Innovations to Tackle the Grand Challenges in Climate Change – a climate-tech startup landscape

Innovations to Tackle the Grand Challenges in Climate Change – a climate-tech startup landscape

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Due to continuously rising greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, our planet is experiencing extreme weather events at a rate never seen before. To keep the temperature rise below 2ºC (ideally 1.5ºC), we need strong climate policies, but also groundbreaking innovations to reduce, store, neutralize, and avoid emissions altogether.

In the past years, startup activity in the area of so-called climate technologies has been rapidly increasing, especially focusing on innovative solutions in those sectors which traditionally are contributing most to global warming. In this article, we present a glimpse of a landscape of promising European startups with focus on the DACH (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) region, which are changing the status quo of the five most polluting industry sectors: energy, food, agriculture & forestry, manufacturing, transportation, and buildings. Moreover, we are also presenting startups which are developing applications for behavioral change and analytics to drive the reduction of carbon emissions.


We strongly believe startup activities around climate-tech will see tremendous growth in the next few years, since all stakeholders including government, capital markets, and corporates are becoming even more conscious that innovation is key to the sustainable transformation we need.
Miki Yokoyama,
Managing Partner TechFounders


(c) Patrick Hendry

The energy sector is the biggest contributor of global greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 25% according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Not only for this reason it is worth innovating in renewable energies, but also because it is part of a bigger solution: with clean energy available, we unlock the opportunity to power other sectors and therefore also reduce and avoid their emissions. A variety of startups are looking to find more aesthetic, economic and efficient solutions to generate energy such as the startup Solaxess, providing solar panels without visible cells.

Nevertheless, the biggest challenges remain in energy storage and grid supply infrastructure development. However, there are many startups working in this field, which eventually will allow us to have clean energy even on cloudy and windless days. For example, the German startup Kraftblock provides thermal energy storage, which not only has a high storage capacity (1.2MWh/m^3), but also converts industrial heat waste into energy.



When it comes to the agricultural sector, the main challenge is to find a way to feed our exponentially growing population without increasing emissions at the same level. For this reason, the areas of innovation are concentrating around making our food system less wasteful as well as finding less polluting and more sustainable ways of nutrition.

A good example to reduce food waste is the Swedish startup Whywaste, which provides a management and analytics software system that keeps track of expiration dates in grocery stores, reducing up to 40% of spoiled food in the food retail logistics chain.

Furthermore, there are numerous startups which are bringing new nutrition alternatives to meat or dairy products, thereby contributing to the reduction of methane emissions (as livestock is accountable for 4% of methane emissions). One example is the startup Mushlabs, founded in 2018, which is offering meat alternatives based on mushroom roots (mycelium).

Reducing the farming land is the other big challenge that needs to be addressed to make agriculture more efficient and sustainable. Numerous startups are trying to change the paradigm of traditional farming practices by innovating in vertical farming technologies, such as the startups Growcer from Switzerland and the Sweden-based Grönska.

(c) Peter Gonzales



Industrial production processes emit a large amount of emissions. For this reason, the development of sustainable manufacturing practices for raw materials (such as steel, concrete, cement, paper, etc.), components, and products is going to significantly change this sector within the next few years.

For example, many startups are innovating in low-carbon construction technologies based on the principle of circular economy, such as the Swiss startup Neustarck with its up-cycled concrete aggregate from demolished concrete, which turns CO2 into calcite. The Zurich-based startup Oxara also produces environmentally friendly concrete. With their non-hazardous additives, Oxara transforms excavation material waste into concrete, achieving a 90% CO2 reduction compared to conventional concrete. Nevertheless, the production of other conventional materials such as steel is still a long way from becoming part of the solution in sustainable manufacturing.

On the other hand, eliminating CO2 particles from the atmosphere is equally important, since they remain in the atmosphere heating up the planet for years. To address this challenge, we have found some startups which are showing future potential. For example, a lot of research is happening around carbon capture technologies, a field where the Swiss startup Climeworks, with a total funding of $125 million, is taking the lead. With their renewable powered and stackable machines, the carbon captured can either be recycled or reused as a raw material, and they guarantee that 90% of the captured CO2 is permanently removed.



