Posted Dec 9 2022 at 8:59
Since 2017, the World Materials Forum (WMF) has organized an annual California “chapter” in San Francisco right after the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Created to highlight certain high-impact start-ups, this chapter brings together 30 personalities who can all have a strong impact on the energy and environmental transition – heads of deeptech start-ups, Silicon Valley influencers or leading researchers from Berkeley, Stanford or San Diego.
The top 10 of these start-ups – Anthro Energy, Brimstone, Citrine, Cyklos, ETS, Nitricity, Sepion Technologies, Sylvatex, Twelve, Zeta Energy – have raised more than $300 million in three years in areas as diverse as lithium-ion batteries using less critical materials, new sulfur batteries, cement without CO2fertilizers based on air, water and solar energy, the reuse of CO2 as a raw material or the recycling of plastics.
Five years ago, these start-ups did not exist or had only one or two employees. Today half are starting production on an industrial scale…
High impact projects
Of course these start-ups had grants, but moderate ones, and these grants were always linked to finding private investors who believed in their high-impact project and were willing to take the risk. Their success perfectly embodies the American system based on inciting and putting into orbit high-impact themes.
Certainly, today, the 400 billion dollars of the Inflation Reduction Act go badly in Europe when our public budgets are constrained by the solidarity efforts of the war in Ukraine, but let us not forget:
– that Europe massively subsidizes research to accelerate the energy transition – 79 billion dollars for the Horizon 2020 program over the period 2014-2020, 96 billion dollars for Horizon Europe over the period 2021-2027;
– that 400 billion is twice less than the recovery plan that Europe mobilized (800 billion) to support the economy at the time of Covid;
– that private funds would certainly be interested in “contributing” if the projects concerned were all included in the European taxonomy of responsible investments – this is not the case for mining projects for the critical materials essential to the energy transition (copper , nickel, lithium, etc., even though these projects use, and will have to use, new technologies that respect the most stringent environmental rules.
A “European Sovereignty Fund”
As Thierry Breton has just announced, we Europeans can therefore certainly mobilize 350 billion euros of public funds to support the industrial projects necessary for this transition – what he calls a “European sovereignty fund”.
But we will have to break our habit of wanting to please everyone instead of prioritizing a small number of high-impact investments.
This is the meaning of the WMF’s Top 10 technologies: those in which we should invest in priority to quickly industrialize what can have the most impact: mining with low energy and water consumption, biomaterials, decarbonization cement, steel and aluminium, water treatment, production of green hydrogen, more efficient batteries that consume less critical minerals, more efficient storage of renewable energies that consume less critical materials, storage and use of low energy consumption data, recycling of electrical and electronic waste and recycling of plastic materials.
So encourage entrepreneurs and prioritize the projects that we Europeans must carry out together.