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From ESG data analysis to sustainable investments – aware_ has curated seven start-ups you should be aware of

On November 24, the aware_ x THE HUS.institute conference enters a virtual second round: The experts of the curated network of aware_ THE PLATFORM and THE HUS.institute provide a cross-sector insight into the future topics of Sustainable Cities & Circular Economy. Global brands and innovative start-ups from the fields of tech/AI, infrastructure and architecture will introduce themselves and explain their concepts based on unique lighthouse projects. 

Here are seven innovative start-ups represented at the aware_ x THE HUS.institute conference that you should be aware of:

Intuitive AI 

Intuitive AI helps companies make decisions based on a thorough analysis of extensively collected, relevant information. The start-up provides ESG data to gain deeper actionable insights into companies and markets ambitions towards a sustainable future. They combine multiple data sources to identify impactful patterns for deriving long term strategies and investments. Intuitive AI, through its analysis services and intelligent software products, provides actionable insights to identify trends, opportunities and risks, and enables companies to make informed decisions. The 2019 founded start-up consists of a multidisciplinary team with years of hands-on experience in developing intelligent technologies. Currently, Intuitive AI is based in Hamburg and Hannover. They are partners of KNIME and Telekom, among others, and collaborate with renowned research institutes.

Synhelion SA 

Synhelion SA offers the most affordable, efficient, scalable and environmentally friendly solution for clean long-haul transportation: solar fuels. These fuels are synthetic and made from solar energy. They contribute to a zero-emissions transportation sector by directly replacing fossil fuels while being fully compatible with existing global fuel infrastructure. The technology reduces CO2 emissions in several transportation sectors, but also supports the decarbonization of heat- and fuel-intensive industries such as cement manufacturing and steel production through solar heating. This technology enables Synhelion SA to produce solar fuels at an unprecedented low price that competes with fossil fuels and is more economical than other synthetic fuel technologies. By working with world-leading industry partners, Synhelion SA is enabling various transportation sectors to dramatically reduce their immediate carbon footprint and develop a roadmap to complete carbon neutrality.

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Plastic Fischer 

Plastic Fischer is a German-based social enterprise that develops cost-effective, low-tech plastic collection systems for rivers in developing countries. The start-up aims to reduce the cost of collecting plastic waste in rivers, making downstream processes financially viable and increasing recycling rates. With their TrashBooms, or floating barriers, Plastic Fischer has created a very efficient solution to stop floating waste in rivers and prevent it from entering the oceans. This approach allows the company to produce, repair and scale quickly in emerging markets. Currently, Plastic Fischer operates in Indonesia, India and Vietnam. The TrashBooms require no electricity, are manufactured locally and use materials available at the point of use. The collected plastic is then collected, sorted and processed at sorting facilities. All recyclable materials are reintroduced into the supply chain. In this way, the start-up company creates jobs in communities and boosts the local economy by producing its technology locally. Together with partners, the company moreover holds events to raise awareness and present alternatives to single-use plastic.

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Next Generation Invest 

It is hard to imagine public debate without the topics of climate protection and environmental sustainability. The financial sector has a key role to play here, and has dominated the discourse in the financial sector for some time. However, the area of public infrastructure in particular is increasingly being lost from view in the debate about cross-generational equality of opportunity. Next Generation Invest have set themselves the goal of making selected real estate properties with an indirect and direct social added value investable for professional investors. Their Luxembourg special AIF (Alternative Investment Fund) invests exclusively in carefully selected properties with a measurable social impact and a long-term investment horizon. In doing so, the investment manager focuses on the investment priorities of adequate and affordable housing, high-quality education, preservation and promotion of quality of life, and real estate infrastructure of particular public interest. Founded in 2020, the startup pursues a vision of impact investing that is as sustainable for future generations as it is successful for investors.

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Concular 

Concular is an impact startup founded in 2012 to transform the building industry according to the principles of circular value creation. Dedicated experts in architecture, software and sustainability simplify the assessment of material values in new and existing buildings and actively contribute to closing material loops by providing cost-effective, ecologically measurable and advisory services. Services range from digitization as a material passport, to cost-effective procurement, to deconstruction and measurable cost, waste and GHG emissions savings. Concular’s vision is to make the construction sector resource and CO2 neutral. They believe that data and digital information about the built and yet-to-be-built environment is a fundamental requirement for circular construction. For this reason, they have developed a software solution to digitize buildings and materials. The ultimate goal is to enable building professionals to reuse as many materials and products as possible instead of choosing new materials. In this way, the negative ecological impact can be significantly reduced and the economic benefits increased.

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rooom AG 

rooom AG is a global start-up based in Germany, founded in 2016. The rooom experienceCloud is an all-in-one platform for creating, managing and publishing interactive 2D, 3D, AR and VR experiences. It works across all desktop and mobile devices. Its capabilities include eventCloud for virtual and hybrid events; spaceCloud for interactive 3D spaces and showrooms; productCloud for 3D product presentation; and immerseCloud for augmented reality content. rooom’s eventCloud regularly hosts up to 200,000 users for hybrid events such as the IFA in Berlin and for global customers such as Porsche, Deutsche Telekom, DHL and E.ON. rooom has already received over 20 awards, including the Global Eventex Award, the Innovation & Excellence Award and the German Innovation Award.

