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Exploring UK tech companies contributing to positive environmental change

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Key statistics

  • UK Net Zero companies are punching above their weight in Europe, making up just under 20% of all companies in the ecosystem
    • Of the 4,718 Net Zero Scaleups identified by Dealroom, 2,918 are headquartered in Europe of which 552 are headquartered in the United Kingdom. In other words, UK Net Zero scaleups make up 18.9% of the European Net Zero Ecosystem and 11.7% of the global ecosystem. 
  • UK Net Zero firms have raised over $1.5bn in 2021, putting the UK second to just Sweden in terms of European investment into climate change catalysts
    • We have witnessed a 'COP pop' in VC investment in recent weeks, with around $60mn invested in October alone
    • Net Zero tech firms account for just under 70% of all impact tech investment in the UK
  • London is dominating the UK Net Zero investment landscape, accounting for 72% of all VC investment made into Net Zero firms in 2021 so far
  • The geographical distribution of companies is concentrated in London, with 46% (252) firms headquartered in the capital
  • 11 of 234 (4.7%) of global Net Zero Futurecorns are headquartered in the UK
  • 8 of 103 (7.8%) of global Net Zero unicorns are headquartered in the UK 
  • UK Net Zero companies are creating a growing number of jobs in the UK with Net Zero employment growing by 33% between 2020 and 2021, to over 23,000
  • 61.3% of companies have at least one technical founder with 'technical', 'chemistry', 'biology and earth science experience'
  • UK Net Zero companies have nearly doubled in value over the last year from $24.4bn to $47.6bn
  • Of the 137 applicants to our Net Zero 2.0 programme 45.9% identified ‘team’, ‘talent’ or ‘hiring’ as one of their top 3 scaling challenges and 21.9% explain that funding was one of their biggest obstacles to growth
  • 52% of UK Net Zero companies are contributing to more than of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals
  • Nearly 50% of UK Net Zero companies are operating in the Energy industry
  • Investment in the top 10 global Net zero ecosystems has increased by 32% over the last year
  • Sweden outperformed every other nation for emissions versus investment, investing over 10x the amount per tonne of CO2 emitted
  • The United States tops the charts for Global Net Zero investment with $20.8bn invested in 2021 so far, followed by China ($7bn), Sweden ($3.6bn) and the UK ($1.57bn)
  • Supporting Net Zero companies to deliver tech for a greener world; we aspire to a 10x increase on 2021 investment levels into UK Net Zero firms from VC and PE firms by 2025



As the world turns to Glasgow for COP26 there has been no more important time to understand the contribution, and potential impact of Net Zero tech firms.

In this report, we explore companies who are creating technologies explicitly focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions or addressing the impacts of global warming. 

When we refer to Net Zero tech companies, we are looking specifically at firms developing pioneering innovative technologies, or their application to three UN Sustainable development goals - 7) Affordable and clean energy, 12) Responsible production and consumption, and 13) Climate action.

In taking this focus, we hope to shed light on companies at the forefront of tech innovation; those businesses that are tackling the climate challenge head on, and helping the UK, and the world to hit the Net Zero target.

At Tech Nation, we believe that UK tech has a fundamental part to play in combating climate change, but support is needed to help tech companies accelerate their growth. Scaling challenges are more acute, and compounded for Net Zero companies. The government has put in place a ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, which promises more investment into the UK’s Net Zero tech companies.

We celebrate this plan, and calls for investment levels in Net Zero companies to be increased tenfold by 2025. This would equate to an additional $15bn invested by 2025 - 15% of the $100bn climate finance yearly target (a COP26 goal). Tech Nation believes half of this $15bn should come from VCs accelerating the growth of promising Net Zero scaleups and technologies, and the rest from other organisational investors; hedge funds, pension funds and PE firms.

Taking a world view, the report dives into the top Net Zero nations - the UK's colleagues and counterparts in addressing the climate challenge - because to truly solve this crisis we continue to need a global effort.



