and high-temperature processes), adopting low-carbon fuels, low-carbon feedstocks and energy sources (hydrogen, biofuels, bio-based feedstocks) as well as developing CCUS.
  • Electricity generation is also responsible for 29% of emissions, primarily due to the heavy reliance on coal and natural gas for power generation. This sector encompasses various activities, including power generation and use. Countries heavily reliant on coal, such as China, the United States, and India, face a significant challenge in balancing energy demands with environmental imperatives. Coal combustion alone contributes a significant portion of CO2 emissions, with coal-fired power plants being major contributors. The aim is to transition away from coal-fired generation and fossil fuels by increasing the adoption of renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and hydroelectric power. To do so we must enhance the flexibility and interconnectivity of the grid.
  • Agriculture represents 20% of global emissions, largely from methane emissions produced by livestock and nitrous oxide emissions from crop fertilization. Moreover, the use of synthetic fertilizers in agriculture leads to the release of nitrous oxide emissions, a potent greenhouse gaz. Sustainable agricultural practices, such as precision farming, agroforestry, and improved livestock management, offer opportunities to mitigate emissions and enhance resilience to climate change.
  • Transport accounts for 15% of emissions, primarily due to the use of fossil fuels in road, aviation, and maritime transport. In addition to CO2 emissions, transportation also produces other greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide and methane, contributing largely to climate change. Electric vehicles offer a promising solution to reducing emissions from the transportation sector, with estimates suggesting they could reduce CO2 emissions by up to 50% compared to internal combustion engine vehicles. However, challenges such as the need for widespread charging infrastructure, range anxiety, and consumer behavior pose significant barriers to their widespread adoption. Furthermore, the aviation and maritime sectors present large challenges, making the top priority to develop low-carbon alternatives for long-distance travel and freight transportation. We need to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles and to develop viable low-carbon alternatives by investing in R&D for SAF, green hydrogen, ammonia and methanol.
  • Buildings account for 7% of total emissions, mainly from energy use for heating, cooling, and appliances, as well as emissions from construction materials. Moreover, as urbanization accelerates and populations grow, the demand for new buildings and infrastructure rises, placing further pressure on this industry to reduce its environmental impact. Sustainable building practices, such as energy-efficient design, use of renewable materials, and adoption of green building standards, offer pathways to mitigate emissions from the building sector. However, challenges such as retrofitting existing buildings and addressing the lifecycle emissions of construction materials remain key areas for improvement in the industry’s efforts to combat climate change

The Most Polluting Industries are the Hardest to Decarbonize

The most polluting industries are often the hardest to decarbonize due to inherent process emissions from chemical reactions, high-temperature heat requirements above 1000°C that are difficult to electrify, long-lived capital assets with recent investments locking in emissions for decades, or being trade-exposed commodities where transitioning alone could make them uncompetitive globally. Overcoming these barriers will require technological breakthroughs, supportive policies, and demand shifts to create viable pathways for deep emissions cuts in sectors like steel, cement, chemicals, and other energy-intensive industrial processes.

Unlocking Solutions Through Collaboration

The emission-intensive industries highlighted in this article represent some of the toughest challenges in the quest for sustainability. Unlocking solutions will require a concerted, collaborative effort from governments, industries, investors, and society. Innovative technologies, disruptive business models, and shared purpose will be essential in navigating this labyrinth. As we tackle the toughest emitters, we can expect to see the emergence of a new sustainable infrastructure, read more here.

At Aster Fab, we are the architects of the climate industrial revolution, partnering with industries to transform them into the engines of a sustainable future. Our mission is to work side-by-side with clients, reimagining operations, rethinking business models, and redefining roles in a decarbonized economy. Join us as we build the future, brick by brick, molecule by molecule, and megawatt by megawatt. Feel free to reach out to Marie Capdeville (Climate Tech Expert) or Léonard Stéger (Head of Sales)

In the vast landscape of innovation lies a pivotal point where groundbreaking concepts collide with the formidable challenge of commercialization. This nexus, often termed the “first-of-a-kind (FOAK) puzzle,” presents a unique set of hurdles, especially in industries dedicated to combatting climate change. This article delves into the complexities of navigating this puzzle, with a specific focus on climate technology and the capital expenditure (CAPEX) demands it entails.