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Chi Impact Capital 

Chi Impact Capital is an independent impact investment advisory firm. The Zurich-based start-up focuses on social and environmental value creation through direct investments in positive impact companies. These European companies are profit driven and provide transformative solutions in the following thematic areas: Circular Economy and Conscious Commerce, Green Innovation and Energy Efficiency, Affordable Healthcare, Food Safety and Security, and Smart Infrastructure and Transportation. Chi Impact Capital sees the need for a system transformation towards a regenerative economy, supported by a more conscious form of investing. The goal is to help qualified investors to make a place-based and profound impact in Europe while achieving both financial returns and key sustainable development goals. 

Learn more about circular economy and sustainable cities firsthand at our aware_ x THE HUS.institute conference on November 24: Outstanding thought leaders, experts and start-ups of the field share their knowledge and exclusive insights, describing special projects and the ongoing evolution of circularity, sustainable cities, and its protagonists. Further information at https://tobeaware.on.expo-x.com. 

 

by Marie Klimczak 

How the seas can give us cause for hope this World Ocean Day.

As the world sat down to watch the Netflix documentary Seaspiracy a barrage of resolutions exclaiming “I’m never eating fish again” exploded from the depths of couches. Whilst receiving criticisms for some misrepresentation of information, there are a lot of snapshots to wrap your head around, the film does effectively raise an urgent consciousness around the environmental impact of fishing.  

With World Ocean Day upon us, how much is really known about the mass of water that covers 70% of our planet, of which only 19% has been mapped? The answer: not enough. In fact, scientists inform us that we know more about Mars than we do about our oceans. Aware sat down with Martha Selwyn, Sustainable Ocean Business Manager  at the United Nations, to learn what action both the consumer and international bodies can take this World Ocean Day: 

“We are excited to see the growing momentum around ocean-climate action and finally the increasing recognition for the critical role the ocean plays in mitigating climate change and supporting livelihoods. With COP 26 around the corner, World Ocean Day is a huge opportunity to ensure the ocean isn’t forgotten about”  

– Martha Selwyn, United Nations 

© Naja Bertolt Jensen

What’s Polluting Our Oceans? 

Unlike what is presented in Seaspiracy, the waste which comes to line the ocean bed and floats in swathes on its surface comes predominantly from land. In fact, “80% of all marine debris” (UN) finds its way to our seas from dry land, with the UN predicting that the amount of plastic in the ocean is forecast to quadruple by 2040 (UN). Next to waste from the fishing industry, currently 8 million tons of plastic land in the ocean every year, with other large contributors such as harmful agricultural fertilisers streaming into our the seas by the second. Despite these daunting statistics, the invention of increasingly durable materials and incentivising businesses to move towards a more circular plastic economy could dramatically reduce the influx of plastic in our seas.  

Sustainable Seafood 

Whilst we see the consequences of overfishing, the images of the Japanese tuna market is enough to think twice about ordering sushi, stopping eating fish all together might not be the only answer to the problem. Compared to land-based protein, ocean-based protein has a far lower carbon footprint. With the global population only set to expand, considering ocean-based protein alternatives is an important factor for policymakers.   

As “rates of fish consumption have increased twice as rapidly as population growth” (UN), it is true we have seen an influx of “illegal, undocumented and unreported (IUU) fishing” (UN). However, the introduction of fully traceable seafood would help to counter this whilst simultaneously greatly benefitting smaller fishing communities.  

This is particularly relevant for small island developing states where 90% of small scale fisheries are run by women. But how do we even begin to monitor who is catching what in a mass of borderless water? The UN is advocating for traceable seafood, a global regulation that “All seafood traded internationally in 2030 should be required by law to be accompanied by standardised traceability data that consumers can trust” (UN).  

© Dave Robinson

Seaweed and nature-based solutions  

As “a pillar of global food security with a critical role to play in supplying a growing global population with sustainable protein” (UN) there is more than just fish to be pulled from the ocean. Researchers have found that seaweed “offers enormous potential as a source of feed, fuel and fertilizer” (UN) and eating aquatic plants should be considered an essential part of the “aquaculture industry to support food security and combat climate change” (UN). According to a Havard study, “macroalgae play a large role reducing the effects of global warming” (Havard). For example, Kelp, which are  large brown algae seaweeds, “has an incredibly fast growth rate (up to two feet per day) and exports a large portion of its biomass out into the deep sea, allowing kelp to permanently remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere”(Havard) 

 Ocean Renewable Energy 

 Offshore wind farms have long been controversial for the communities and the lives of the fishermen it disrupts, but the benefits are staggering. According to the Danish energy company Orsted, who are currently building the world’s largest offshore wind farm off the British coast, one rotation of the turbines can power an average-sized home for an entire day. (CNN) It’s not just the turbine that could be beneficial, according to the wildlife photographer and offshore wind expert James Monnington, “when you build a pole for the turbine, the bottom is surrounded with rock. I have been looking at lobster populations surrounding these rocks that you wouldn’t usually find there. That would create work opportunities for fisherman that have had their trawling compromised by the construction of the wind farm” (SardinTalks). Should the building of these farms continue to be successful, the UN  predicts that “offshore wind could become the number one source of power generation in Europe by 2042” (UN) 

© Cameron Venti

Shipping 

The shipping sector transports 80% of the volume of world trade (UN), but with it contributing to an estimated 3% of global warming the decarbonisation of the shipping industry could greatly benefit both our oceans and the landmasses. In order to implement international regulations to control shipping emissions, the UN suggests the development of “key incentives to scale-up the decarbonisation of shipping and take-up of low-zero carbon fuels” (UN).   