A comment from BNP Paribas

The terminology of sustainability has passed into common use. Once fierce debates have collapsed under the weight of irrefutable evidence. No day passes without governments, NGOs, corporates, activists and lobbyists publicly discussing ‘transition’ or ‘adaptation’. News channels no longer feel the need to explain ‘renewable’, ‘single-use’, ‘net-zero’. Every household debates how best to recycle, whether the children should join Greta in a strike from school, if the next car should be hybrid or full EV, whether it makes sense to replace the rattling old gas boiler with a heat pump.

The “climate deniers” are distant voices now, pushed further away with each temperature record broken, every measurement of ocean acidification, each new weather pattern, every species that passes into memory.

We know we have to do something. We know we need to transition to a low carbon economy. The degree to which the new net zero narrative has found its way into boardrooms and shareholder meetings across the globe, is truly remarkable.

However, the problem is that too often, knowing the challenge is not enough. Breezy talk of “transition” hides a vastly complex project to re-engineer how we do everything and how the economy runs; from growing food, to building homes to keeping the lights on.  We need new ideas, technologies, and fresh companies with innovators to come together and share knowledge in a disruptively novel way across ecosystems, ultimately breaking down siloes to turn scientific know how into commercially viable opportunities.

At BNP Paribas we have, for more than 15 years, been working with our corporate and institutional clients to find ways to drive capital towards these new ideas. That’s why we seized the opportunity to support TechNation and its CleanTech programme: we know how many industries and corporate leaders need the solutions these pioneers are building.

This report sets out the landscape of new, clean technology industries in the UK and beyond, highlighting the value of shifting to a net zero economy. It is an invaluable insight into a sector rich in opportunity because it is certain of its purpose and clear in its ambitions. These clean tech scale ups are building answers to questions most don’t even know exist, are tackling transition challenges in a revolutionary way, harnessing data, and transforming supply chains across multiple sectors. Anyone, any organisation, that isn’t fascinated to learn more about them will be left behind.

A comment from Sage

Sage is a global market leader for technology providing small and medium businesses with the visibility and flexibility to manage their finances, operations and people. With our partners, Sage is trusted by millions of customers worldwide to deliver the best cloud technology, support and practical advice.

We are committed to Knocking Down Barriers so everyone has the opportunity to thrive. Addressing the climate crisis requires bold action so we have an ambitious plan to reach Net Zero by 2040 across Scope 1, 2 and 3.  At the same time we are empowering SMEs to take climate action, providing them the insight to reduce their own carbon emissions.

We welcome Tech Nation’s Net Zero which showcases the UK’s potential to foster the innovation needed for necessary reductions in climate emissions.


UK Net Zero



UK Net Zero firms have raised over $1.5bn in 2021, putting the UK second to just Sweden in terms of European investment into climate change catalysts

(Source: Tech Nation, Dealroom, 2021)

There has been an increase in Net Zero investment from 2020, a 2% rise to $1.57bn as of late October 2021. Until early October, there had been a slight dip in investment compared to 2020; $1.54bn in 2020, compared to $1.51bn in 2021. The recent boost is accounted for by investments in All Plants, Carbon Re, and Pledge. Net Zero companies are at an early stage of growth, and investment data may be lagging behind capital actually raised.

London is dominating the UK Net Zero investment landscape, accounting for 72% of all VC investment made into Net Zero firms in 2021 so far

VC investment into Net Zero companies by UK city

(Source: Tech Nation, Dealroom, 2021)

Bristol saw a spike in activity in 2019 with investment in OVO energy, who raised $200mn of growth equity, one of the largest rounds of investment in a UK Net Zero company, alongside Octopus Energy ($600mn in 2021), Zenobe Energy ($165mn in 2020), Arrival ($118mn in 2020), and AgriProtein ($105mn in 2018).


Geographical distribution

The geographical distribution of companies is dominated by London, with 46% (252) headquartered in the capital

(Source: Tech Nation, Dealroom, 2021) 

Scotland is the next top performing region with 19 and 18 scaleups in Glasgow and Edinburgh respectively. Bristol, Cambridge and Oxford follow Glasgow and Edinburgh. This is a reflection of the calibre of educational institutions in these areas, and their importance in anchoring tech clusters; helping to create environments for deep tech companies to flourish. 