Defining FOAK

Figure 1 – The financing structure of a FOAK

FOAK projects are those pioneering endeavors that herald the debut of a new technology, business model, or production process at a commercial scale. These ventures hold immense promise for advancing climate change solutions while offering substantial opportunities for exponential growth if successful. However, the novelty and capital intensity of FOAK projects erect significant barriers, creating what is often referred to as the “first-of-a-kind valley of death.”

Indeed, the journey from prototype to full-scale commercial deployment involves traversing various stages, including lab pilots, pilot plants, and commercial-scale demonstrations. At each phase, startups encounter escalating capital requirements, coupled with escalating risks.

The Chicken and Egg Problem

Innovative projects, particularly those considered “First-of-a-Kind” (FOAK), face a significant funding challenge known as the “chicken and egg problem.” This conundrum arises from the reluctance of traditional funding sources such as venture capital (VC), private equity (PE)/infrastructure finance, and debt lenders to invest in FOAK initiatives. The inherent risk and capital-intensive nature of such projects make them unappealing to these investors, who prefer more established ventures with proven track records. Consequently, there exists a pronounced funding gap, especially during the mid-stage of development, where FOAK projects require substantial financial support to progress.

Furthermore, even corporations, which might be proactive in entering offtake agreements with FOAK projects, encounter their own set of challenges. They often lack sufficient risk-bearing capital and are burdened by slow decision-making processes.

While public grants could potentially fill this funding void, they typically come with limitations. These grants are often too small in scale or contingent upon securing additional funding from other sources mentioned above. This creates a circular dependency, exacerbating the chicken and egg situation – FOAK projects need funding to progress, yet traditional investors are hesitant to invest without proof of viability, perpetuating a cycle of financial uncertainty and stagnation.

Solving the Equation

From the founders’ perspective, ensuring successful project and infrastructure financing requires a comprehensive understanding of investor needs. This entails familiarity with various financing methods, including grants, debt, and equity. Such expertise can be cultivated through the guidance of a proficient CFO or by seeking advice from external advisors. Moreover, establishing technical proof-points is paramount. This necessitates demonstrating the technology’s viability with a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of 6 or 7, often achieved through the operation of fully functional demo plants or through strategic partnerships. Finally, granular planning and meticulous documentation are essential for satisfying project financiers and debt providers. This involves providing comprehensive details of the business model, market projections, patents, regulatory approvals, contracts, and contingency plans.

From a financial players’ perspective, it is imperative to involve more engineers in the investment evaluation process, particularly for technologies that have yet to attain full commercial scale. This ensures a thorough assessment of the technical potential of solutions and helps in making informed investment decisions. Furthermore, fostering strong multi-stakeholder alliances among founders, venture capitalists (VCs), private equity (PE) firms, infrastructure investors, corporates, banks, foundations, government entities, and universities is essential. These alliances facilitate risk mitigation and expedite the development of First-of-a-Kind (FOAK) plants.

 Figure 2 – Illustration of FOAK deals

In summary, tackling the FOAK puzzle offers both significant hurdles and unique chances for progress, especially in fighting climate change. Startups can overcome these challenges by adopting a comprehensive financing strategy, tapping into various funding sources, and forming strategic alliances. In essence, solving the FOAK puzzle requires not only financial ingenuity but also strategic foresight, collaboration, and perseverance—a journey essential for realizing the transformative potential of climate technology and capex-intensive ventures.

At Aster Fab, our primary mission revolves around supporting hard-to-abate industries in tapping into the potential of climate technology (see our 9 industries of focus here). So, if you are seeking to engage with Climate Tech startups or exploring ways to decarbonize your operations, feel free to reach out to Hélène Maxwell (Climate Tech Expert) or Léonard Stéger (Head of Sales)

Examining recent economic history reveals a nuanced narrative surrounding the trajectory of Cleantech, characterized by periods of growth, setback, and adaptation.

From 2006 to 2011, the emergence of Cleantech 1.0 marked a notable surge in investment efforts aimed at addressing environmental concerns. Cleantech, an umbrella term encompassing various innovations in the energy industry, such as renewable energy and resource efficiency, garnered significant attention and resources during this phase. However, the initial enthusiasm was later tempered by what is colloquially termed the Cleantech Bubble.