The transportation sector generates the 4th largest share of greenhouse gas emissions (14% according to the IPCC), primarily from road transportation and burning fossil fuels for planes, trains, trucks/cars, and ships for passenger travel (60%) and freight (40%). It is responsible for the fastest growth in CO2 emissions and is expected to continuously grow.

While all established and numerous new mobility companies are working intensely on increasing fuel efficiencies, developing new materials and alternative drive technologies as well as new mobility concepts, there are also several new companies disrupting the industry with radically new approaches and technologies. For example, the Munich-based startup Lilium envisions making air mobility service a reality with their fully-electric 4-passenger jet, and the German startup e.GO MOOVE is bound to completely redesign urban mobility with their electric, connected and autonomous commercial vehicles. And, of course, there is a broad landscape of startups developing more efficient and lighter electric power trains such as Fazua (electric bikes) and Volabo (electric motors for boats).



Due to rapid population growth, the demand for building sites is expected to further increase in the next few years. Buildings are a big source of GHG emissions due to the materials used for their construction and the energy supply for lightning and heating.
Startups are bringing alternative products to reduce and mitigate the impact of any building by offering carbon-negative materials for facades or insulation. For example, the 2016-founded startup Made of Air has developed a material which is 90% made of atmospheric carbon. It has several applications in the building sector, such as facades or interiors. Another example is the startup Artificial Ecosystems, which provides green panelings for buildings to absorb CO2.

Equally important is to find a way to make buildings’ resources more efficient and reduce unnecessary emissions. Startups such as Envio and Myrsproven optimize building’s energy usage, while startups such as Tado offer smart heating.



Achieving a more sustainable and carbon-free planet is a responsibility that all citizens and organizations need to take. To help us be more conscious about our carbon footprint in areas such as transportation or food, many startups have developed analytical software or mobile applications to analyze carbon footprints and incentivize individual users to reduce emissions through different consumption or mobility patterns, and show companies how they can reduce or offset emissions.

For example, the Berlin-based startup Changers offers a mobile application which encourages citizens, employees, and other users to act environmentally conscious through collecting tokens which can be exchanged for prizes. Many other startups such as Plan A or Klima Metrix are helping companies to calculate and offset their carbon footprint.



The ambitious goal of the EU to comply with the Paris Agreement by 2030 implies a huge cut down of 40% of greenhouse gas emissions. To do so, we must ramp up our support for startups with technologies to combat climate change. We strongly believe startup activities around climate-tech will see tremendous growth in the next few years, since all stakeholders including government, capital markets, and corporates are becoming even more conscious that innovation is key to the sustainable transformation we need.

If you seek to collaborate with startups on these issues or are interested in a more comprehensive and exhaustive list on climate-tech startups in Europe or beyond, please get in touch with:

Miki Yokoyama, Managing Partner TechFounders (the Startup Acceleration Initiative of UnternehmerTUM):

If you are a company and are interested in innovation and consulting projects on climate change and sustainability topics, please get in touch with:

Christian Mohr, Managing Partner UnternehmerTUM Business Creators:

Finally, if you are a startup and want to be featured on this article please contact Florian Ebel,
Scouting Manager TechFounders:

Miki Yokoyama
Florian Ebel
Marta Tarruella
Brian Diaz

Welcome the fresh new startups of our Batch #12!

This spring we received an incredible number of applications: 519 from 50 different countries! From all the applicants, 26 made their way to pitch in front of our corporate partners. After throughout decision-making 10 startups made the final cut to our newest batch – making the acceptance rate for this batch only 2%. Welcome our fresh new startups and their innovations!

We are excited to finally present the selected startups for our Batch #12! In this batch, the startups are working in various fields. The companies’ innovations are revolutionizing autonomous driving, introducing new sustainable food sources and even saving human lives. You can read about our 10 new startups on the Current Startups -page and in the press release below. Make sure to follow us on our social media channels (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn) for the one-by-one introductions of these startups and their innovations. Due to the current situation and regulations, our program’s first phase will be held virtually. The first phase includes coaching session in topics such as Key Account Management, Product & Pricing Management and B2B Sales. The startups will also meet our alumni startups qbound and retorio and hear their insights about how to make the most out of our program and what they have learned during their startup journeys. The batch will also take a part in the virtual Kick-Off Pitch Event, where they will see each other’s pitches for the first time.