Unicorns and Futurecorns

11 of 234 (4.7%) of global Net Zero Futurecorns are headquartered in the UK

Company nameHQ cityIndustryYear company
became a
Green Biologics LtdAbingdonEnergy2015
Zenobe EnergyLondonEnergy, Transportation2017
Oxford PhotovoltaicsYarntonEnergy2019
Highview PowerLondonEnergy2020
Tokamak EnergyAbingdonEnergy2020
OLIOLondonFood, Energy2021
ONTORoyal Leamington SpaTransportation2021

(Source: Tech Nation, Dealroom, 2021)

8 of 103 (7.8%) of global Net Zero unicorns are headquartered in the UK 

Company nameHQ cityIndustryYear company
became a
OVO EnergyBristolEnergy2019
Octopus EnergyLondonEnergy2020
ITM PowerSheffieldEnergy2020
Ceres Power HoldingsHorshamEnergy2020
BritishvoltNorthumberlandEnergy, Transportation2021
Vertical AerospaceBristolTransportation2021

(Source: Tech Nation, Dealroom, 2021)

Spread across the UK, UK Net Zero unicorns are currently focused in sub-sectors such as transportation and energy. In this year alone 3 Futurecorns and 3 Unicorns have entered the ranks as more and more Net Zero technology companies start to achieve scale. This year also saw the first British Net Zero Decacorn, Arrival, whose current estimated valuation (after its SPAC merger in March 2021) is $16.2bn.



Net Zero founding teams have a high proportion of technical founders, female founders and serial founders

61.3%of companies have at least one founder with 'technical', 'chemistry', 'biology and earth science'

25.6%of UK Net Zero
companies have
at least one
female founder
17.1%of UK Net Zero
companies have at
least one founder who is a Serial entrepreneur

(Source: Tech Nation, Dealroom, 2021)

Founding teams of Net Zero Scaleups are especially technical with 61.3% of firms having at least one founder with a technical, chemical or biological background. It is encouraging to see the diversity of disciplines and technologies being brought to the sector, and the deep tech nature of these companies. The calibre of the entrepreneurs is also shown by the large number of serial entrepreneurs, 17.1% compared with 3.2% nationally. This signals that the founding teams are likely to have the technical ‘know-how’ to innovate through problems and the experience to execute on their proposition. 

Looking at the inclusivity of underrepresented founders in the sector, 25.6% of businesses have one or more female founder(s). Tech companies across the board - early stage startups, later stage scaleups, and established corporates - are lacking in this respect, however, when you compare with industry as a whole, where 5.5% of tech firms have at least one female founder (Tech Nation, Dealroom, 2021).

Net Zero companies in the UK are home to over 23,000 jobs

63% of these jobs are in companies valued between $0-220mn, and the remaining 37% are accounted for by UK Net Zero Futurecorns (7.75%), Unicorns (21%), and Decacorns (8.2%).

The level of employment has steadily increased with an average of 5,250 jobs being created per annum since 2018. The largest increase is this year at 5,900 jobs, and these are being created evenly across all enterprise values. Proportionally, Scaleups (companies valued between $0mn and $1bn) are the biggest employers, consistently employing more than 70% of workers. This may change in subsequent years due to the fact that first year a Net Zero business became a unicorn was 2019, and there has been a notable rise in Net Zero companies becoming unicorns each year. 

(Source: Tech Nation, Dealroom, 2021)*



Between 2020 and 2021 the value of UK Net Zero companies has increased by 51.3%

(Source: Tech Nation, Dealroom, 2021)

A large reason for the increase in the value of the Net Zero market is due to the large increase in valuations for companies founded between 2015 and 2021, and a marked spike in the number of companies which have become unicorns this year. These include companies Arrival (whose valuation increased to $16.2bn after their initial public offering in March 2021), Octopus Energy (whose valuation grew to $4.9bn after an growth equity VC round in September 2021) and ITM Power (whose valuation of $2.9bn was made public in June 2021), all of whom were founded after 2015. 


Net Zero Cohort

Following the successful pilot of Net Zero 1.0 Tech Nation continues to lead the way in supporting the best in class Pre-Seed, Seed and Series A startups contributing to Net Zero. The 32 businesses tackle problems ranging from energy generation, energy systems management and energy intelligence to transportation and the built world. The cohort isn’t limited to conventional areas for achieving Net Zero. This year we are also working with startups who provide transparency in carbon markets, and who have developed carbon capturing technology. 