During the Cleantech 1.0 era, prominent ventures such as Solyndra (solar panel manufacturing) and KiOR (biofuels production) symbolized the aspirations and subsequent challenges of the movement. These companies, supported by substantial investments, initially highlighted promising solutions for energy-related issues. Nevertheless, their eventual downturn, marked by Solyndra’s bankruptcy filing in 2015 and KiOR’s similar fate in 2014, underscored the complexities and uncertainties inherent in Cleantech ventures.

Figure 1 – The burst in the Cleantech bubble

The decline of Cleantech 1.0 stemmed from a combination of factors, including the emergence of fracking, which introduced cheaper alternatives to renewable energy sources, and the reduction of government funding for clean energy initiatives. Additionally, heightened global competition, particularly from countries like China, posed challenges for sectors such as solar panel manufacturing. The venture capital model, though instrumental in the initial stages, revealed its limitations in supporting the prolonged and unpredictable development cycles of clean energy technologies, often leaving startups stranded in what is commonly referred to as the “valley of death” due to lack of “patient capital.” Post-mortem analyses, such as those conducted by the MIT Energy Initiative, advocated for a collaborative approach involving diverse stakeholders, ranging from corporations to hedge funds to affluent individuals. Indeed, Successful Cleantech 1.0 companies like SunRun instead utilized other forms of financing like debt.

However, the setbacks experienced during Cleantech 1.0 prompted a reevaluation and the birth of Climate Tech 2.0—a more expansive and inclusive approach to addressing climate change. Unlike its predecessor, Climate Tech transcends energy solutions to encompass innovations across multiple industries such as consumer goods, agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation (see our blogpost on the definition of Climate Tech here).

Zooming out, it becomes clear that investing in climate solutions demands an abundance of patient capital and a clear path to exit. The difficulties faced by Cleantech 1.0 companies in securing late-stage equity financing and viable exit strategies underscored the need for a more resilient financial ecosystem. Fortunately, the landscape has evolved, with initiatives like SPACs and dedicated growth capital funds offering new avenues for climate-focused startups.

Additionally, corporate entities are stepping up to assume leadership roles in driving climate innovation forward. Company ArcelorMittal invested $36M in January 2023 in Boston Metal which develops electrochemical units to replace blast furnaces in steel manufacturing. Similarly, HeidelbergCement has partnered with Solidia Technologies, a company specializing in sustainable cement and concrete solutions. This shift signifies a deeper understanding of the interconnected nature of environmental challenges and the necessity for comprehensive, cross-sectoral solutions.

Nevertheless, a notable challenge persists: the funding dilemma known as “FOAK” or “First of a Kind” financing. Climate Tech, with its focus on pioneering solutions across various sectors, often grapples with securing funding for projects deemed too novel or risky by traditional investment standards. FOAK projects, while holding immense potential for transformative impact, face reluctance from investors wary of the uncertainties inherent in untested technologies or business models. For more insights, check out our blogpost Solving the FOAK Equation—CAPEX & Climate Tech here.

In summary, the transition from the Cleantech 1.0 bubble to the Climate Tech era marks a pivotal shift in addressing environmental challenges. While Cleantech 1.0 faced setbacks, it played a crucial role in driving down the prices of solar and wind energy, making them more accessible and essential for advancing climate technology. These advancements laid the foundation for Climate Tech 2.0, which expands the approach beyond energy, signaling a promising future of innovation and cooperation. Challenges like funding for novel projects remain, but with continued dedication, Climate Tech offers a pathway to a sustainable future.

At Aster Fab, our primary mission revolves around supporting hard-to-abate industries in tapping into the potential of climate technology (see our 9 industries of focus here). So, if you are seeking to engage with Climate Tech startups or exploring ways to decarbonize your operations, feel free to reach out to Hélène Maxwell (Climate Tech Expert) or Léonard Stéger (Head of Sales)

The discourse surrounding Climate Tech, an umbrella term encapsulating solutions aimed at mitigating or adapting to climate change, has gained traction in recent years. Yet, defining this concept remains a nuanced endeavor, with various interpretations and frameworks proposed by different entities. Some interpretations of Climate Tech are narrow, focusing solely on renewable energy solutions such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric power. In contrast, others adopt a broader perspective, encompassing a spectrum of innovations across sectors like agriculture, transportation, construction, and waste management.

