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Why we invested in Carbon Re?

Perspective, by David Grimm

DeepTech UCL Tech Fund

Posted

We agree with Bill Gates; we must tackle the staggeringly large emissions from cement production – 8% of the global total. People are not going to stop building, certainly not at the necessary rate, so technological innovation is critical.

There are some great efforts going on within universities to find replacements, but in an industry where short-term safety lab tests are not going to cut it, the timescales for massive adoption are long. It’s becoming increasingly clear that we don’t have that luxury of time.

Enter Carbon Re, a company utilising the power of AI to optimise the energy usage and the production environment of cement plants. They have shown they can cut fuel-derived emissions by an average of 20%. Applied across the industry this would save 320 million tonnes a year – equivalent to the CO2 emissions of the entire UK!

Not only does the platform help reduce emissions, it also can save a single plant between $2m and $6m annually in energy costs, a huge incentive to adopt.

Using AI to optimise processes is not new. But custom-built models, requiring expensive and lengthy consultancy contracts to design and build, have not found much traction in the low-margin and near-term cost-focussed cement industry. What’s needed is a platform that can be simply deployed and integrated with existing processes, that learns on the job, and quickly pays for itself.

This is where the combined expertise of University College London’s Aidan O’Sullivan, a world expert in designing reinforcement learning systems to drive energy efficiency, and Daniel Summerbell, a leading authority on process improvement from Cambridge’s Institute of Manufacturing makes a real difference.

DeltaZero is a cloud-based platform, able to quickly develop a digital twin for any cement plant and then learn and develop strategies to bring about transformational efficiency gains. It remains actively learning from its environment to incrementally drive further performance gains. It is designed to fit seamlessly within existing processes within the plant allowing for quick and simple integration. This scalability is unique and allows for rapid large-scale adoption and globally meaningful reductions in CO2 emissions.    

Aidan and Daniel are joined by Sherif and Buffy, formerly the driving force behind ElementAI’s ‘AI for Climate’ practice and bring commercial experience of applying AI for operational improvement. They are already embarking on pilot projects at plants in Spain, Turkey, India, Thailand and Vietnam.

We love big challenges and teams using technological innovation to rise to them. Right now, there is no bigger challenge facing the planet than accelerating towards net zero. It falls to our incredible scientists to power those teams and to us, as deeptech university investors, to support them. That’s why we’re delighted to join the Carbon Re team on this journey!

Right now, there is no bigger challenge facing the planet than accelerating towards net zero. It falls to our incredible scientists to power those teams and to us, as deeptech university investors, to support them.

David Grimm, Investment Director

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