Sustain 100: the European sustainability startups to watch in 2021

Europe now boasts 800 climate techs and huge successes like Arrival, Northvolt and Oatly. But which other sustainability startups do you need to know about?

Sustainability is only getting hotter and hotter. Europe now boasts six unicorns, from Tesla-rival Arrival to oat milk brand Oatly — both set to IPO in the coming months.

But who could be next?

We’ve cherrypicked the 100 most innovative startups across climate tech, cleantech, greentech and beyond — they’ve got sustainability at the heart of their mission and messaging and are providing very necessary tech solutions to the climate crisis.

12 of the companies launched in the last year, including smart construction company 011h and Sylvera, the platform investigating carbon offsetting initiatives.

We’ve by no means forgotten big players with big raises to match — like refurbished product marketplace Back Market, which raised €110m; or vertical farming startup Infarm, which raised $170m in 2020.

You can view the full list below.

(P.S The data (including valuation estimates) is from Dealroom. If anything is wrong, please let us know by email at [email protected]).

Key

Year founded

Amount raised

Last funding round

Valuation

Employees

Lilium's logo

Lilium

The world's first fully electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) jet

transportation / vehicle production

lilium.com

Weßling, Germany

2014

€342m

SERIES B

€909m

500-1000

Sifted Take

Munich-based startup Lilium is on a mission to make one of the world’s first all-electric vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) jets.

The company is taking the kind of ‘jump jet’ technology that the military has been using for some time but making it cheaper, quieter and more eco-friendly by using electric engines.

Cofounder Daniel Wiegand has a huge vision, not building toys for rich people, but creating a global flying taxi service, accessible for everyone — a kind of ‘Uber of the skies’.

It has some big backers, including London-based VC Atomico, LGT Capital Partners, Freigeist Capital and Baillie Gifford.

But while money is coming in, turning a profit is still a long way off. Lilium is planning to be operational in several cities by 2025, although trial services will start earlier than this in several locations.

And the company’s ambitious plans to build not just a flying car but a flying taxi service will need huge amounts of capital. This is quite apart from the even bigger question of what the regulators are going to say.

Further reading: Lilium’s flying taxi service: clear for takeoff?

Material Exchange's logo

Material Exchange

Allows designers, materials teams, product developers and material vendors to search, source and collaborate

Stockholm, Sweden

2017

€7m

EARLY VC

€20-30m

50-100

Material Mapper's logo

Material Mapper

A search and forecasting tool that facilitates sustainable property development project planning and construction material reuse

construction / real estate

materialmapper.com

Oslo, Norway

2020

N/A

N/A

1-10

Sifted Take

Partnered with Greentech Alliance and Innovation Norway, amongst others, Material Mapper is tackling one of the most polluting industries in the world: construction.

Using building information datasets, corporate information datasets and a forecasting tool, it aims to reduce construction waste by sharing this information with construction companies — allowing them to share resources that would otherwise be wasted.

It’s certainly one to watch — it only launched last March and is currently bootstrapped, but we expect a raise is on the horizon.

Matorka's logo

Matorka

Produces environmentally friendly and sustainable seafood

food / manufacturing

matorka.is

Grindavik, Iceland

2010

€6m

EARLY VC

€20-30m

1-10

Mi-Algae's logo

Mi-Algae

Next generation agriculture

agritech / food

mialgae.com

Edinburgh, UK

2016

GRANT

N/A

N/a

Minespider's logo

Minespider

Blockchain protocol for end-to-end mineral supply chain certification

blockchain / fintech

minespider.com

Berlin, Germany

2017

€2m

GRANT

N/A

10-50

Mitto's logo

Mitto

First prepaid card designed exclusively for young people

fintech / mobile app

getmitto.com

Barcelona, Spain

2019

€3m

SEED

€2-3m

1-10

Sifted Take

Mitto is a fintech that’s well and truly tapping into the Gen Z market — by focusing on sustainability.

Deploying the power of social comparison, users can both track the carbon emissions of their purchases and compare them with friends — while helping young people to manage day-to-day finances and savings. Plus, the more sustainable the user’s purchases, the more cash back they can access.

The app has a special version for teenagers aged 14 years and above, and doesn’t replace bank accounts — so it’s acting solely as a payment card.

