Allia breaks the ice for launch of new climate accelerator in Cambridge
Dr Rob Mulvaney, a climate scientist at British Antarctic Survey (BAS), took centre stage as Allia launched its first-ever Climate Accelerator at its Future Business Centre (FBC) site last week.
The accelerator programme – which runs in partnership with the EIT Climate-KI and is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund – will run for six months with intensive support and training in the 14 ventures’ impact journey.
Dr Mulvaney is science leader of the Ice Dynamics and Palaeoclimate team at BAS and has joined more than 25 missions to the Antarctic to drill ice cores. When these ice cores are brought back to the Cambridge base, they are analysed.
Dr Mulvaney summarised his talk for the Cambridge Independent, saying: “It was great to be able to talk about the science of global climate change to a group of entrepreneurs committed to starting up new businesses in the sustainability sector. I was excited to see their level of enthusiasm in learning about how scientists working in Antarctica are able to build up a picture of long-term changes to our climate, and the atmosphere, and hear about their commitment to reduce our impact on the planet.
“The near-surface ice in Antarctica continually traps small bubbles of air from our atmosphere, and these bubbles remain unchanged as each year’s newly falling snow buries the bubbles ever deeper in the ice sheet. Ice cores drilled into the Antarctic ice sheet reveal not only the long term changes to our climate as we go through cycles between cold ice ages and warmer intervening periods, but also that the level of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, is closely linked to the Earth’s climate cycle. Alarmingly, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today is more than a third higher than it has ever been in the last 800,000 years, and this increase has happened since the start of the industrial revolution, and this increase is driving a warming of the global climate.
“It was fitting that the British Antarctic Survey should be hosting the Climate Accelerator course for the new entrepreneurs starting up their new sustainable business projects. BAS is a world leading scientific institute that studies that studies the evidence and impact of climate change on the polar regions, and the feedbacks to the global climate. It discovered the hole in the ozone layer in 1985, which led to the reduction, and eventual ban, on ozone-depleting chemicals. Recognising its own impact of its research programmes in Antarctica, BAS has its own commitment to a net-zero operation.”
Dr Mulvaney passed around pieces of 70,000-year-old ice for the launch attendees to hold. They heard the bubbles popping as the ice melted. Participants said the experience was “memorable and affirming in their missions to present business solutions to the climate crisis”.
The 14 ventures addressing the environmental challenges we face include seven Cambridge-based companies:
- REUSE2Go is a “return and reuse” logistics system based in Bateman Street which aims to eliminate the use of single-use takeaway containers.
- Kubos Semiconductors, whose LEDs could save nearly 700m tons more in CO2 emissions in lighting and displays over a five-year period, is based at the Future Business Centre.
- FLIT Bikes, which is also FBC-based, develops lightweight folding e-bikes for urban commuters.
- Seed360 Innovation is a Soham-based agritech company developing a seed coating technology which protects oil seed rape and brassica vegetables from crop damage.
- Micromobility Innovation, a spin-off of Cambridge Electric Transport (CET), is developing CitiPod, a four-wheel micromobility solution “combining motor industry design standards with e-bike technology”.
- Digital Daylight, based on Pretoria Road, is helping decarbonise commercial buildings using a revolutionary digitally manufactured window surface treatment which reduces energy demands for cooling and heating.
- Neutreeno is on a mission to accelerate a zero-emissions future with accessible, science-based technology and innovation backed by engineers and PhD scientists from the University of Cambridge.
Commenting, Alex Murray, managing director of FLIT Bikes, said: “The launch event was a great way to meet other companies on the accelerator. The highlight was the talk by Dr Robert Mulvaney.
“As we handed the ice around the room we could hear the hissing of ancient air being released from each chunk of ice.”
Tim Hill, CMO of Digital Daylight, said: “Dr Mulvaney’s talk was a very inspiring ice breaker for us all and the Allia presentations created a real buzz and set the scene for an impactful and exciting programme.”
Sean Moroney, founder and CEO of CET, added: “The training resources and expertise we are being provided on the programme are amazing.”
Allia Future Business Centre Cambridge, which sponsors the Tech for Good Award at the Cambridge Independent Science & Technology Awards 2021-2022, has developed the programme, which culminates with a demo day in June that will see the ventures pitch to potential impact investment firms and angel investors.