Defining Climate Tech

Aster Fab refers to Climate Tech as encompassing any product, service or technology designed to address at least one of the six core objectives outlined in the European Union’s (EU) Taxonomy Regulation.

It’s important to note its distinction from cleantech, which predominantly focuses on energy-related elements. For further elucidation, delve into our blog post “From the Cleantech 1.0 Bubble to the Climate Tech Era” for deeper insights here.

The Six Objectives

Figure 1 – The definition of Climate Tech according to Aster Fab

Here are the six pillars outlined by the EU Taxonomy, providing a structured framework for understanding Climate Tech and its criteria.

  1. Contribution to climate change mitigation: This pillar focuses on activities that significantly contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions or increasing carbon sequestration compared to the baseline for that activity. Climate Tech startup examples include: Ekwateur (Renewable Energy, France), Northvolt (Batteries, Sweden), Heliogen (Concentrated Solar Power), SkyCool (Radiative Cooling, United States)
  1. Contribution to climate change adaptation: Here, the emphasis is on activities that enhance resilience to climate change impacts, such as improving infrastructure to withstand extreme weather events or implementing water management strategies to address changing precipitation patterns. Climate Tech startup examples include: Terrafuse (Flood Risk Modeling, United States), Urban Canopée (Heat Island Mitigation, France)
  1. Sustainable use and protection of water and marine resources: Activities that promote sustainable water management, including water conservation, pollution reduction, and protection of marine ecosystems, all of which contribute to climate resilience and adaptation. Climate Tech startup examples include Bioceanor (Water Quality Monitoring, France), H2Ok Innovations (Water Optimization, United States)
  1. Contribution to the transition to a circular economy: This pillar highlights activities that promote resource efficiency and waste reduction, thereby reducing the environmental footprint and contributing to climate change mitigation efforts. Climate Tech startup examples include AMP Robotics (Waste Sorting, United States), Ecovative (Mycelium Packaging, United States)
  1. Pollution prevention and control: Activities falling under this pillar aim to prevent or minimize pollution of air, water, and soil, thereby reducing adverse environmental impacts and supporting climate resilience. Climate Tech startup examples include Blue Ocean Robotics (Ocean Clean Up, Denmark), Carbon Cure (Sequestered CO2 in Concrete, Canada), Graviky Labs (New Ink for Packaging, India).
  1. Protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems: This pillar underscores activities that safeguard biodiversity, restore degraded ecosystems, and enhance natural carbon sinks, such as forests and wetlands, thereby contributing to climate mitigation and adaptation. Examples: FlashForest (Wildlife Conservation), NatureMetrics (Biodiversity Monitoring, UK), Spoor (Birdlife Data for Wind Farms, Norway).

In conclusion, we advocate for a thorough framework that assesses the sustainability and climate impact of technological innovations. At Aster Fab, our primary mission revolves around supporting hard-to-abate industries in tapping into the potential of climate technology (see our 9 industries of focus here). So, if you are seeking to engage with Climate Tech startups or exploring ways to decarbonize your operations, feel free to reach out to Léonard Stéger

In conclusion, we advocate for a thorough framework that assesses the sustainability and climate impact of technological innovations. At Aster Fab, our primary mission revolves around supporting hard-to-abate industries in tapping into the potential of climate technology (see our 9 industries of focus here). So, if you are seeking to engage with Climate Tech startups or exploring ways to decarbonize your operations, feel free to reach out to Hélène Maxwell (Climate Tech Expert) or Léonard Stéger (Head of Sales)

123Fab #99

1 topic, 2 key figures, 3 startups to draw inspiration from

People generally link global warming with carbon dioxide (CO2) but, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) explains, 30% of the increase in global temperature since pre-industrial levels is due to higher methane (CH4) concentrations in the atmosphere. This is because methane is extremely more effective at trapping heat.

Where does methane come from?

The IEA has estimated that 40% of methane comes from natural sources (wetlands, biomass burning…), and the remaining 60% from human activities (agriculture, oil & gas production, waste). The two pathways to methane production are:

  • Gas leaks – methane is the main component of natural gas. Thus, it can leak from pipelines and drilling.
  • Decomposition of organic matter – when organic matter is in oxygen-free environments, particular microbes called methanogens take the lead in breaking down the organisms. This process, called methanogenesis, leads to the creation of methane.