So far it’s raised €2.5m, including €500k from crowdfunding site Crowdcube in August 2020. It plans to launch in the UK in 2021.

We’re watching this one because it’s tapping into a key audience for fintech generally — plus you can’t argue with the 185k users it’s picked up in Spain already.

Modularity Grid's logo

Modularity Grid

Intelligent sensors and software for managing electrical systems for electric utilities and aerospace markets

London, UK

2017

EARLY VC

N/A

1-10

Mosa Meat's logo

Mosa Meat

Found a new method to make real meat to feed our fast-growing population in a sustainable, healthy, and animal-friendly way

food / manufacturing

mosameat.com

Maastricht, Netherlands

2016

€92m

SERIES B

€309-464m

50-100

Sifted Take

Dutch company Mosa Meat is leading the charge for lab-grown meat in Europe.

Meat and dairy production currently accounts for 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions and agriculture remains the leading cause of wildlife extinction — Mosa Meat is positioning itself as one answer to the problem.

While initially it cost the company €250k to make a single burger as they initially used metal bovine serum, the cost of production is rapidly coming down and the company projects it will eventually cost €9 for the consumer.

Competitors include Meatable, SuperMeat, Innocent Meat and Higher Steaks.

In September 2020, Mosa Meat raised $55m in a round led by Swiss firm Blue Horizon Ventures — the funding is being used to expand its facility into an industrial-sized production line as well as fund applications for EU licences.

Nature Metrics's logo

Nature Metrics

An award-winning technology startup using genetic techniques to monitor biodiversity

biotech / health

naturemetrics.co.uk

Egham, UK

2014

€3m

EARLY VC

€12-17m

10-50

Sifted Take

Using DNA from water, newts, faeces, soil and invertebrates, Nature Metrics is surveying biodiversity across the globe. That’s possible because species leave behind DNA fragments, just as a human leaves behind skin cells or hair.

Clients can send the company samples for analysis, use its FieldMate app to record data and the customer portal to track the progress of lab samples. Nature Metrics boasts 150 clients, 500 completed projects and 10k detected species.

In 2020, the company gained a new CEO, Katie Critchlow, and doubled its team to 33. Its funding totals €3m.

Net Purpose's logo

Net Purpose

First data provider for impact outcomes

fintech / enterprise software

netpurpose.com

London, UK

2019

€2m

SEED

€9-14m

1-10

Sifted Take

For both startups and VCs, there’s still a common issue surrounding data collection when it comes to measuring sustainability.

Enter Net Purpose, a London-based impact data provider which was founded in 2019 but came out of stealth in December 2020 when it raised its first $2.5m from Illuminate Financial, Revent Ventures and angel investors.

Net Purpose’s mission is to simplify the reporting process for investors who can use its data to assess the performance of their portfolios against the UN’s SDGs.

 It plans to have helped 1m investment professionals by 2025.

Northvolt's logo

Northvolt

Lithium-ion batteries

energy / energy storage

northvolt.com

Stockholm, Sweden

2016

€1,500m

GROWTH EQUITY

€3bn

1000-5000

Sifted Take

When former Tesla manager Peter Carlsson said he wanted to build a €3bn battery farm in northern Sweden, many thought he was crazy.

But his five-year-old company, Northvolt, has today raised a whopping amount of $1.5bn from the likes of Volkswagen, BMW and Spotify founder Daniel Ek.

Phase one of ”Northvolt Ett” project in Skelleftea, Sweden, is to produce 16 GWh of capacity a year but once fully operational, it will be one of Europe’s largest battery cell factories and produce 32 GWh worth of capacity annually. Production is scheduled to begin in 2024.

There are also plans for a second gigafactory with an “intended location” in Lower Saxony, Germany – this time to be called ‘Northvolt Zwei’.

“The whole purpose of Northvolt is, to be the future of energy,” Emad Zand, Northvolt’s president of its energy solutions division, told Energy-Storage.news in an interview earlier this year.

Speaking in 2019 to Sifted, Carlsson said that the difficulty of this kind of project is that you have to start huge or not bother at all.

“We knew that it isn’t possible to start off small with this kind of project, the prerequisites for this industry is going big from scratch… That was a challenge.”

