Deeptech
Q1 202405.02.2024

Advanced Materials

Picture of Éanna Kelly

Éanna Kelly

at Sifted

Startups developing advanced materials — a catch-all term for new combinations of chemistry, physics, nanotech, ceramics, metallurgy and biomaterials — are shaking up Europe’s manufacturing base. Founders are coming along with new alternatives to glass, steel, leather and plastic. They’re making airplanes, houses and cars from stronger — but at the same time lighter — materials that will last longer and run more efficiently.

In the past, materials needed to be strong, corrosion-resistant and — depending on the application — conductive; today, they still need to be all these things, while also being greener (ideally these things would also be recyclable, though many still aren’t).

Some of these novel materials come with a political twist. A rocky few years — the pandemic, war on Eruope’s border and supply chain breakdowns — have persuaded politicians to re-examine the importance of local access to critical goods. Look at the scramble to find something that works as well as graphite, the largest component in any lithium-ion battery, making up 95-99% of the anode material. China, the world's top graphite producer and exporter, announced in 2023 that it will curb exports of the material.

This political scheming is a disaster for EV manufacturers but helpful to startups like Estonia’s UP Catalyst, which is developing so-called green graphite using CO2. Investors felt it was worth a punt: the Tallinn-based startup announced a €4m seed round in December, two months after China’s crackdown.

So there’s plenty of promise in the expanding world of advanced materials, just as there are big unknowns. Can founders make new things in big quantities for a decent price? Many can’t get the cash they need to build factories. Materials take ages to be put to good commercial use — and for this reason are the ultimate test of investor patience.

20 startups to watch

  • Again logo

    Sifted score

    8.24
    -

    Again

    CO2 capture and conversion technology.

    • Strong investor(s)
    • Serial founder(s)
    • Hiring
    • Year founded

      2020

    • HQ

      Søborg, Denmark

    • Latest round

      Seed
      9.1m / Nov 2023

    • Total funding

      53.3m

  • Traceless materials logo

    Sifted score

    7.55
    -

    Traceless materials

    Biomaterials for sustainable plastic alternatives.

    • Strong investor(s)
    • Hiring
    • Year founded

      2020

    • HQ

      Hamburg, Germany

    • Latest round

      Series A
      36.6m / Sep 2023

    • Total funding

      39.9m

  • Oceanium logo

    Sifted score

    7.4
    -

    Oceanium

    • Serial founder(s)
    • Year founded

      2018

    • HQ

      Oban, United Kingdom

    • Latest round

      Seed
      3.1m / Sep 2023

    • Total funding

      12.8m

  • Lactips logo

    Sifted score

    7.34
    -

    Lactips

    Optimized wooden construction system with collaboration.

    • Strong investor(s)
    • Hiring
    • Year founded

      2014

    • HQ

      Saint-Jean-Bonnefonds, France

    • Latest round

      Grant
      2.4m / Jun 2021

    • Total funding

      20.6m

  • Paebbl logo

    Sifted score

    7.3
    -

    Paebbl

    Carbon reduction through CO2 conversion.

    • Serial founder(s)
    • Hiring
    • Year founded

      2021

    • HQ

      Stockholm, Sweden

    • Latest round

      Seed
      8m / Oct 2022

    • Total funding

      8m