32Companies joining the cohort in 2021
£765KMedian investment raised
37.5%With at least one female founder
£39.3mnTotal investment raised
20Employees on average per company
£3.8mnExpected Gross Value Added to the UK economy 

(Source: Tech Nation, 2021)

Find out more about the Net Zero cohort here.


Scaling challenges

Hiring talent

Understanding the scaling challenges of the companies we support is crucial to Tech Nation. We looked at a subsection of 137 UK Net Zero scaleups (22% of all Net Zero Scaleups headquartered in the UK) and asked them what their top 3 scaling challenges are. It became immediately evident that hiring talent is the top scaling challenge with 45.9% of companies identifying ‘team’, ‘talent’ or ‘hiring’ as one of their top 3. 

STEM-based talent is an underlying problem however when you are trying to pair this with the skill set required to enter a market which may not exist yet, sourcing top quality talent is near impossible. 

Access to late stage finance

1 in 5 scaleups of the 125 we surveyed mentioned funding as one of their top 3 scaling challenges. We believe this is because Net Zero companies are less likely to fit into the classic venture business model due to higher risk levels and a longer time to market.

Looking at the ratio between growth stages of UK companies Net Zero companies have a lower chance of from ‘seed’ and ‘early growth’ to ‘late growth’. 1:0.2 compared with the 1:0.6 when looking at all scaleups. This means for every one Net Zero startup at a ‘seed’ or ‘early growth’ stage 0.2 make it to a ‘late stage’ which is significantly less than 0.6. The risk appetite of investors is largely related to the opportunity of higher rate of returns which, in percentage terms, is seen at pre- Series A. 

Not achieving a later stage investment is often fatal for Net Zero companies because of the longer time to market and expensive staffing and raw material costs.

Funding as an underrepresented founder and a Net Zero founder

As a founder from an underrepresented background the challenge of raising finance is compounded. When you consider that UK Net Zero companies are around 5x more likely (25.6% Net Zero companies with at least one female founder versus 5.5% of all tech companies) to have at least one female founder compared to the ecosystem as a whole, the problem is clear. It is harder to raise as a Net Zero company and it is harder to raise as an underrepresented founder.

The acuteness of this scaling challenge becomes even more prevalent when you understand only 1.3% (Sifted, 2021) of all VC funding since 2017 went to businesses which contained at least one female founder. In other words, it is likely people with great ideas in the Net Zero space aren’t even able to get off the ground. 

Case study

Tessa Clarke, CEO and Co-founder


“In my experience climate tech and tech 4 good founders tend to be (relatively speaking) incredibly diverse in terms of gender and ethnicity. Yet, unfortunately the gender and ethnicity biases in venture funding are well documented, resulting in woeful underfunding in the climate tech space. Ultimately, this is short-changing humanity, given it is these founders who are tackling the existential problems facing us today.

Climate tech investment is not growing nearly quickly enough - at the last count, it was a mere 6% of all VC investment. This is shameful in contrast to the billions that are being poured into quick commerce for example, and is symptomatic of a venture industry that's high on rhetoric about changing the world, but low on truly transformative action. Like every industry, the VC industry is going to need to stand up and be counted through the climate crisis, and rapidly figure out what their "all hands on deck" response is - because business as usual certainly isn't going to cut it. 

I'm very excited by the potential for the UK to truly pioneer in the climate tech space. The UK is already leading the pack, and the space is quite nascent still; so as we look to the inevitable tsunami of talent and capital coming down the tracks, I think the future is very bright for this country.”

Greenwashing and pricing strategy

Primary research provided us with the opportunity to dive deeper into the scaling challenges scaleups are facing. We’ve highlighted the best of these in our case studies below and one key finding was the impact greenwashing is having on the ecosystem. 

It is an extremely R&D intensive process to build a novel technology working towards Net Zero. Naturally, there is a cost associated with this and when you compare it with existing solutions, like fossil fuels, the price difference is clear. The correct level of government support and an increased willingness to pay a green premium should resolve this, however the birth of greenwashing has led to convoluted pricing. 