The future of the selected startups looks promising: 92% of all the TechFounders alumni startups are still active and have raised close to €300 million in funding since 2015. Startups don’t only bring new ideas to the table and generate competition; they also play a significant role in economic growth. We pursue to support startups in the best possible way to enable their companies to grow and create more employment to improve the economy. So far, our alumni startups have created over 1,700 jobs. We are excited to follow the success of these startups! Read the full press release about our Batch #12 here

Alumni startup VayaVision acquired by LeddarTech

Alumni startup VayaVision acquired by LeddarTech

TechFounders alumni startup VayaVision has been acquired by LeddarTech!

A sensor fusion and perception software company VayaVision has been acquired by LeddarTech, a leader in ADAS (Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems) and AD (Automated Driving) technology. LeddarTech announced the acquisition on July 07, 2020.

Our alumni startup from batch #8, VayaVision, provides a reliable environmental model for autonomous vehicles. Their high-end 3D environmental model is built by applying their AI and computer vision algorithms to raw data fused from radar, lidar and camera. VayaVision’s solution enables to detect the size, shape and velocity of every surrounding object, including small obstacles. It detects objects and dangers even during a sensor malfunction which ensures functional safety. The company was founded in 2016 by Dr. Nehmadi Youval and Ronny Cohen and is based in Israel. VayaVision took part in TechFounders program in 2018.

LeddarTech’s hardware and software agnostic sensor fusion platform solution integrates signal processing technology into automotive systems. It is ideal for enabling ADAS and autonomous driving for autonomous shuttles, trucks, buses, delivery vehicles, and robotaxis. Their solution is cost-efficient and adaptable to any sensor setup. The company is responsible for several innovations in mobility remote-sensing applications, with over 70 patented technologies (granted or pending) that enhance ADAS and autonomous driving capabilities.

By combining their solution with VayaVision’s technology, LeddarTech plans deliver a one-of-a-kind end-to-end platform to the market, which will accelerate safe, scalable, and affordable ADAS and AD deployment. VayaVision is now a subsidiary of LeddarTech and will henceforth be referred to as VayaVision, a LeddarTech Company in all subsequent corporate communications.

Read LeddarTech’s full press release about the acquisition here:

You can find all the startups that have participated in the TechFounders program in our Alumni Startups page.

Refresherboxx receives $100,000 Investment Prize

Refresherboxx receives $100,000 Investment Prize

Alumni startup Refresherboxx receives over $100,000 in cash prizes at virtual Rice Business Plan Competition 2020.

Congratulations to our Batch #10 alumni startup RefresherBoxx for being part of this year’s Rice Business Plan Competition finals! The German startup received the $100,000 TiE Houston Angel Group Investment Prize and ranked in 4th place in the Rice Business Plan Competition and the Mercury Fund Elevator Pitch Competition, receiving additional $5,500 in cash prizes.

The Rice Business Plan Competition is the world’s largest graduate-level student startup competition. It is hosted and organized by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship in partnership with TiE Global, a nonprofit organization devoted to entrepreneurs in all industries. This year 42 teams from around the world competed for more than $1.5 million in cash and prizes.

Refresherboxx’s goal is to stop the waste of resources and contribute to an improved quality of life for people worldwide by revolutionizing washing. The RefresherBoxx is a device that eliminates viruses, bacteria, fungi, and other micro-organisms. The product is designed as a refreshing and hygiene device for hotels, businesses, and home use, and the company is currently researching its effectiveness against the coronavirus. Read more about their product on their website.

During their participation in TechFounders program, RefresherBoxx conducted a pilot project together with our corporate partner Miele.

Startup “” receives investment right after TechFounders program

Startup “” receives investment right after TechFounders program

TechFounders alumni startup receives investment right after finishing our accelerator program!