According to McKinsey, five industries could reduce global annual methane emissions by 20% by 2030 and 46% by 2050. Those are agriculture, oil and gas, coal mining, solid-waste management, and wastewater management.

What about methane capture from the air?

Methane is 200 times less abundant in the atmosphere than CO2 — a scarcity that makes removing it a technical challenge. Capturing methane would require processing a lot of air, which could require an extremely large amount of energy. And unlike CO2, which can be captured both physically and chemically in a variety of solvents and porous solids, methane is completely non-polar and interacts very weakly with most materials. However, researchers claim to have found a promising solution. A class of crystalline materials, called zeolites, capable of soaking up the gas. Regardless of this solution, the difficulty of capturing methane from the air is the reason why most technologies focus on oxidizing the greenhouse gas rather than “hooking” it out.

Startups are developing innovations to curb methane emissions

For the decomposition of organic matter:

  • in the gut of ruminants (like cows and cattle) – Australian startup Rumin8 and Swedish startup Volta Greentech are fighting this issue by developing seaweed-based nutritional supplements that inhibit methane production.
  • on landfills and wastewater – US startup LoCi Controls bolsters the methane capture process using solar-powered devices.
  • on wetlands – UK methane capture startup bluemethane has developed a technology to capture methane from water, enabling to mitigate the methane production from rice cultivation.

For gas leaks:

  • oil & gas production – UK startup Kuva Systems uses short-wave infrared cameras to autonomously monitor and alert oil and gas companies about methane leaks. Whereas US startup BioSqueeze has developed a biomineralization technology that seals miniscule leakage pathways in oil and gas wells.
  • melting permafrost – the trapped organic matter in the frozen seafloors or shallow seas is emitted when they thaw. US startup Blue Dot Change is investigating whether releasing ion particles into the exhaust steam of ship vessels crossing the ocean can accelerate the destruction of methane.

A methane tax just like carbon taxes

Norway was one of the first countries to introduce a carbon tax in 1991. Aside from carbon, the harmful gases regulated by the tax also include methane. All Oil & Gas operators on the country’s continental shelf are now required to report all methane emissions from their activities. As a result, studies show that the country has succeeded to consistently maintain low methane emissions. Canada is proposing to require companies to inspect their infrastructure monthly, fixing the leaks they find as part of efforts to reduce the sector’s methane emissions by 75% by 2030 (compared with 2012). Although the EU is among 150 signatories to the Global Methane Pledge – an agreement to cut emissions of methane by 30% – EU energy chief warned early March that the EU was lagging in the race to curb methane emissions. Since the proposals on methane in 2021, they have been watered down.

In short, methane will be critical to solving the net-zero equation. The good news is that mature technologies are at hand. From feed additives for cattle to new rice-farming techniques, to advanced approaches for oil and gas leak detection and landgas methane capture. Where costs are prohibitive, there is a need for coordinated action to create the infrastructure and fiscal conditions that would support further action. Finally, across the board, there is a need for more monitoring and implementation.

2 Key Figures

Budget of $60-110 billion annually up to 2030

Full deployment of the methane abatement measures would cost an estimated $150-$220 billion annually by 2040 and $230-$340 billion annually by 2050.


< 100 funded companies


3 startups to draw inspiration from

This week, we identified three startups that we can draw inspiration from: Kayrros, BioSqueeze and Rumin8.


French-based startup founded in 2016 which is a developer of an energy analytics platform for traders, investors, operators and governments. Kayrros powers part of the Global Methane Tracker.

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US-based startup founded in 2021 that has developed a biomineralization technology that seals miniscule leakage pathways in oil and gas wells.

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Australian-based startup founded in 2021 which is a manufacturer of seaweed-based nutritional supplements for livestock that inhibit methane production. The startup is backed by Bill Gates’ fund Breakthrough Energy Ventures.

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123Fab #98

1 topic, 2 key figures, 3 startups to draw inspiration from

As hard-to-abate industries increasingly foster deep decarbonization strategies, green hydrogen produced from renewables via water electrolysis is expected to be at the very heart of the energy transition. However, at present, water electrolysis accounts for only about 0.03% of global hydrogen production. This is largely due to the high cost of green hydrogen (>$5/kg versus <$1.5 for grey hydrogen) due in part to the high cost of electrolyzer systems. 