Greenwashing is an expression, or form of marketing spin, where companies signal to the public that they are being more environmentally friendly than the reality. This makes it much harder for Net Zero scaleups to price and market their product fairly, due to organisations being allowed to lay claim to being net zero or carbon neutral, despite using low quality sustainable products or services, such as unverified carbon offsets. It has also led to a rise in opportunistic startups looking to plug gaps in the market, without necessarily bringing innovative tech developments to the table, to help solve the challenge. This may distort the market further, adding to pricing complexity.


UN Sustainable Development Goals and industry breakdown

52% of UK Net Zero companies are contributing to more than of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

UK Net Zero companies are making significant contributions to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, with all businesses contributing to one of Climate Action, Affordable and Clean Energy or Responsible Consumption and production. The most activity is seen in Climate Action with 331 companies working towards this. Affordable and Clean Energy, and Responsible Consumption and Production closely follow. The multifaceted nature of the problems they are solving is clear, with 287 (52%) contributing to more than of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. These range from helping build sustainable cities and communities to leading the way in industry innovation in infrastructure.

We expect to see growth in responsible consumption and production as individuals look to take more responsibility for their carbon footprint and as Environmental, Social and Governance becomes more of a priority for larger corporations. Depop, a peer-to-peer fashion marketplace for second hand clothes, who recently achieved Unicorn status after being acquired by Etsy, a platform for selling handmade items and craft supplies, is a great example of this. 

Nearly 50% of UK Net Zero companies are operating in the Energy industry

(Source: Tech Nation, Dealroom, 2021)

Energy is centrefold when we look at the distribution of industries which Net Zero companies operate in. In fact if you combine the next 4 industries (Food and Agriculture, Transportation, Fashion, and Environmental Intelligence Software) there are still more companies operating in the Energy industry (49.6% of all companies). The dominance of this is not solely because we need to innovate away from traditional energy generation. In fact, to create a truly Net Zero Energy industry we also need to build companies which will support the transition, notably energy supply companies and energy storage companies. 

Alongside Energy there are a number of other industries which must evolve. There is a significant amount of activity in Food and Agriculture, Transportation and Fashion who respectively host 93, 61 and 59 businesses. The Built Environment is another industry which needs to evolve but the current uptake of Net Zero technology is slow. Only 35 businesses currently operate in this industry.   

We have also seen the introduction of businesses which look to measure carbon emissions for business and consumers. Many combine this with other services like offsetting carbon emissions, or providing sustainable investment options. Due to the focus on carbon emissions, they are closely linked and broadly covered under the emerging Net Zero Fintech industry and Environmental Intelligence Software industry. 


Daniel Avery, Venture Lead

National Grid

“Big breakthroughs in Net Zero tech requires collaboration up and down value chains and across industries. In the UK, we have so many of the ingredients required to make big change possible – ambitious industries, world-class researchers and policy thinkers, global transport hubs among many others. In short, the UK is a melting pot of all the ingredients you’d want to make impact at scale.”


Environmental impact

“40% of emission reductions rely on technologies not yet commercially deployed on a mass-market scale.” - The International Energy Agency, 2020 

The level of investment and activity in these sectors is matched by the level of environmental impact. With sustainable energy generation the efficiency gains can be staggering and ACT Blade, an innovative wind turbine manufacturer, is part of this revolution. Conservative estimates by the company still forecast a staggering 274kt reduction of CO2 emissions by 2030.  

Case study

Sabrina Malpede, Executive Director

ACT Blade

“Our company develops the lightest and most controllable wind turbine blade and we are hoping to make a significant contribution to Net Zero because of the following reasons:

  1. As it is lighter, with the same weight (so use of material,) we can produce longer blades which directly reduce the cost of energy (up to 7%); making wind energy more affordable. 
  2. At similar length, our blades are lighter (average of 24%), which means less waste in production is required.
  3. As it is component based, the final assembly can be made close to site, offering a quick penetration in new or difficult to achieve sites.
  4. Producing the ACT blades requires smaller tools and smaller facilities (approximately 50% smaller), which means also less energy to develop them.
  5. It is easier to dismantle and plan a proper end of life process for every component.