The wider context is that, with a need to cut down on fossil fuels and changing consumer tastes, automotive companies have all been making a push into electric cars.

Read more: Spotify founder backs gigafactory as first deeptech investment

Oddbox's logo

Oddbox

London's first wonky and surplus fruit and veg box scheme

food logistics and delivery / marketplace & ecommerce

oddbox.co.uk

Mitcham, UK

2016

€4m

EARLY VC

€13-19m

50-100

Sifted Take

In the UK alone, 3.6m tonnes of food is wasted per year. Oddbox, a five-year-old startup, is tackling the global food waste problem by selling surplus fruit and vegetables in eco-friendly subscriptions boxes.

In 2020, the startup grew its team by 80% and received the fourth-highest crowdfunding round in the European food and drink sector from Seedrs at £2.5m.

To date, the startup has reportedly saved 5m kilograms of fruit and vegetables.

Olio's logo

Olio

Free app connecting neighbors to surplus food and other goods that can be shared instead of thrown away

marketplace & ecommerce / food

olioex.com

London, UK

2016

€11m

EARLY VC

€22-33m

50-100

Onto's logo

Onto

EV monthly car subscription

transportation / subscription

on.to

Birmingham, UK

2017

N/A

N/A

10-50

Sifted Take

According to ETF Partners, Onto is “very quietly…becoming a major UK player in the space.”

It’s the first fully electric car subscription service and has no long-term commitments. Can it displace big players like Enterprise and Hertz?

Backed by Tesla Supercharger and Zurich, it’s got potential — but it’s only available for UK customers.

Oxwash's logo

Oxwash

Revolutionising the washing industry by combining next-generation cleaning and logistics services

real estate / energy

oxwash.com

Oxford, UK

2018

€2m

SEED

€7-10m

10-50

Sifted Take

Oxwash is bringing zero carbon emissions to the laundry sector.

Founded by ex-NASA scientist Dr Kyle Grant in 2017, the startup has integrated sustainability into every stage of the laundry process — from reusing 60% of water per wash cycle to using electric-cargo bikes for logistics. 

Its last round of funding was its £1.75m seed round in November 2020 led by Reckitt Benckiser’s venture arm RB Ventures.

Pangaia's logo

Pangaia

Materials science brand on a mission to save our environment

fashion / apparel

thepangaia.com

London, UK

2018

N/A

N/A

100-500

Pavegen's logo

Pavegen

Flooring tile that converts the wasted kinetic energy from footsteps into renewable electricity

energy / waste solution

pavegen.com

London, UK

2009

€5m

SERIES A

€5-7m

10-50

Sifted Take

Pavegen’s tech is being deployed all over the world. You may have seen its hexagonal tiles line Oxford Street or other European cities — as members of the public step on them, the kinetic energy is converted into off-grid electricity.

Now its tiles line the shop floors of Uniqlo, Coca Cola conferences and schools all over the world. Backed by crowd funds, Newable Private Investing and Renaissance Capital Partners, it’s raised €5.3m so far.

It’s been pretty quiet on announcements since December 2019 but its product is still in operation globally — so as Covid-19 restrictions relax, we’re keeping an eye out.

Phycobloom's logo

Phycobloom

PhycoBloom is developing the next generation of algae for the future world

energy / waste solution

phycobloom.com

London, UK

2019

SEED

N/A

1-10

Physee's logo

Physee

Cleantech scaleup which has developed a product that reduces the energy consumption of buildings with 30% by upgrading glass with sensors and solar

energy / construction

physee.eu

Delft, Netherlands

2014

€10m

SERIES A

€16-24m

10-50

Sifted Take

Physee is one of the fastest growing B Corps in Europe — in 2020 its team grew by 34%.

Based in the Netherlands, it sells windows that double as solar panels, reducing energy consumption. Why has no one thought of this before? Concocted by two graduate students in 2014, the transparent glass generates electricity using a combo of sensors, solar cells and batteries. Not innovative enough for you? It’s also developed a coating solution that could help plants grow 7% faster.

In January 2021 it raised €4m in its first of two Series A rounds — raising from Timeless Investments, SHAPE Capital, DWI Grundbesitz, and the European Research Fund. Now it’s time to scale.

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