StartUS Insights have revealed the top eight trends in green theology and highlighted startups doing exciting things in this direction. For this research on the most important trends and startups in cleantech, StartUS Insights analyzed a sample of 8519 startups and scaleups globally.

Renewable energy

At current rates of fossil fuel depletion, there is an urgent need for alternative energy sources that last longer without causing additional environmental damage. Renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and wave are the most popular alternatives. Various industries use renewable fuels to make their operations cleaner and more sustainable. In addition, startups are driving sustainable innovations that use renewable energy to streamline large-scale, high carbon operations.

Spanish startup Solum is developing solar pavements for charging micro-mobility vehicles. The startup's solar pavements feature high-energy photovoltaic (PV) cells that generate power for charging vehicles. The startup's solutions can be installed in offices, educational buildings, public spaces and shopping centres.

Low-carbon buildings

The construction industry is notorious for releasing harmful pollutants into the environment. However, the construction sector is making the transition to more sustainable and circular practices. Low-carbon construction refers to a less harmful building process by introducing elements such as green walls or exteriors that facilitate cooling. Startups are also incorporating less polluting materials into homes and public spaces to limit energy consumption without compromising on quality parameters. In addition, they are developing alternatives such as hemp-based concrete, bamboo flooring and green insulation to reduce reliance on polluting materials.

Startup Glavel offers a sustainable alternative to gravel using recycled glass. The founders' product, Foam Glass Gravel showcases the physical properties of glass in a lightweight, rot, water and fire resistant aggregate with thermal insulation attributes. With a compressive strength of 116 psi and thermal insulation of R1.7 per compacted inch, Foam Glass Gravel finds applications in green roofing and insulation.

Alternative mobility

The mobility sector is making big leaps in clean technologies, with developments such as electric vehicles (EVs). Types of electric vehicles include battery-powered vehicles, hybrid vehicles, hyperloop technology and plug-in hybrid vehicles, among others. In addition, startups are testing different combinations of sustainable fuels to completely replace conventional automotive fuels. One example of a traditional alternative fuel is green hydrogen derived by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, which is powered exclusively by low-carbon sources such as solar and wind power.

Estonian startup DUCKT is developing charging and docking stations for micro-mobility. The startup's modular plug & play adapters and chargers for the Internet of Things (IoT) use sustainable materials in their design. They are fully automated and are compatible with all common micromobility electric vehicles, such as bicycles and scooters.

Carbon capture, use and storage

Carbon capture, use and storage is the process of capturing carbon emissions, thereby reversing their negative impact, for the storage or recovery of captured carbon. These techniques ensure the clean disposal of industrial carbon dioxide (CO2) that would otherwise pollute the environment. Innovations in this field include artificial photosynthesis using biosolar leaves and phytoplankton-based solutions that mimic the chemical process of photosynthesis.

Startup ZoraMat is developing zoralite or CALF20, a molecular sponge. It absorbs pollutants such as CO2 from gas streams and then releases the captured gas by applying heat or vacuum. Furthermore, the key feature of this product is its ability to capture carbon in the presence of water vapour, improving the efficiency of target gas separation while minimising GHG emissions.

Circular waste management

Safe and sustainable waste management reduces environmental impact. Although waste management is an old concept, startups are innovating to either dispose of waste as efficiently as possible or recycle it into useful materials to improve product lifecycles. Waste-to-energy solutions incorporate processes such as anaerobic digestion, pyrolysis, incineration and gasification to turn waste into fuel. Other trends include wastewater treatment methods such as grey water recycling, rainwater harvesting and electrocoagulation systems. Chemical recycling and remanufacturing are other circular trends in waste management.

Israeli startup Zohar CleanTech is developing ZoharX, a complete waste disposal facility that treats unused residential garbage. The on-site solution uses thermal gasification to turn waste into energy. This leaves behind a by-product, slag, which finds applications in sustainable construction.

Environmentally friendly materials

Startups in all industries are replacing fossil-based materials with green alternatives. These materials come from organic sources, including food and agricultural waste, without producing toxic by-products. Bioplastics and biofibres are the most commonly used green materials and reduce the amount of waste from single-use plastics and textiles.

Arbiom is an American green technology start-up developing protein alternatives for animal feed. The startup's yeast-based product, Arbiom SylPro, provides a balanced amino acid profile in a highly digestible, protein-rich feed ingredient. In addition, its nutritional value is equivalent to that of soy and whey protein, without high GHG emissions and resource use. As a renewable and natural source of protein, it is an effective alternative for livestock farmers in protein deficient regions.

Managing energy consumption

One of the main concerns cleantech addresses is managing and optimising energy consumption to reduce energy waste. For example, data centres have high energy consumption, but infrastructure innovations are reducing their energy demand. Liquid cooling and modular data centres are some solutions in this regard.

UAE startup Sirius Energy is developing a powerbox device that integrates with existing systems to collect energy data. In this way, Sirius is empowering energy managers, facility managers and technical teams to automate their reports and achieve energy efficiency, saving time and costs.

Sustainable automation

Automation speeds up manual tasks in various sectors such as production, agriculture and transport. In addition, automation is very effective in moving industries towards sustainability. An important application of automation is building monitoring systems that allow stand-alone solutions, such as smart thermostats, to control appliances. Another interesting innovation is the smart power strip, which prevents appliances from going into standby mode and instead turns them off until they are needed again, which greatly reduces the energy wasted by gadgets when not in use.

Indian startup Haber is developing an AI-based tool to increase asset productivity. Haber's cloud-based software, eLIXA, collects data using sensors implanted in factory machines. It then analyses the data to control operational, mechanical and chemical parameters of the plants. These real-time parameters react to existing system stress and allow plant operators to proactively predict future stress to ensure optimal asset performance, leading to maximized production and raw material savings.