From a conservative sales plan we project that by 2030 we will reduce 274ktCO2 and by 2050 1.6Mt CO2.”

The built environment is another area where we are seeing considerable environmental gains, which is encouraging to see considering it contributes to approximately 40% of the world’s CO2 emissions. Qualis Flow who analyse the extended supply chains faced in the construction industry to derive efficiencies, reduce waste and reduce carbon is at the forefront of this. The company is aiming to eliminate 1mn tonnes of carbon in the next 3-5 years.

Case study

Brittany Harris, Co-founder and CEO

Qualis Flow

“Qualis Flow is on a mission to make it easy and valuable for construction team to build more efficiently and sustainably. It's widely known that the built environment consumed ~40% of the worlds raw resources and generates ~40% of global carbon emissions. In construction, 90% of this comes from the extended supply chain. Qflow offers a powerful combination of machine learning and industry know-how to capture, digitise and analyse the materials delivered to site and waste taken away, giving construction teams valuable insights on how to reduce waste and carbon, and save time and money.

Emerging technologies are also creating new Net Zero sub-sectors as we find innovative ways to tackle climate change. Carbon sequestration is one of them and Carbon Infinity is at the bleeding edge of this with it’s modular direct air capture technology. The technology then utilises this carbon to de-fossilise carbon-based products like concrete. This approach is vital as products like this cannot achieve Net Zero through electrification. 

To be successful, we also need to empower individuals and businesses with the tools to work towards becoming Net Zero. Platform technologies like PowerMarket, the first turn-key solar life cycle management platform, and Miralis, who model multiple data sources to improve logistics, transport and supply-chain, are at the forefront of this. They democratise responsibility whilst leveraging existing technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to create practical solutions. In the past 4 months Miralis’ Fuuse (electric vehicle charge point management system) has reduced 53T of emissions and Power Market is committed to projects which will reduce 400T of CO2.

Case study

Abhinav Jain, Co-founder and CEO


“PowerMarket has developed the first turn-key solar life cycle management platform. The cost of solar hardware has fallen drastically over the last 2 decades and as a result, the price of electricity generated from solar is now lower than that by most fossil fuel sources. However, the process of solar planning, execution and maintenance is long, complex, time consuming and spread across disparate set of software tools, as a result, restricting its adoption significantly. 

Click to read more


Tech Zero

While we need innovation to support the UK and the world achieve net zero, we must ensure all businesses play their part in the transition to net zero. The journey to net zero is being increasingly supported by the wider technology ecosystem. Tech Nation and Bulb are spearheading the way, through launching Tech Zero earlier this year. With the mission to help accelerate progress to Net Zero for UK tech companies, Tech Zero asks companies to commit to measure their scope 1-3 emissions and set an ambitious net zero target within a year of joining. 

Tech Zero is led by Tech Nation and Bulb, in partnership with the government's Council for Sustainable Business and the UK’s Net Zero Business Champion, Andrew Griffith MP, to accelerate the government’s plans for reaching net zero emissions. Founding members of Tech Zero are allplants, Bulb, Babylon, Citymapper, Faculty, GoCardless, Habito, Hopin, Moneysupermarket Group, OLIO, Onfido, Revolut, Starling Bank, what3words and Wise


Hayden Wood, Co-founder and CEO


“We set up the Tech Zero taskforce because everyone’s grappling with the challenge of net zero, and by working together we can make progress faster. We want to become the biggest group of tech companies committed to climate action on the planet. 

Tech companies of all shapes and sizes have joined Tech Zero, from early-stage startups to global corporations, as well as VCs, policymakers and some of the world’s most exciting climate tech companies. We’ll keep scaling Tech Zero, reaching new markets, providing more support and helping the tech industry reach net zero faster”

One of the ways in which Tech Zero supports companies with their net zero plan is through the toolkit developed by the founding members. The toolkit helps to demystify climate jargon and make it simpler for companies to understand and implement a net zero plan that makes sense for their business. We are welcoming all tech companies to make ambitious net zero commitments and join Tech Zero. Since the launch of the initiative, almost 200 companies have signed up, including Monzo,, Autotrader and Depop.