In this newsletter, we will examine trends in water electrolyzer innovation that reduce their cost.

Water electrolyzers are electrochemical devices used to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen in the presence of an electrical current. Electrolyzers are divided into four main technologies: alkaline, proton exchange membrane (PEM), anion exchange membrane (AEM) and solid oxide. Alkaline and PEM electrolyzers are the most common, produced on a commercial scale (TRL 9). AEMs are catching up in development, at TRL 6, with the development led by German startup Enapter. As for solid oxide, it is still being demonstrated with German startup Sunfire. To learn more about the technical differences, check out the IRENA report here.

Looking at the evolution of patent filings, we can detect trends in the uptake of new technologies to facilitate the implementation of large-scale green hydrogen use. Indeed, the number of water electrolysis-related patent families published worldwide has increased by 18% per year since 2005. In fact, they have surpassed the number of those related to solid, liquid and oil-based hydrogen sources. Five groups of sub-technologies stand out: (i) cell operation conditions and structure, (ii) electrocatalyst material, (iii) separators (diaphragms, membranes), (iv) stackability of electrolyzers (stacks) and (v) photoelectrolysis.

Cell operation

In an effort to improve efficiency, various electrolyzer cell operating parameters, such as higher temperature, higher pressure and zero gap cell unit design, are being explored to make them more cost-effective over a wider range of operating conditions. Danish startup Hymeth (PEM electrolyzer) has developed a high-pressure electrolyzer that operates at higher efficiency than conventional PEM technologies.

Electrocatalyst materials

Scarce materials (yttrium, titanium, iridium, platinum, zirconium) are a major barrier to the cost and scale-up of electrolyzers. Yet, the surge in patents related to non-noble metal electrocatalysts indicates that R&D is moving forward to finding new solutions to mitigate material scarcity. US startups Alchemr (AEM electrolyzers) and H2U Technologies (PEM electrolyzers) have developed electrolyzers that do not require noble metals as catalysts.

Separators (diaphragms, membranes)

Reducing the thickness of membranes increases efficiency, which in turn reduces electricity consumption. Danish startup Hystar has developed an electrolyzer that claims to reduce membrane thickness by up to 90% compared to conventional PEM technologies.

Stackability of electrolyzers (stacks)

Electrodes, bipolar plates and porous transport layers can contribute significantly to the stack cost. Improvements in these components, including scaling up their manufacturing, can lead to lower capital costs.


Water photoelectrolysis (water splitting using light as the energy source) is a strong, newly emerging technology. In terms of patent filings, it remains a niche technology, accounting for 6.5% of all water electrolysis patents. Yet, 37% are international patent families, which underscores the importance that applicants place on protecting their inventions outside the domestic market. A prototype of photo-assisted electrolyzer has been developed by ENGIE’s R&D laboratory CRIGEN and US startup Nanoptek.

Europe and Japan account for more than 50% of the total number of international patents in these 5 sub-technology areas. Leading players include Toshiba (JP), CEA (FR), Panasonic (JP), Siemens (DE) and Honda (JP). While Europe leads in the stackability of electrolyzers (stacks) (41% of the total patents in this area), electrocatalyst material (34%) and cell operation conditions and structure (32%), Japan ranks first in photoelectrolysis (39%) and separators (diaphragms, membranes) (36%). Chinese international patents account for only about 4% across the five technology areas but China dominates in terms of the number of pure domestic patent filings.

In short, green hydrogen technology has the potential to decarbonize numerous hard-to-abate industries. The upward trend in patent filings signals that more will soon be filed, addressing the urgent need for new solutions to lower the cost of electrolyzers, while increasing technological efficiency and production capacity. Case to be followed…

2 Key Figures

Market size of $5 billion in 2021

The global electrolyzer market size was estimated at $5.6 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach $69.1 billion by the end of 2030, with a registered CAGR of 32.21% from 2022 to 2030.


85 funded companies


3 startups to draw inspiration from

This week, we identified three startups that we can draw inspiration from: Lhyfe, SunGreenH2 and Advanced Ionics.


