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Global Cement Industry Announces New Programme of Support for Sustainable Technologies – as ‘Open Challenge’ for Brightest Innovation Start-ups Unveils First Partnerships

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The Global Cement and Concrete Association (GCCA) has today revealed the first six start-ups that will be backed by its member companies as part of the first ever Innovandi ‘Open Challenge’ in the race to ‘net zero’ by 2050.

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Thomas Guillot, CEO, GCCA (Photo: Business Wire)

The six start-ups, which were chosen from more than 100 entrants to the Open Challenge, hail from the USA, Canada, UK, Italy and the Netherlands. They have now joined forces with world-leading cement companies to help drive further innovation in the industry and will each form part of formal consortia to further test, develop and deploy their ground-breaking technologies.

One of the key focuses of the industry is to develop the technology and implementation for carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), with CarbonOrO, MOF Technologies and Saipem among the start-ups that the industry is backing. GCCA members have committed to moving from the dozens of pilot projects and announcement already underway to having 10 industrial scale carbon capture plants by 2030 as part of the landmark Net Zero Roadmap, announced in October 2021. CCUS includes a range of technologies and methods that “capture” CO2 from large sources – such as in industrial power generation. The CO2 is then either used on site or compressed and transported to be used or stored elsewhere.

Carbon Upcycling Technologies and Fortera both use captured CO2 to produce low-carbon cement and cementitious materials. The other confirmed start-up is Coomtech, a British business that has developed a low-cost drying technology using kinetic energy created by managed, turbulent air.

Six newly established consortia will help to accelerate the development of technologies that reduce or eliminate carbon throughout the cement and concrete value chain. Each consortium is made up of a start-up company, with their respective pioneering technology, and includes between three and eight cement companies, with 16 GCCA member companies involved across the six innovation consortia.

Thomas Guillot, GCCA Chief Executive, said:“It’s a proud moment to see the industry coming together to support such innovative start-ups on their journey. Our member companies were greatly impressed by their ambition to be a key part of the climate solution. The programme is another big step forward towards unlocking innovation to help us achieve our net zero goal.

“As the need for resilient and sustainable communities to support a growing global population becomes more pressing, cement and concrete will be essential to providing the infrastructure and buildings that society needs. Achieving net zero concrete relies on a number of different groups playing their part, and as an industry we’re looking outwards as well as inwards, to see how start-ups like these can support our goals.

"To achieve net zero globally by 2050, we also need to involve and support the future generations who contribute innovative ideas and energy to the industry. At GCCA, we’re identifying and convening research and development with great potential and offering our support through guidance and effective collaboration.”

These young start-ups are the future generation to help accelerate the industry’s progress, and as an accelerator of the United Nations (UN) Race to Zero campaign, GCCA continues to support innovative development to achieve net zero concrete globally.

The members of each consortia are working together to develop their technologies ahead of a demonstration day, scheduled for late 2022. GCCA worked with Techstars, the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed, to identify start-ups for the challenge. To find out more about the Innovandi programme please visit https://gccassociation.org/innovandi/.

ENDS

About the Innovandi Open Challenge

Launched in 2021 the Open Challenge is a key part of the industry’s commitment to achieve net zero. This first-ever edition provides the platform for start-ups to drive innovation in the cement and concrete sectors. The Open Challenge focuses on developing carbon capture and calcination technologies, as well as improving carbon use in the construction supply chain and the recycling process of concrete. By partnering with the start-ups, member companies will provide them with their global resources and the support they need to grow and refine their product.

Shortlisted start-ups that have not yet formed formal consortia are being mentored by GCCA to help develop their technologies. Further consortia are expected to be announced in the course of the next weeks.

In addition to the formal consortia, the Open Challenge has led to two GCCA members (Cementos Argos and Holcim) supporting Minus Materials as industrial partners in the US Department of Energy ARPA-E grant for $3 million.