Ben Knight, Head of Environmental Sustainability


“The collaborative spirit of the Tech Zero group is amazing, as it's a group of businesses/people all aiming to have a positive impact on climate change. All the discussions and collaboration to build ideas and share best practice is really useful. 

So far we have measured our scope 1,2 and 3 emissions for our baseline year, and begun to develop our action plan on how we actually reduce these emissions. We have also committed to developing a Science-Based Net-Zero Target (Business Ambition for 1.5deg). A crucial part of our net zero strategy is engaging with and helping our suppliers - and also our customers - so this is something we are also excited to be developing. 



Global Net Zero



Investment in the top 10 global Net zero ecosystems has increased by 32% over the last year

Aggregating VC investment across the top 10 global ecosystems we can see an increase from $28.7bn in 2020, to $37.8bn in 2021. Investment is being led by China, the US, Sweden and the UK.

(Source: Tech Nation, PitchBook, 2021)

Across key global Net Zero nations deal counts are down, and median investment has risen over the last year

In China, the median deal size is $15.6mn, followed by the Netherlands with $6.3mn, and the US with $3.5mn. The UK, with a more nascent, yet fast growing Net Zero ecosystem, has a median deal size of $2.38mn.

(Source: Tech Nation, PitchBook, 2021)

The United States tops the charts for Global Net Zero investment

Global Net Zero
Country2021 VC

1United States20.8
4United Kingdom1.57

(Source: Tech Nation, Pitchbook, 2021)

The United States and China have been the largest investors over the past few years, however the makeup of the 2 ecosystems is quite different. China favours larger sized deals and investing in a similar level of companies per annum as the other top 10. The United States on the other hand has an equal median investment to the other top 10 however the deal count is significantly higher. 

The United Kingdom and Sweden have shared 3rd and 4th place in 2019, 2020 and 2021. Sweden held 3rd in 2019 and 2021 and the United Kingdom moved up in 2020 due to an influx of early stage VC investment. 


Investment and emissions

Sweden outperformed every other Net Zero nation, investing over 10x the amount per tonne of CO2 emitted

(Source: Tech Nation, PitchBook, 2021 & The World Bank, 2021)

Using total CO2 emissions data gathered by the World Bank we were also able to calculate a ratio of Investment per tonne of CO2 emitted in each country. Here Sweden radically outperformed investing over 10x the amount per tonne of CO2 emitted than any other nation. 

In order for the UK to deliver on it’s Net Zero commitments and make a meaningful contribution to this global problem we must build and support Net Zero Scaleups. The government has put in place a ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, which promises more investment into the UK’s Net Zero tech companies. Tech Nation celebrates this plan, and calls for investment levels in Net Zero companies to be increased tenfold by 2025. This would equate to an additional $15bn invested by 2025 - 15% of the $100bn climate finance yearly target (a COP26 goal). Tech Nation believes half of this $15bn should come from VCs accelerating the growth of promising Net Zero scaleups and technologies, and the rest from other PE firms.


Jamie Rowles, Head of Investments

Sky Ocean Investments

“Whilst the data for the “sector” is showing great momentum, the reality is that we are below the rate of innovation required to reach Net Zero. We are talking about a wholesale re-tooling of the economy and the opportunities for innovation are an enormous search space for an entrepreneur. The great news is that there is a known problem and outcome required – how we get there is where entrepreneurs can thrive.

With a world-class academic bedrock, an enlightened consumer base, compounding environmental media narrative and a pro-innovation governmental agenda provide a fertile ground for climate innovation in the UK. ”


Global Spotlights 

The United States

The United States drives forward with its Net Zero strategy and is the leading investor into Net Zero tech companies, investing triple the amount of the second biggest investor, China. Despite a drop in the number of deals, this year the United States has continued to see an increase in total investment into the sector, rising from $14.9bn to $20.8bn. A quarter of total investment in 2021, $5.2bn, was invested into Rivian, an eco-friendly autonomous car manufacturer.

(Source: Tech Nation, PitchBook, 2021)


China’s investment is slowly climbing after the dramatic decrease between 2018 & 2019 (a fall of $5.6bn). The median size of investment was not impacted in this period and after the spike in 2017 it has remained consistently high, staying above $15.5mn. The data for 2021 supports this with 13.6% of investments being greater than or equal to $100mn. For that reason if China is to compete with the United States, then it must also increase the number of deals.

