A UK-based incubator focused on non-profit startups that are addressing climate-related challenges through open-source data initiatives has announced the six startups which will be put through its 2022 program.
Selected projects and platforms for the data-for-climate focused accelerator program include a startup trying to prevent rainforest deforestation in Africa; one that’s hoping to help websites and cloud services speed up their switch to renewable energy; another supporting more accountable carbon accounting and novel pricing models in the energy sector; a couple of progressive think tanks aiming to arm policymakers to push back against fossil fuel industry disinformation; and a climate-focused online training initiative that aims to enable activism through education.
The Subak incubator launched last summer — with a goal of making a tangible difference to not-for-profit climate action by linking eco-minded entrepreneurs and projects with an ecosystem of tech innovators who know how to scale projects and create global impact.
The incubator was founded by Baroness Bryony Worthington, who was the lead author of the UK’s 2008 Climate Change Act — and is funded by the Quadrature Climate Foundation, a climate-focused corporate social responsibility initiative launched by algorithmic trading tech firm, Quadrature Capital, in 2019.
Founders and mentors/advisors (aka “fellows”) associated with the program include former policymakers, engineers and VCs, including former engineers at Google DeepMind, Songkick tech builders, an ex VP of Policy for Facebook, a former UK government minister and a former MD of Microsoft for Startups UK and CEO of Code First: Girls, among others.
Subak’s thesis is that open data is a key tool for tackling the climate crisis.
Its one-year+ accelerator program is specifically focused on startups that are trying to come up with innovative ways to use and share data to tackle climate change, rather than being more broadly open to climate startups of all stripes (i.e. such as those seeking to develop greener products or cleaner industrial processes etc).
The idea being that with time running out for humanity to avoid catastrophic temperature rise, data-drive change has the agility to be able to make a difference quickly. (Hence: “We are looking for organisations with data underpinning their theory of change, and which build open data assets as a core output of their work,” as Subak puts it on its website.)
The six startups making the cut for Subak’s 2022 program will each receive up to £110k (~$145k) of unrestricted grant funding, along with mentorship and support to scale their impact.
Here’s a quick round-up of the six startups that have made the cut for this year’s program:
Project Canopy: A not-for-profit that’s aiming to become “the data broker for the Congo Basin Rainforest” — a forested area that spans 2.5 million sq km over six countries and is the world’s largest tropical carbon sink — by applying machine learning to parse satellite imagery in order to be able identify illegal logging activity in real time. The startup’s goal is to be able to provide rich, real-time analytics to local policymakers, conservation groups, NGOs etc so they’re armed with actionable intelligence to combat deforestation and biodiversity loss
AimHi Earth: An “education-to-action” organization that’s building accessible climate training with the goal of empowering “everyone to understand the whole picture of climate change, how to communicate about it and how to make a positive difference — both individually and collectively”
The Green Web Foundation: A non-profit organization that’s developing tools and an open database to measure the carbon emissions of websites and cloud services to try to help speed up the transition to a fossil fuel-free Internet by 2030
EnergyTag: Another energy-focused startup with a mission of accelerating the shift to renewable energy. It wants to help to drive investment in technology needed to decarbonise energy grids through 24/7 energy tracking. So it’s creating an internationally recognised standard for hourly certificates that allow energy users to verify the source of their electricity each hour of the day — which it says will enable accurate carbon accounting and support new market models, like nodel pricing
Autonomy: An independent think tank developing tools and research to tackle climate change, the future of work and economic planning — with the goal of generating data and policy solutions to underpin the shift to sustainable jobs and just, green transitions
Instrat: Another progressive think tank — this one based in Poland and focused on the local energy sector using open energy data to drive policy debate and a just transition to net zero. Poland remains massively reliant on coal-fired power stations for energy generation but this startup says it’s developing a one-stop-shop for the local energy sector data “to prove that a coal-based economy is unprofitable in the short-term and absolutely unsustainable in the long-term”
Commenting on being accepted into the program in a statement, Jules Caron, co-founder of Project Canopy, said: “A few months ago, Project Canopy was just a couple of guys with a pdf. Joining Subak is really our watershed moment. Subak’s funding and support will allow us to put data at the heart of decision-making for the Congo Basin rainforest — the key to global climate change mitigation. We’ve seen the work Subak’s first cohort has already achieved. The emphasis on collaboration and sharing tools is crucial to our progress in the climate fight, and it’s why we are so excited to join Subak.”
An initial five startups were announced by Subak as founding organizations at its launch last year: Namely New Automotive, Transition Zero, Ember, and Open Climate Fix –– and Subak says the five remain involved with the program, sharing data and learnings with the network to support incoming cohorts.
The Subak program is divided into three phases: An initial three months badged as “Accelerate” (when up to £20k is distributed in two chunks); then nine months of “Growth” (up to £60k is unlocked through this phase, depending on milestones); after which there’s an “optional bespoke” element referred to as “Cooperate” — aka an ongoing alumni and collaboration programme — where there’s an additional £40k in potential support up for grabs for each selected startup.
More details about Subak’s program are available via its FAQ.
While the data-for-climate accelerator started in the UK, Subak is building out a global network of incubators to underpin its program — and has already launched its first international hub in Australia.
Policymakers in the European Union, meanwhile, are also focused on opening up data access as part of the bloc’s ‘green deal’ strategy to shrink carbon emissions to zero by 2050 — announcing a swathe of digital regulations in recent years which are intended to unlock the change-making power of data and drive efficiency upgrades by, for example, encouraging and enabling reuse of industrial data and real-time sensor data, and supporting cross-industry and public-private sector collaborations.