The six shortlisted start-ups are:

  • CarbonOrO (The Netherlands)
    • Carbon capture technology using unique bi-phasic amine with a lower cost of capture.
    • Supported by CEMEX, Holcim, SCG, Titan Cement, UltraTech Cement and Votorantim Cimentos.
  • Carbon Upcycling Technologies (Canada)
    • Using a patented, low-energy process, Carbon Upcycling Technologies chemically activates and captures CO2 within solid waste materials to produce a range of supplementary cementitious materials, to create low carbon cement and concrete.
    • Supported by Cementos Argos, CEMEX, CRH, Holcim, Shree Cement and Taiheiyo.
  • Coomtech (UK)
    • Coomtech has developed a low energy, low cost drying technology using managed turbulent air, creating kinetic energy to remove moisture.
    • revolutionising a 100-year-old process, a single Coomtech-enabled plant can cut CO2 emissions by the equivalent of more than 600,000 mature trees per year and is 75% cheaper to operate.
    • Supported by Buzzi Unicem, CRH, JSW Cement and UltraTech Cement.
  • Fortera (USA)
    • Fortera’s technology captures CO2 emissions from cement plants, combining it with calcium to make reactive calcium carbonate. It is stable in dry powder form and its cementitious properties are activated when wetted.
    • Supported by Cementos Argos, CRH, Holcim, JSW Cement, Taiheiyo Cement and Ultratech Cement.
  • MOF Technologies(UK)
    • Nuada carbon capture technology uses Metal-Organic Frameworks (MOFs) to deliver energy-efficient CO2 removal at a fraction of the cost of conventional amines
    • Supported by Buzzi Unicem, Cementir Holding and HeidelbergCement,
  • SAIPEM (Italy)
    • Saipem has developed a revolutionary carbon capture technology using a non-volatile aqueous carbonate solution catalysed by enzymes that neither require nor produce toxic products. The process can capture post-combustion emissions directly from industrial sources, like chimneys, using low-grade residual heat to drive the process.
    • Supported by Buzzi Unicem, Cementir Holding, Cementos Molins, CEMEX, GCC, Holcim, Titan Cement and Votorantim Cimentos.

Supporting quotes

Start-ups

Jan Hoppenbrouwers, Co-Owner and Head of Sales & Marketing, CarbonOrO
“There is a lot of talk about CCUS, but worldwide, there is only a limited number of active test projects lined up so far. With so little time left, this makes you wonder. GCCA members and their consortia’s joined efforts have all the characteristics to change this. Thank you for that.”

Natalie Giglio, Senior Business Development Associate, Carbon Upcycling Technologies
“At Carbon Upcycling, we've created a novel technology that uses CO2 as a resource rather than a waste for the cement industry. By using abundant, local waste materials and CO2 directly from cement kilns, we enable circularity within local supply chains. Participating in the Innovandi Open Challenge has given us a platform to take our ready-to-deploy technology and accelerate its pathway to global commercialisation."

Chris Every, Chief Commercial Officer & Founder, Coomtech
“As a young business seeking to establish a radical new technology there is usually no short cut to the industries you are targeting or clients you seek to inform and demonstrate capability to. Each prospect must be individually developed and nurtured. The Innovandi Open Challenge combines a stringent review process with access to the combined power of the biggest global players in the cementitious market. The Challenge provides those of us who have succeeded in clearing the evaluation hurdles along the way, a unique and hugely valuable direct access to our prospective markets and technology users. We are delighted and proud to have been selected as a consortium partner in the Innovandi Open Challenge and are excited to begin the execution stage, delivering Coomtech’s contribution to a cleaner and more cost-effective cement industry.”

Ryan Gilliam, CEO, Fortera
“We’re very pleased that our technology has been chosen by the Innovandi Open Challenge for industry collaboration. Fortera has developed a process for manufacturing cost-competitive, low-carbon cement at a time when net-zero solutions are urgently needed. We look forward to our collaboration with GCCA partners in furthering climate-friendly alternatives that deliver the cost and performance of Portland cement while sequestering carbon within the built environment.”

Dr. Conor Hamil, Co-CEO, MOF Technologies
“Having developed a carbon capture system that overcomes the traditional adoption barriers of energy and cost, we are thrilled to be working with members of the GCCA to bring our technology to the field. Our Nuada carbon capture technology has been designed to deliver the ultra-efficient CO2 separation needed to overcome these barriers, enabling our partners to reach their net zero targets. We are therefore thrilled to be participating in the Innovandi Open Challenge and playing our part in decarbonising the concrete value chain.”

Saipem
“Saipem is proud to attract GCCA members’ interest in its unique enzymatic carbon capture technology. GCCA’s open innovation program positively contributes to accelerating the adoption of carbon capture technologies. SAIPEM will work with GCCA consortium members to improve from traditional carbon capture technologies’ environmental and energy footprint, helping the cement sector decarbonize its operations competitively while positively impacting many other hard-to-abate industrial sectors. This recognition further confirms Saipem’s leading role in the CCUS sector, where Saipem has the competencies, skills, assets and technologies to serve the entire value chain.”

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