(Source: Tech Nation, PitchBook, 2021)


Sweden’s investment has skyrocketed this year, investing $1bn more this year than the combined total between 2011 and 2020 ($2.55bn compared with $3.55bn this year). This can be attributed to Sweden’s new climate innovation strategy. This promises to invest SEK 100 million per year towards climate strategies, and technological innovations in energy intensive industries - it’s clearly working. 

(Source: Tech Nation, PitchBook, 2021)


Canada’s approach to Net Zero scaleups saw a step change in 2019 where investment rose from $241mn in 2018 to $832mn in 2019. Since then investment has remained high, dipping slightly in 2020 to $685mn and then rising back up to $812mn in 2021. 

(Source: Tech Nation, PitchBook, 2021)


After investment peaking in 2019 at $882mn and 119 deals it has steadily decreased, with 2021 equating to 68% of the 2019 high. The story of investment per emission is another unhappy one, with India being the worst performing of the 10 countries we analysed. If India is to become Net Zero it needs to leverage its thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem and focus more deeply on Net Zero scaleups. 

(Source: Tech Nation, PitchBook, 2021)


Alongside Sweden, Germany has successfully implemented an effective climate change strategy. The benefits of this were immediately felt in 2020 where investment increased by $1.04bn to $1.42bn and this year, investment remains high at $1.0bn.

(Source: Tech Nation, PitchBook, 2021)


In France the deal count has steadily been falling from a 2016 high of 104 deals. This year though the deal count has plummeted to only 51 deals. Thankfully investment volume does not mirror this and rose to a staggering $572mn. The company receiving the largest chunk of this was Verkor, a low carbon battery producer and provider who are partnered with Renault; $120mn was invested earlier this year.  

(Source: Tech Nation, PitchBook, 2021)


Moving from an insignificant 4 deals and $5mn invested in 2011, Australia has transformed its Net Zero scaleup sector. This year they boast 36 deals and $289mn investment. Similar to the United States, Sweden and France, the deal count is down and investment is up, and like these countries it is because of larger, later stage investments. For Australia this was a $100mn Series C investment into Brighte, a company who facilitate sustainable home energy projects by providing affordable finance to homeowners. 

(Source: Tech Nation, PitchBook, 2021)

The Netherlands

With the Netherlands’ aggressive goal of reducing emissions by 49% by 2030, and to 95% by 2050 (Government of the Netherlands, 2020), investment is on the rise - doubling between 2019 and 2020 and tripling between 2020 and 2021. Its lowest in the top 10 for cumulative investment but the country isn’t short of large investment rounds. In fact this year their median investment was second highest globally at $6.3mn.

(Source: Tech Nation, PitchBook, 2021)


Global distribution

Europe and the US are hotspots of global Net Zero activity

Explore the map below to see the startups and scaleups leading the charge towards Net Zero.

(Source: Tech Nation, Dealroom, 2021)




Dealroom data deals with venture capital investment and excludes debt, lending capital, grants, ICOs and other non-equity. Secondary rounds, buyouts, M&A and IPOs are also excluded. The data excludes biotech. Including biotech, the UK and European investment data would make it much higher. Dealroom’s proprietary database and software aggregate data from multiple sources, including news flow aggregation and processing, web scraping and manual research. Data is verified and curated with an extensive manual process, augmented by data processing. To capture the data collected we filtered companies which were tagged under the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals related to Net Zero: climate action (#13); affordable and clean energy (#7); and responsible consumption and production (#12). 


Pitchbook data was used to analyse international Net Zero companies. Pitchbook is a data and financial software company. They collect data using over 650,000 web crawlers capturing relevant information from news articles, regulatory findings, press releases, websites and other sources. They use natural language processing to filter out all irrelevant data while having a Quality Assurance team manually review the data and a research team, which validates the data with the source to capture all the companies within the Net Zero sector.

Tech Nation Proprietary Data

Tech Nation proprietary data looks at the application forms completed to join our growth programmes. The data is provided by the applicant applying to our Net Zero programme, of which we received 137 applications.