French-based startup founded in 2017 which is a developer of green hydrogen plants. The first was inaugurated in 2021, connected to offshore wind turbines.

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Singapore-based startup founded in 2020 which is a manufacturer of new generation components for electrolyser cells, stacks and systems. Products include PEM electrolyzers, AEM electrolyzers and solar-to-hydrogen panels.

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Advanced Ionics

US-based startup founded in 2016 which is a manufacturer of a new class of electrloyzers. Claims to operate at temperatures from 100°C to 650°C, in between those of alkaline, PEM and solid oxide electrolyzers.

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Interested in a startup landscape or in an insights report?

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123Fab #97

1 topic, 2 key figures, 3 startups to draw inspiration from

Although 3D printing seems to have been a brief trend for end consumers, the additive manufacturing (AM) market continues to experience significant growth, with a market size valued at $35 bn in 2021 and projected to reach $420 bn by 2030.

The AM industry is led largely by the U.S. market with $8 billion in funding, far head Europe at $1.4 billion or China at $700 million. In fact, AM technologies are slowly getting cheaper, faster and most importantly, bigger. In addition, AM technologies can deliver products with improved environmental footprint by reducing waste within production processes, enabling on-demand customized items, as well as more local production, with lower embedded CO2 footprint.

Historically, the aerospace and defense industries pioneered AM solutions in the 1990s to create complex, low-volume parts and custom tooling quickly and efficiently. The automotive industry followed, taking advantage of the opportunities to explore different layouts, aesthetics and functions to speed up the final product design. The use of 3D printing for prototyping, market testing and custom products then expanded and marked the beginning of the ponctual use for additive manufacturing in industries.

While industries such as food, education and robotics are increasing their use of 3D printing, sectors at the forefront of AM innovations because of the individualized production possibilities are construction and healthcare (California’s Manufacturing Network).

Additive manufacturing is enabling healthcare, and in particular the medical and dental sectors, to create implants, prosthetics, surgical guides, medical equipment, molds, wearables and tools.  No two wounds or bodies are the same and the democratization of customization of prosthetics, wearables and implants on a global scale is an industry-shattering innovation. Major companies such as HP, Siemens and Dassault Systems have already adopted 3D printing technologies to produce medical devices (Medical Device Network).

In the construction sector, large-scale 3D printing is creating building components, structural beams, architectural facades and transforming the industry (AllPlan). Historically, 3D printing production in construction was isolated and separated from a conventional manufacturing process. With larger-scale additive manufacturing technologies, 3D printing can take place directly on construction sites and create an integrated production environment. For example, Vinci Construction acquired French startup XtreeE, founded in 2016, which offers automated construction of various types of architecture and thus creates entire building structures.

Nevertheless, AM is still relatively new and need further performance improvement and cost reduction in order to reach large scale deployment across most industries. Regulatory and safety concerns also currently limit the spread of 3D printing applications.

Looking at the trends in the AM market, a few patterns emerge:

  • An acquisition model is emerging: thriving additive manufacturing companies aim to acquire materials and/or software companies to combine expertise.
  • 3D printing continues to industrialize, alongside the growing need for post-processing automation and software solutions to enable the large-scale printing desired by many industries for end-to-end AM workflow.
  • Continued focus on industrial sustainability. The Additive Manufacturing Green Trade Association (AMGTA) is growing rapidly and now has over 50 members.
  • The tremendous importance that data management will play in securing intellectual property within industrial processes.

2 Key Figures

Market size of $14 billion in 2021

The market was valued at $14 bn in 2021 and is projected to reach $78 bn by 2030, at a CAGR of 21%.

863 funded companies


3 startups to draw inspiration from

This week, we identified three startups that we can draw inspiration from: CyBe, Prellis Biologics and Sakuu.


Dutch-based startup founded in 2013 that develops 3D concrete printers and mortar for enabling 3D printing in construction.

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Prellis Biologics

US-based startup founded in 2016 that is using 3D bioprinting technology to build human tissues for drug development and develop human organs for transplantation.

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US-based startup founded in 2016 which provides AI-enabled desktop 3D battery printers for automotive applications.

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Interested in a startup landscape or in an insights report?