The Norwegian startup from Batch #11,,  has received a new investment. The company announced last week that Nabtesco Technology Ventures AG, with support from Emerald Technology Ventures, have invested in their innovative smart-wheel technology. The amount hasn’t been publicly disclosed yet. has developed an autonomously driven wheel that aims to revolutionize indoor mobility and material handling. Their product, “Genius”, transforms any object into a robotic device without changing the object’s design or form factor. The solution runs in the cloud and allows users to move heavy objects indoors with a smartphone app or by simply using voice commands. Read more about their innovation and services on their website here. 

The investment will be used to further develop the product and to establish a manufacturing facility. was founded in 2013 and already works with well-known global companies, for example with Porsche and Skanska. During the TechFounders program, the startup worked together on a pilot project with our corporate partner Miele, and with the help of the recent investment, they aim to further expand their presence in global markets.

Read the Nabtesco Technology Ventures’s release about the investment here 

Alumni Startup received €2.5 million Horizon 2020 Funding

Alumni Startup received €2.5 million Horizon 2020 Funding

Another great news from our alumni startup Toposens! Just little over a month ago the Munich-based startup from our Batch #3 announced raising a new round of funding, and last week the startup received €2.5 million from the European Union Horizon 2020 Program. 

Toposens has developed a 3D ultrasonic sensor technology that perceives its environment via the principle of echolocation – like a bat. This technology is ideal for autonomous technologies and industrial applications, and the company has already implemented and tested their technology in various projects with well-known customers like BMW, Continental, and Daimler. In addition to the funding the startup secured on early May this year, last week the company announced that they have received six-figure funding from the European Union Horizon 2020 ProgramThe funding will be used to further develop the startup’s technology for the autonomous driving market. The planned improvements include waterproofing to IP standards, enhancing close-range detection and supporting autonomous driving functions such as ADAS.

Horizon 2020 program is the biggest EU Research and Innovation program ever existed and is aimed to secure Europe’s global competitiveness. The program’s goal is to ensure smart, sustainable and inclusive economic growth by connecting research to innovation and focusing on three key areas: excellent science, industrial leadership, and societal challenges. In addition to support that Europe produces world-class science and technology, it also aims to make it easier for the public and private sectors to work together to deliver solutions to big challenges facing our society. Read more about the Horizon 2020 program and how to apply for the funding here.

Tobias Bahnemann, CEO of Toposens, states in their press release that together with their recent investment round, the company is now in a very good position to successfully introduce their technology to the mass market in the foreseeable future. The previous funding round that was closed last month was led by their existing investor ALPANA Ventures and joined by new investors Basinghall Partners and In-Q-Tel, Inc. Read our post about the previous funding round here.

Congratulations once again to Toposens!

The full press release about the Horizon 2020 Funding on Toposens website.

Virtual Demo Day – new innovations and future tech-trends

Virtual Demo Day – new innovations and future tech-trends

TechFounders Virtual Demo Day brought entrepreneurs together from around the globe to see new innovations and share thoughts on future tech-trends and current crisis’ effects on entrepreneurship. 

This spring has really shown how well we all adapt to change. A few months ago, everyone’s lives changed from meeting face-to-face to behind the screen, and so did our program for Batch #11. In the past months, all coaching and mentoring sessions were held online and the pilot projects between our corporate partners and the startups continued remotely. It was an obvious decision that, to keep all the participants safe, our program’s highlight event – the Demo Day – would also have to take place virtually.

Last week, the anticipated Virtual Demo Day finally took place in a live broadcast form. After a short welcome by our Managing Partners and event moderators Miki Yokoyama and Heiko Huber, the startups presented their pitches in front of over 400 live-viewers! After this unusual spring, we were thrilled to see the progress our eight startups had made with their pitches and companies. All the innovations to digitalize operations and to fight for a more sustainable tomorrow showed us that supporting startups means building the future as well.

