EIT Climate-KIC’s ClimAccelerator broke programme records in 2022

For the past decade, EIT Climate-KIC’s accelerator programme has been the main climate innovation solution provider in Europe, scaling climate start-ups to meet the demands of the “green” economy.

In 2022, the ClimAccelerator surpassed several of its own records while expanding its influence into the Global South and partnering with both governmental and corporate funders, including the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Ireland (‘Irish Aid’) and German insurers Munich Re and ERGO

Highlights of 2022 

In collaboration with more than 130 entrepreneurship support organisations, EIT Climate-KIC orchestrated 30 ClimAccelerators across 88 countries. Some of the programmes focused on a specific theme, such as carbon removal, adaptation and resistance, or circular economy while others were defined by geography. The Black Sea ClimAccelerator, for example, was one of four programmes targeting clusters of European countries with lower innovation scores.

In total the programmes attracted more than 4400 applications, of which less than 400 early- and late-stage start-ups were accepted to participate. The majority of these climate entrepreneurs benefited from business development, mentorship, funding and investment opportunities.

Over 85 start-ups validated their climate impact potential using our Climate Impact Framework, a five-step model – incorporating Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) – that presents climate impact indicators alongside key financial performance indicators. The final reports – validated by third-party experts – indicated that 2.37 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions were avoided. Another 64 business models are in the process of validation.  

The start-ups with the highest climate impact potential were offered additional funding from EIT Climate-KIC in exchange for equity. Through our new convertible investment instrument, Climate SAFE, we took equity in 78 start-ups last year, bringing our total number of portfolio companies to 94 and making EIT Climate-KIC one of the most active impact investors in Europe.  

The current portfolio includes some stellar success stories including planblue, Dabbel, and bound4blue.   

Impact investments on the rise  

In the last five years, EIT Climate-KIC has scaled more than 6,000 start-up alumni that have generated more than 10,000 full-time jobs across the sustainability sector. In 2022, we partnered with Dealroom to launch a custom EIT Climate-KIC database specifically designed to support the scaling of cleantech communities with reliable data and intelligence on our climate tech-based start-ups. 

The platform contains nearly 1,000 verified start-up alumni that raised €1.1 billion in total external funding in 2022. This includes one of the most recognisable start-ups in the carbon removal space, Climeworks, which achieved “unicorn” status in April 2022 after securing a market valuation in excess of €1 billion. 

Bringing climate innovation to the Global South  

Historically, EIT Climate-KIC entrepreneurship activities have been concentrated in Europe, but in 2022 we had a significant geographical expansion: 50 countries spanning Africa, Asia, South America, and Oceania. 

This shift can be partly attributed to the success of our “Open ClimAccelerator” model.  Existing accelerators and incubators can access our open-sourced, proven methodology, empowering change agents around the world to run a ClimAccelerator programme successfully and autonomously in their own context. 

Another element driving this change is the high interest from climate entrepreneurs coming from countries heavily impacted by the effects of climate change – specifically, Africa. In January 2022, nearly 700 start-ups from 44 African countries applied to the first-ever Pan-African climate accelerator programme, demonstrating the demand from this region. 

The success of this programme prompted the Adaptation and Resilience ClimAccelerator in Africa. From November 2022 to May 2023, 16 start-ups are scaling their solutions that address physical climate risks or build the resilience of communities across the African continent.  

Our active role in boosting the African innovation ecosystem was highlighted at the COP27 UN Climate Change Conference and in the report Adapt, Mitigate, and Grow: Climate Tech Innovation in Africa, co-published by EIT Climate-KIC, that offers insights into the synergies between key stakeholders, the state of the market and the growth of the climate tech industry on the continent.  

And beyond Africa, we recently launched the first Blue Economy ClimAccelerator in the Pacific Islands to support local entrepreneurs and start-ups with innovative ideas to support the growth of maritime activities. 

Making gender mainstream 

EIT Climate-KIC aims to provide equal opportunities for all genders throughout its programmes with the goal of triggering a systematic change in gender across the climate innovation sector. To ensure this transformation, we developed the WeClim Equally Gender-Smart Handbook in May 2022 as a guide to help incubators and accelerators integrate a gender perspective into their programmes. 

In practice, this includes applying gender balance when working with course participants, panels or reviewers, as well as applying participatory, inclusive practices at work, in workshops or trainings. From September 2022 to May 2023, grants from Irish Aid are enabling six EIT Climate-KIC partners in the Global South to implement pilot initiatives that support women entrepreneurs. 

2023 Outlook 

This upcoming year brings a new set of challenges and opportunities to the ClimAccelerator programme as we reduce our reliance on European-backed funding, take on impact projects with global organisations and continue corporate partnerships. Through the Open ClimAccelerator model, we look to harness the full force of a diverse, global, connected community to create the exponential effects we need to unlock systemic change.  

Our start-ups and alumni can expect to see more funding available with the establishment of an early-stage and a late-stage cleantech investment fund. We intend to create a pipeline of 100 investment opportunities per year, supplying the solutions scaled via ClimAccelerator with the market demands for cleantech. 

Corporates, governments and entrepreneur support organisations interested in learning more about the ClimAccelerator programme, can contact climaccelerator@climate-kic.org.