Earthshot Prize finalists announced as Amazon pledges $53m to support women in cleantech

The Earthshot Prize for climate innovations, spearheaded by Prince William and Kate Middleton, has announced its finalists for this year. Elsewhere, Amazon has pledged millions of dollars to climate tech firms founded and/or run by women.

Earthshot Prize finalists announced as Amazon pledges $53m to support women in cleantech

Image: Amazon

Officially launched in October 2020, the Earthshot Prize was set up by the royals to funnel £50m into climate and nature solutions through to 2050. The idea is that, each year, five innovators – each working on a different major global environmental issue – will each receive £1m in grant funding.

The first five winners were announced in October 2021. Chosen projects included the Milan Food Waste Hub, which redistributes surplus food from businesses to those in need, and Enapter, an innovative company working on affordable green hydrogen production.

Now, the Prize has published its shortlist of entrants for 2022. There are three shortlisted projects under each of the five categories and, while only one in each category will take the £1m grant, all finances will be able to access the Prize’s ‘Global Alliance’ of businesses.

Two initiatives from the UK are on the global shortlist – Notpla and Low Carbon Materials. The former is developing alternatives to single-use plastic packaging using seaweed, including edible and biodegradable sachets that have received the attention of companies including Unilever, Just Eat and Suntory. Notpla is listed under the category of ‘building a waste-free world’. The other finalists here are Indian firm Fleather, which is creating a leather alternative using waste from the flower trade, and the city of Amsterdam’s vision to create a fully circular economy by mid-century.

Low Carbon Materials, meanwhile, is listed under the category of ‘fixing our climate’. It was founded by three PhD students of chemistry and is working to create a concrete mix including 10% aggregate alternative that absorbs more carbon than it emits over its lifecycle. The initiative is up against LanzaTech, the producer of carbon capture and usage technologies, and CO2 storage innovators 44.01. 44.01 claims that its process for converting captured carbon into rock enables permanent storage.

The other three categories covered by the Earthshot Prize are ‘protecting and restoring nature’, ‘cleaning our air’ and ‘reviving our oceans’. You can see a full list of the finalists here.

The winners of this year’s Prize will be announced in the coming weeks.

Prince William said: “The innovators, leaders, and visionaries that make up our 2022 Earthshot Finalists prove there are many reasons to be optimistic about the future of our planet. They are directing their time, energy, and talent towards bold solutions with the power to not only solve our planet’s greatest environmental challenges, but to create healthier, more prosperous, and more sustainable communities for generations to come.”

Amazon and USAID

In other climate innovation news, Amazon has unveiled plans to directly invest $50m from its $2bn Climate Pledge Fund in cleantech companies founded or run by women.

The e-commerce giant’s vice president of sustainability, Kara Hurst, said that “addressing the gender inequalities that persist in climate finance and ensuring that female entrepreneurs have an equal seat at the table” is “an important step” in responding to the climate crisis.

Previous UN research has revealed that less than 3% of venture capital flows to cleantech went to women-led companies in 2019 and only 11% of seed funding capital in cleantech in emerging markets went to companies with women on their founding teams.

Amazon is, additionally, partnering with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to create a new ‘Climate Gender Equity Fund’. $3m will be contributed by the retailer, matched by $3bn from the Biden administration. The Fund has been created to address systemic challenges preventing women from accessing climate finance, such as access to funding networks.

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