After the pitches and short Q&As from the audience to the founders, it was time for the moderated talk lead by Sebastian Matthes, Deputy Chief Editor & Head of Digital at Handelsblatt. The special guest to join was Andreas von Bechtolsheim, a successful entrepreneur and one of the first investors in Google. In this rare video interview, he shared his thought-provoking viewpoints on entrepreneurship, investing and the current crisis’ effects on entrepreneurship. Throughout the interview we got to know what motivated him to start his own companies one after another and what his predictions on future tech-trends are.

We want to thank everyone who participated on our Virtual Demo Day! We were pleasantly surprised by the number of viewers at our first online event ever and how engaged the audience was during it. If you missed our livestream, don’t worry – you can watch the recording of the broadcast here or on YouTube. 

Great thanks to all our Batch #11 startups for participating in our program. We can’t wait to hear the success stories that these startups will turn into. We would also like to thank all our corporate partners for supporting our program.


Alumni Startup arculus raises €16 million funding!

We are beyond excited that our alumni startup arculus raised impressive €16 million Series A funding! Arculus was founded in 2016 and was part of TechFounders program’s Batch #5 in 2017.

The Germany-based startup is revolutionizing the traditional manufacturing with their modular production platform. It transforms the one-dimensional assembly line into scalable and flexible assembly modules. By using AI-powered software and autonomous mobile robots, arculus brings assembly lines into the 21st century. According to TechCrunch’s article, Arculus claims that with their technology companies can reduce space consumption by 20 % and increase worker productivity by 30%.

Leading the Series A funding round was European venture firm Atomico, with participation from Visionaries Club and previous investor La Famiglia VC. As part of the investment, Atomico partner Siraj Khaliq is joining the Arculus board.

Adapting to change, managing complexity and increasing productivity while reducing costs have been the main goals of arculus’ platform solution. And it seems their innovation has proven its utility: arculus already works with some of the leading manufacturing companies across a range of industries, including Siemens, Viessmann and Audi. The company plans to use the funding to strengthen their product development, broaden customer base and prepare for their global rollout.

Congratulations to arculus, and we wish to hear more from you in the future!

Alumni Startup Toposens raises a new round of funding

Toposens logo

Our Alumni Startup Toposens from Batch #3 has raised a new round of funding. The round was led by their existing investor ALPANA Ventures and joined by new investors Basinghall Partners and In-Q-Tel, Inc.

The company has developed the world’s first 3D Echolocation Sensor for emerging technologies, such as autonomous driving, robotics and smart buildings.  The sensor system perceives its environment via the principle of echolocation, similar to the techniques used by bats. Toposens is the first company to bring this type of sensor system with 3D capabilities to the market, and it has been sold to more than 100 customers globally across multiple industries. The company has implemented and tested their technology in various projects with customers like BMW, Continental, and Daimler.

The startup plan to use the additional investment to enhance their technology and software, develop new partnerships, and launch new use cases based on their technology. The startup was founded in 2015 and is based in Munich with a presence in Sunnyvale, California. They took part in TechFounders program in 2016.

Read their full press release here:

Learn more about their tecnology and innovation on their website: 

Congratulations to Toposens and we wish to hear more from you in the future!

New Survey Shows: Almost 90% of Startups Think About Sustainability

With the climate strikes and Greta’s rallies for climate protection in 2019, the public debate about climate change and sustainability issues has picked up tremendously last year. As the world is currently getting used to a new reality, the topic of sustainability will become all the more important to secure competitiveness and the long-term success of any business with a view to the longer-term future.

How relevant is the topic of sustainability for startups? What challenges are they facing to integrate social and environmental concerns into their products, principles, and value chains? And further, what are relevant catalysts for the whole industry to become more sustainable and how are startups – already today – working on sustainability in their companies?

Dr. Thomas Melde, Managing Partner at akzente & Miki Yokoyama, Managing Partner at TechFounders

TechFounders, the Startup Accelerator Program of the entrepreneurship center “UnternehmerTUM” and the sustainability consulting company akzente have examined these and other questions in a European-wide survey and have published the results in their first Whitepaper “Sustainability in Startups”.

You can find the full press release on the Whitepaper here. (German only)

You can download the full Whitepaper “Sustainability in Startups” here.