Top 5 Women Founded CleanTech Companies Driving the Energy Transition
Published 23rd September 2022
By Kamogelo Motse, Head of Research and Partnerships, Climate Council
A previous study from the PEW research centre has shown that women are more likely to consider climate change as a serious threat than men. The study has shown that women believe that lifestyle changes need to be made to combat climate and are more likely to make eco-friendly consumer choices. Even though women have the potential to play a pivotal role in protecting the environment, there are a smaller number of women founders in the clean-tech space. The National Cleantech Survey showed that only 10% of cleantech founders were women and that 19% of companies had at least one woman founder on their team.
There are a few reasons why there is an insignificant amount of women founders in the clean tech space. Firstly, it has to do with women not being encouraged and supported to study STEM subjects for them to have the skills in order to lead these companies. It also has to do with, technical know-how; fields such as engineering are still heavily male-dominated so women don’t have enough technical experience in order to succeed and found these companies because they do not have sufficient work experience. Additionally, it is well-documented that women led companies face several barriers to entry because of lack of funding. In 2020 only 2.3% of VC funding went to women in the United States and only 1.1% went to women in Europe.
Other barriers to entry have to do with women becoming mothers; decisions not to invest in women led companies because of the fear they’ll go on maternity leave and women not having access to the right networks thus not easily meeting the right sponsors who will enable them to succeed.
Women also face unconscious bias which causes prejudices against women to form and this leads to barriers for female led companies. Unconscious biases caused by gendered stereotypes against women hinder women from pursuing leadership positions and excelling. Women also face an unconscious bias from other women which could have to do with cultural conditioning and internalised misogyny. The Climate Council highlighted five women founded clean-tech companies in Europe, North America and Asia that have developed innovative technologies which are playing a significant role in solving the climate crisis.
Enapter was co-founded in 2017 by Vaitea Cowan who is also the companies Head of Communications. Vaitea has also earned her spot on the Forbes 30 under 30 list for Energy 2020 and recently conducted a Ted Talk. Vaitea and her co-founders Jan-Justus Schmidt and Sebastian-Justus Schmidt realised the power of hydrogen when they worked together on the Phi Suea House project in 2016. The Phi Suea House project was the first self-sustaining multi-house residence powered by an H2-based clean energy system.
Enapter is a clean technology company that produces a patented technology, the Anion Exchange Membrane (AEM). The technology is a plug-and-play product that permits for hydrogen to be produced at different scales. The company has worked with Wilopark and provided them with 96 plug & play products for them to use to generate energy for their head office in Dortmund. Enapter has also signed a cooperation agreement with VINCI Energies to deploy and distribute Enapter’s Anion Exchange Membrane (AEM) Multicore. The company has received several accolades such as the inaugural Earthshot Prize “Fix Our Climate” that was started by Prince William and The Royal Foundation, the company has been listed on Fast Company’s Annual List of the World’s Most Innovative Companies for 2022 and have been named as one of the World Economic Forum’s “Technology Pioneers.”
Summit Nanotech was founded in 2018 by geophysicist, Amanda Hall. Amanda also leads the company as its CEO. Amanda is on the Advisory Board for the Canadian Energy & Climate Nexus (CECN) and is a mentor for Canadian Society of Exploration Geophysicists (CSEG) The company exists to create new technologies from science to be able to accelerate the energy transition. Summit Nanotech has created a technology that provides extraction as a service (EaaS). Their technology, denaLi DLE (direct lithium extraction) is a plug-and-play modular unit that is used as an efficient way to extract lithium.
Earlier this year in March, the company closed its Series A investment round of $14 million that was led by Xora Innovation, Capricon’s Technology Impact Fund and BHP Ventures. In June of 2020 Summit Nanotech entered into a Letter of Intent with Lithium Chile for them to use their extraction technology for their mines in Chile. This will allow for more sustainable ways to extract Lithium, which is increasingly important given huge demand for lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles.
Greyparrot was co-founded in 2019 by Mikela Druckman who also serves as the companies CEO. Mikela lists her passions as being in gender equality and sustainability. She wants to bring together the best tech talents together to address the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The company has created an AI waste analytics platforms that helps companies monitor and sort through their waste at a large scale. The point of the technology is to provide waste managers, producers and regulators with the information and data they need to reinforce recycling and add accountability to the waste supply chain. Greyparrot works with waste management firms like Suez, Veolia and Biffa. Earlier this year the company closed $11 million on their Series A funding round. The round was led by Unna Terra and other investors included Closed Loop Partners, Speedinvest, Unreasonable Collective, 360 Capital, Archipelago Eco Investors, Accelerating Growth Fund and TI Capital. This investment will help Greyparrot to work with more waste managers to digitise the waste management industry. Greyparrot’s offering will also help the industry transition to circularity as there has been pressure by consumers for regulators to make this a reality.
Carrie Chan co-founded Avant in 2018. She also leads the company as its CEO and has been listed on Forbes “Asia 100 To Watch 2022.” Avant is the first cultivated fish company in Asia and operates in Singapore and Hong Kong. Avant is a biotechnology company that allows for fish and seafood to be produced without harming the ocean. The company has an end to end platform for cell cultivated fish and seafood. The company hails their cultivated fish products as being more nutritious than conventionally produced fish, it is GMO-free and pollutant-free. Earlier this year the company announced that it had secured $10.8 million in investment from an investment round that was led by S2G Ventures. Other investors include Blue Ocean of SWEN Capital Partners, Regal Hotels and Thia Ventures. Existing investment partners that also supported the investment round are Lever VC, CPT Capital, ParticleX, Good Startup and Alwyn Capital. This capital will enable Avant to address an important issue that is faced by the worlds ocean’s: overfishing. The technology they have created will critically protect the ocean’s biodiversity.
Vertical Future was co-founded by Marie-Alexandrine Burrows in 2016 and she also serves as the companies Chief Impact Officer. Burrows has a masters in Neuropsychology and is passionate about people and psychology.
Vertical Future describe themselves as being the worlds leading vertical farming technology and R&D company. The company designs, builds, and licenses hardware and software technologies that produce crops in an optimal, efficient and sustainable way. Farming practices have had a negative impact on the environment such as degrading soil quality and water wastage. Vertical Future’s technologies solve this problem by offering vertical farming solutions that use soilless farming techniques and use significantly less water than the majority of current farming practices.
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