Achieving net-zero is not a zero sum game. Humankind needs to adapt; whether that is reversing or dismantling established practices; or pressing forward with innovations. It is in the world's interests that Britain, as an advanced economy, can demonstrate the potential for a greener world. In building back better and greener (to coin a phrase), Britain needs to be world class.
We aren't short of good examples. As Tyler Cowen notes in this article, the elimination of coal-burning power stations means that Britain has cut its carbon emissions faster than any other rich country since 1990, decarbonising its energy use at an average annual rate of 3.7 per cent since 2000.
The Government has announced its plans to make Britain "the world leader in clean wind energy." The UK already has the largest installed capacity of offshore wind in the world, with around 10GW in operation off its coasts. As we have pointed out before, the UK is a leader in marine and tidal energy.
But it is still a real stretch for Britain to meet its target of net zero by 2050. That means constant large-scale investment and heaps of radical innovation. It also means investment: in 2020 there was a 21% increase in investment for climate tech and agriculture companies in the UK amounting to $798m.
Are we at the top of the green game? Who are Britain’s world-leading companies that are at the forefront of the drive to make the world climate neutral?
We should have a roll of honour of companies that the UK Government can present to the world at COP26 in Glasgow in November. Which companies should be on it?
Put another way; if Greta Thunberg was to cycle around Britain, which companies should she visit?
Here's our starter list, listed alphabetically. Suggestions and recommendations with evidence, please. We want to get it to an evidence-clad 50 so we can send it to Alok Sharma’s team for their event planning.
Accsys may be a small player in the global wood market but its technology is making fast-growing, certified sustainable wood into a building material with characteristics that can match or better plastics, metals and concrete. "We are changing wood to change the world," says the company. It holds a London Stock Exchange Green Economy Mark.
This AIM-listed renewable energy company has developed a proprietary technology which transforms low-cost biomass material into high-value green fuels. Its patented CoalSwitch™ is a world first, helping coal-fired plants move to renewables. It holds a London Stock Exchange Green Economy Mark.
Developed in Surrey, its patented, highly efficient fuel cell Hydrogen Power (H-Power) technology means that hydrogen fuel cells can be produced without super-expensive ultra-pure hydrogen – and reducing the use of expensive precious metals. AFC Energy is at the heart of the hydrogen economy. It holds a London Stock Exchange Green Economy Mark.
Founded and developed at Durham University, AGM is a world leader in the development and application of graphene in fields as diverse as paints and coatings, batteries and energy storage, polymer composites and lubricants, car waxes and polishes. It holds a London Stock Exchange Green Economy Mark.
From its base in Banbury (albeit listed in New York), Arrival is a revolutionary. Its electric vans are being built in micro-factories - the first ones are in Bicester and South Carolina - to change the manufacturing economics. Its president Avinash Rugoobur explains in this interview why this global business is in the UK. “The UK has had a really incredible run of automotive engineering, for generations. Where the limitations are is that traditional automotive industry is slow moving. But if you de-shackle the engineers [90% of Arrival’s employees are engineers] and let people create something new, now you have inventive types connecting with experienced automotive types and also a bunch of other talent in the UK – software talent, robotics talent, composites talent. We’ve got all that – and when you combine it all, you create something new."
Led by four-times Olympian Dr. Iain Percy, this Northern Irish business claims to be the world's leading high-performance maritime and applied technology company with a mission "to lead the decarbonisation of the maritime industry." As well as its design and engineering services, it has developed "the world's most advanced maritime simulator" and aims to become "the clear market leader in high-speed zero-emission vessels and propulsion systems."
Currently says it is the world’s largest recycler of coffee grounds. A Certified B Corporation, the 30-strong BioBean is working with large corporations transform coffee waste into valuable products at an industrial scale.
A young innovative cleantech business which has generated a global profile and awareness for its patented low-carbon process technology. Its mission is “to re-establish, at a global scale, the Acetone-Butanol-Ethanol (ABE) fermentation process, utilising local low value materials [think waste from whisky] to produce low-carbon, high-value, sustainable products.”
A venture that came out of Imperial College, the SteelCell® was the invention of lithium battery and fuel cell pioneer, Professor Brian Steele. The electrochemistry team at Ceres has been perfecting this technology for nearly 20 years and is a global leader in solid oxide fuel cell technology. AIM-listed, this high growth technology licensing company aims to be the ARM of energy technology. It holds a London Stock Exchange Green Economy Mark
Dialight makes specialist LED systems that can illuminate challenging industrial spaces - from oil rigs to telecoms masts. It claims that "more companies install Dialight than any other industrial LED fixtures in the world." It holds a London Stock Exchange Green Economy Mark
Founded in 2004 as a spin-out from the University of Southampton, Illika is a pioneer and innovator in solid state battery technology for the medical technology, Internet of Things, Electric Vehicles and consumer electronics. Holds a Green Economy Mark.
Uses large batteries based on vanadium, which can provide superior energy storage than (but are also complementary to) lithium systems, which makes it easier to expand capacity than conventional batteries. They also last longer than lithium-ion cells. And vanadium is no rare earth - it is more abundant in the Earth's crust than copper. Invinity is behind the world’s largest solar-powered vanadium flow battery (VFB) project which comes online in South Australia soon. Invinity aims to own 10 per cent of the global energy storage market by 2030. Holds a Green Economy Mark.
Kings of hydrogen technologies, taking excess energy from the power network, converting it into hydrogen and using it in major industrial markets. Holds a Green Economy Mark.
Designs and manufactures what it says is the world's "most efficient shower system." Its patented technology means that its ‘air-powered’ showers use half the water and heating of a standard shower, while offering twice the effective spray force, meaning they can significantly reduce water usage and energy consumption.
This was the world's first neighbour-to-neighbour food sharing app and is now transforming the UK’s ability to combat food insecurity.
Its kinetic technology uses footsteps to create off-grid clean electricity. In this brilliant niche, Pavegen says it is "the global leader in converting footfall into off-grid power and data" with a mission "to enable people to change the world, through the power of their footsteps."
This Welsh company to provide "the first affordable, hassle free, fun-to-drive eco car" - the hydrogen fuel cell powered Rasa - for which customers pay a single monthly fee ('mobility as a service.') As with Arrival, it will make its cars through a distributed manufacturing model - "human-scale, profitable operations near the markets they serve" - which will each produce around 5,000 cars a year.
A world leader in sub-sea protection systems for cables, umbilicals and flexible pipes. Its systems protect billions of pounds' worth of assets for industries such as offshore wind, energy, interconnector and telecommunications. Holds a Green Economy Mark.
Developed from spin-outs from Oxford and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in the USA into a public company that is developing the next generation of sustainable fuels to decarbonise aviation. It is building a plant in Lincolnshire that will convert household and office refuse into jet fuel. Production could begin in 2025. Holds a Green Economy Mark.
Rotherham-based Xeros Technology Group which has developed technologies to reduce consumption of water and to mitigate microplastic pollution in the oceans. The manufacture and washing of garments are water and energy intensive, generating pollution and carbon emissions. Xeros Technology’s proprietary XOrbs™ – spherical shaped polymers – replace up to 70% of the water used in these processes, while also reducing energy use, costs and achieving better results than conventional methods. Holds a Green Economy Mark.