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123Fab #96

1 topic, 2 key figures, 3 startups to draw inspiration from

As the market for electric vehicles accelerates rapidly, so does the investment in charging infrastructure needed to support this growing market. While the vast majority of EV charging now takes place at home and at work, widespread, open-access public charging infrastructure will be essential to support EV drivers beyond early adopters.

In the past, proprietary electric vehicle charging technologies competed for market share. But this has changed in recent years, with pressure from regulators and automakers to provide EV drivers with a smoother, more reliable and interoperable charging experience.

Charging station interoperability

The technology behind charging station interoperability is universal roaming. It is analogous to the use of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), which allow a consumer to access funds from any bank. Similarly, universal roaming allows an EV driver who is a member of a single network to access and pay at any public EV charger. 

This therefore requires billing interoperability for which two business models exist:

  • Peer-to-peer: bilateral roaming agreements are signed between two charging network providers to allow customers of one network to use and pay for charging at their competitors’ stations. The standard underlying peer-to-peer roaming is the Open Charge Point Interface (OCPI).
  • Hub: a single neutral party acts as an intermediate data clearinghouse and contracts with each individual network service provider. This obviates the need for multiple individual contracts between all providers. The standard underlying hub roaming is ISO 15118.

The second business model, which bypasses the bureaucracy required by bilateral agreements, is the one that is gaining the most ground. Hub players include Hubject (German startup), Gireve (French), (German startup), Mobi.E (Portugal startup) and others. Hubject is the leading player with over 1,000 B2B partners in over 52 countries and 4 continents, while the other 3 players are based in Europe.

Hub players are taking interoperability a step further with Plug & Charge. It enables automated authentication and billing processes between the EV and the charging station without the need for RFID cards, credit/debit cards, or charging apps, while ensuring secure transactions.

Vehicle-to-grid interoperability

Interoperability goes beyond billing. Indeed, bidirectional, vehicle-to-grid, or V2G, charging technology will be crucial to EV adoption and avoiding worst-case energy scenarios as EV charging demand surges. General Motors, for example, launched GM Energy in October. It includes GM’s Ultium Home and Ultium Commercial lines. Both will offer products and services that enable bidirectional charging to increase the grid’s reliability. Ford, meanwhile, has marketed the ability of its F-150 Lightning electric pickup to power a home in the event of a blackout. V2G technology has the potential to open up new revenue streams for automakers as they become more intertwined with the power grid.

Physical charging interface interoperability

After seeing a myriad of charging plugs spur, fragmentation has been mitigated. In EuropeCombined Charging System (CCS) is the standard: AC and DC charging sit in one plug. In Japan, the standard is CHAdeMO which will be adopted this year by China. While in the US, it’s Tesla’s Supercharger. But charging goes beyond wiring. Austrian startup Easelink raised €8.3M in January last year and is pioneering new technology. Its conductive charging system, named ‘Matrix Charging’, has the ambition to set up an automated charging network for electric vehicles without the driver ever stepping out or handling the charging cable. It consists of two main components: a vehicle unit attached to the vehicle’s underbody – Matrix Charging Connector – and an infrastructure unit at the parking space – Matrix Charging Pad.

In short, harmonization of technology standards and interoperability between the electric vehicle (EV) and the grid are making inroads. Similarly, widespread public charging access is being bolstered by uberization platforms such as French startup Werenode which enables private owners to provide access to their charging points. Thus, all stakeholders in public EV infrastructure— including EVSPs, electric companies, EV supply equipment OEMs, and automakers—must continue to join forces to streamline system integration and improve customer experience.

2 Key Figures

EV charging projected to reach $420 bn by 2030

The market was valued at $35 bn in 2021 and is projected to reach $420 bn by 2030, at a CAGR of 32%.

537 funded companies


3 startups to draw inspiration from

This week, we identified three startups that we can draw inspiration from: Hubject, Easlink and Werenode.


Germany-based startup founded in 2012 that is the leading e-Roaming platform in Europe giving EV drivers a seamless charging experience across borders. Hubject is backed by Enel X.

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Austria-based startup founded in 2004 that has developed a wireless EV charging system, using its Matrix Charging system. Easelink is backed by EnBW and Wien Energie.

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France-based startup founded in 2018 that has developed a decentralized marketplace, leveraging blockchain, so that anyone can share their EV charging station. Fiat, XTZ or WRC tokens can be used to pay charging sessions.

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