An opportunity for start-ups that develop technologies to reduce CO2 emissions: Munich Re and ERGO have been supporting the ClimAccelerator programme from EIT Climate-KIC since 2017. We talked to Carla Erber from EIT Climate-KIC about the initiative.
Dear Carla, please introduce yourself to our readers.
Hi, thanks for the interview. My name is Carla Erber and I work for EIT Climate-KIC in the Entrepreneurship Solutions and Ventures team as a programme builder. I manage an array of entrepreneurship programmes, including our Carbon Removal ClimAccelerator and collaborations with various stakeholders and start-ups.
Perhaps some of our readers are not familiar with the EIT Climate-KIC. Can you tell us more about that?
The European Institute for Innovation and Technology (EIT) has founded this initiative in 2010. “KIC” stands for Knowledge & Innovation Community. We focus on climate innovation, supporting cities, regions, countries and industries to meet their climate ambitions through systems innovation and place-based transformations.
The reason why we are talking today is that there is a cooperation between start-ups, EIT Climate-KIC, Munich Re and ERGO. Can you describe this programme?
Since 2017, we have collaborated with Munich Re and ERGO, driven by their commitment to support start-ups in our programmes and contribute their values to the ventures we nurture. From 2017 to 2021, the support was directed towards a programme which featured sustainability start-ups without a specific thematic focus.
In 2021, we strategically shifted our joint efforts towards the Carbon Removal ClimAccelerator to concentrate on solutions within the carbon removal space. This encompasses both technological and nature-based solutions, such as afforestation. Overall, Munich Re and ERGO have been actively involved in supporting 40 start-ups within the cooperation. Their contributions extend to supporting the call for application, aiding in the selection process, and providing ongoing support to the participating teams.
How would this support look like?
Initially, there's a brief two- or three-month period focused on mutual understanding between start-ups and stakeholders. This stage includes workshops, one-on-one coaching sessions, and thorough validation of the start-up's business model.
Stage 2 concentrates on solution validation, customer identification, and preparing start-ups for investment. During this phase, start-ups receive grants and mentorship from Munich Re and ERGO. Each start-up is paired with a mentor from the sponsors offering insights not only on insurance-related matters but also providing valuable support in building personal networks and connections within Munich Re and ERGO. This support provides the resources that will help the start-ups to advance faster.
Currently eight start-ups progressed to stage 2 in December 2023, where they underwent further evaluation by Munich Re, ERGO and our implementation partner “Tangent”, which is the idea workspace of Trinity College Dublin. Tangent is the partner who delivers the programme to the start-ups in the end.
You will probably receive many applications. Is it tough to pick the start-ups that make it to the programme?
Of course, it's very tough. It's especially tough when you've met the founders, and they presented in the pitches.
First, we get the written applications or video pitches of the start-ups and we select them down to a shortlist. Then we usually meet the founders to select the final cohort. That’s even more difficult because as soon as you know the founders and how passionate they are about their solution, you want to support them. Unfortunately, that's not always possible with the resources we have.
In general the start-ups are chosen based on a range of criteria, including market size, business model, and, most importantly, climate impact and carbon removal potential. And so the start-ups that we support are always the ones where we see the most potential of growth.
Can you tell us how the start-ups that we've seen in the last years‘ batches developed?
If we look across the whole period, that Munich Re and ERGO have been supporting the programme, we have some big names amongst the start-ups that we supported. For example, refurbed, which I think everybody in the DACH region and across Europe probably knows by now. It’s a marketplace for refurbished products such as electronic devices, kitchen machines, e-bikes and more and that has seen explosive success.
Several start-ups supported in the programme have raised significant amounts of funding over the last years, such as ecoworks, HeyCharge or NeoCarbon. Many of the supported teams offer their products and services on the market by now. All the startup supported in the programme can be found on the project website:
What are the benefits that the programme is focused on carbon capture start-ups only?
Concentrating on a cohort solely dedicated to carbon removal and storage start-ups fosters stronger bonds among the founders. This focused approach allows them to establish connections, explore potential partnerships, and even consider each other as clients. Beyond benefiting the founders, this focus also aids programme managers like us and our partner, Tangent, in bringing in industry experts and mentors with specialised knowledge to provide targeted support to the start-ups.
Moreover, this approach helps us to connect start-ups with what we call "demand owners." These are organisations, policymakers or regions actively seeking such climate innovations. In a programme with a focused theme, such as carbon removal, it becomes significantly easier for us to identify these demand owners and facilitate connections with various stakeholders. In contrast, a cohort addressing broader sustainability issues poses greater challenges in making such targeted connections due to its diverse and individual nature.
Thank you very much for this interview!
Text: Markus Sekulla
In the following weeks we will present the current start-ups from stage 2 here on //next.
You find more information on the Carbon Removal ClimAccelerator programme here: