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BNEF Pioneers programme focuses on net zero challenges for 2021

Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) invites all early-stage companies and innovative projects dedicated to addressing net zero challenges, to apply for its 2021 Pioneers programme.

Every year, the Pioneers programme identifies the most impactful and original technology innovations for advancing the low-carbon economy. For 2021, BNEF analysts have identified three global net zero challenges to focus on and will award the Pioneers prize to innovators with scalable, impactful and equitable solutions to these challenges.

Applications closes on 19 February 2021.

What is BNEF Pioneers?

For more than a decade, the BNEF Pioneers programme has identified ten game-changing technologies or innovations annually – each with the potential to accelerate global decarbonisation and halt climate change.

Pioneers can be innovators serving the energy, transport, materials, manufacturing, consumer and agriculture sectors, or providers of solutions and technologies that help increase understanding of the climate, scale up carbon capture, utilisation and storage and promote climate adaption.

Applicants are shortlisted by the BNEF Pioneers team and finalists judged by a panel of BNEF experts. Winners must prove they offer a novel, substantial, scalable and competitive solution.

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2021 net zero challenges

For this year the programme has chosen three specific net zero challenges to focus on:

Challenge 1: Managing and optimising long-haul freight

The transport sector was responsible for 22% of global CO2 emissions in 2020. A significant portion of these emissions come from road, maritime and airborne freight – areas with few near-term decarbonisation options. The problem of decarbonising long-haul freight is compounded because up to 40% of miles traveled are ’empty’. There is a need to find innovations to manage payloads better, match supply and demand to reduce empty miles, eliminate bottlenecks and route congestion, decarbonise cold-chain transit and protect perishable goods. These could range from IoT software to quantum computing, better forms of city planning to new cold storage materials.

Challenge 2: Advancing materials and techniques for sustainable products

From concrete to steel, plastics and electronics, everything we use has a carbon footprint. Creating these products generates about 20% of global emissions and there are currently limited decarbonisation options. Making high-quality, functional, carbon-neutral goods will involve innovations in materials and feedstocks, manufacturing techniques and product configurations. Designing for decarbonisation can include creating products that are stronger, lighter, easier to repurpose or recycle and longer lasting.

Challenge 3: Monitoring and understanding our changing planet

Humanity has emitted over 1,500 gigatons of carbon dioxide since the industrial revolution, raising the atmospheric CO2 concentration to over 410ppm. To tackle climate change we must understand more about greenhouse gas emissions, as well as how the natural systems around us absorb them.

New innovations must help us understand more about our planet’s carbon cycle and enable us to better monitor carbon sources and sinks. Innovation gaps include accurate detection and tracking of greenhouse gasses, monitoring and managing the carbon systems within our sea, forests and lands and technologies that can identify and predict planetary changes.

“Beyond these three challenges, we will select a wildcard as our tenth Pioneer. This winning entry can address any issue that helps the world decarbonise and we encourage submissions for all climate-tech solutions that lie outside of the three challenges outlined above,” states BNEF.

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BNEF Pioneers have historically been early-stage startups. This year, the programme is expanding the criteria to take applications from:

Early-stage companies: Climate-tech companies that can be for-profit or non-profit, private, public or subsidiaries.

Pilot projects and joint ventures: Any innovative pilot projects or joint ventures working on net-zero challenges.

NGOs, laboratories and innovation communities: NGOs, university or state-sponsored labs and any other innovation groups creating net zero products or technologies with commercial implications.

For any enquiries about the programme, visit BNEF.

Babalwa Bungane
Babalwa Bungane is the content producer for ESI Africa - Clarion Events Africa. Babalwa has been writing for the publication for over five years. She also contributes to sister publications; Smart Energy International and Power Engineering International. Babalwa is a social media enthusiast.