Until now, the ocean had been used as a playground for the worlds increasing needs, but this superficially dormant mass has the properties to lift the world from climate disaster and through innovation, an increase in consumer consciousness and the cooperation of the international community, we could be riding a powerful wave for World Ocean Days to come. 

By Eliza Edwards

Since the beginning of the pandemic, self-sufficiency has become particularly noticeable in many householdsWhether it is urban gardening or social agriculture projects, more and more useful plants are finding their way into gardens, balconies and onto the table. Self-sufficiency has not only become more important in agriculture, but also in the energy sector. Many companies use the local, natural conditions of their locations to generate energy – be it in the form of wind, water or sun. A prime example of this is Iceland. The youngest European island has switched its entire electricity and heat production to 100 percent hydropower and geothermal energy and supplies around 90 percent of Iceland’s households with geothermal heat (planet schuleplanet wissen) 

The island of geysers and glaciers, waterfalls and volcanoes uses the warmth of the volcanically active soil, the power of raging rivers and the dammed water of many lakes and can therefore obtain its energy predominantly from hydropower and geothermal energy. While the primary reasons were cost savings and independence from energy imports, the positive side effect for the environment and the climate are immense: Iceland’s CO2 emissions are at 6.06 t per inhabitant due to the regenerative energy generation and therefore significantly lower than in other European countries (Stiftung Energie & Klimaschutz)An existing pipeline network, high local wind strengths and a low population density in the region further simplify the use of renewable energiesIn geothermal power plants, hot steam and hot water from volcanic layers are used to generate electricity or to heat houses. Iceland’s water abundance and geothermal energy have made the island to one of the wealthiest nations in the world (planet schule). 

And the idea behind it is not new: Since Greek philosophy, the four elements earth, air, fire and water have been regarded to as the basis of our being and of modern natural sciences. How can we make use of these elements? How do they relate to each other? And which elements can contribute to self-sufficiency?

© Andy Tran

The element earth stands for biodiversity: It provides food for all living beings as well as mineral resources. It is an energy supplier: from dried peat used as a fuel, to fossil fuels such as crude oil, natural gas or coal. However, the extraction and use of fossil energies threaten the existence of our earth by emitting carbon dioxide and thus increasing global warming. Instead, renewable energy sources such as wind energy, solar systems and hydropower plants serve as clean and sustainable alternatives to fossil energy production. Additionally, the earth itself provides a climate-friendly alternative in the energy sector: Energy can be generated naturally with biomass. At the same time, the earth’s natural cycle – growth and decay – continues uninterrupted (Grünes Geld). 

A further great energy source is geothermal or solar energy, which leads to the element fire. With the sun’s energy potential being almost inexhaustible, scientists assume that the sun’s energy reserves will only be used up in around five billion years (Grünes Geld). For example, the automotive manufacturer SEAT uses this clean and renewable energy supplier at its factory SEAT al Sol on an area of ​​276,000 square meters with 53,000 photovoltaic modules on the roofs of the production halls and covered parking spaces. In this way, the plant generates 17 million kilowatt hours of its own electricity per year – without any emissions – and saves around 4.5 thousand tons of CO2 annually (SEAT). 

© Ivan Bandura

71 percent of the earth is covered by water, the element that is one of the basic requirements of our being. It quenches thirst, ensures good growth in agriculture and gives water to animalsWaterways connect trading centers and create important conditions for several industries. In Germany, the average water requirement is around 130 liters per inhabitant per day, but only around two liters are used for food and drinks, the rest of the water consumption is for showers, toilets, washing machines and other household appliances. Given that only three percent of the earth’s water is fresh water and only one percent is available as drinking water, the adequate supply of the world’s population with clean drinking water and access to basic sanitation is one of the greatest challenges of our time. However, water can make an important contribution to clean and climate-friendly energy generation: hydropower plants are an important part of renewable energies, which are cost-effective, efficient and keep the interference with nature very low (Grünes Geld). 

Another basic element is air. Without air, no life is possible. Air and wind ensure movement and changes in nature. Wind power plants are a proven technology that has been refined more and more over the past centuries: wind turbines have become more efficient, larger and higher; the energy obtained can be stored and fed into the increasingly powerful networks. In Germany, around 28,000 wind turbines currently generate 14.5 percent of the country’s electricity consumption (Grünes Geld).  

Although the four-element theory has existed for thousands of years, Iceland seems to be one of the few examples that make use of precisely these four elements – in the most natural, environmentally friendly and inexpensive way. 

by Marie Klimczak