Young entrepreneur’s sustainable cement start-up raises $3.4m

Material Evolution has secured a total of $3.4m, comprising $1.7m in seed investment and $1.7m in grant funding, to help make the cement industry more sustainable.

The company was founded in 2017 by Queen’s University Belfast graduate Dr Elizabeth Gilligan. It is now based in Teesside in the UK, where its team works on developing a sustainable alternative to commonly used cement using geopolymers.

The start-up’s oversubscribed funding round was led by London-based Playfair Capital, with participation from At One Ventures, The Heritage Group and SkyRiver Ventures. Investors from the construction industry including the Applebridge Construction Group and Milestone Construction also took part.

The grant award came from Innovate UK, which is part of UK Research and Innovation, and its Transforming Foundation Industries Challenge.

The investment will allow Material Evolution to scale up production and continue developing its product. It has already developed a material that is made from 95pc industrial waste, and which it says reduces the carbon consumption of concrete by 85pc when compared to traditional ordinary Portland cement.

The company uses AI and machine learning to ensure that its batch quality is consistent and has a waiting list for its product.

“Concrete is the second most used material in the world after water, and cement equates to about 8pc of our global CO2 emissions. We need to build much more sustainably if we are to meet our ambitious net-zero goals,” said Gilligan.

“We were delighted to have a heavily oversubscribed funding round and investors on board who share our vision and our passion to decarbonise the foundation industries through advanced materials.”

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Gilligan, a who holds a PhD in architecture from Queen’s, was featured on the Forbes 30 under 30 list this year for manufacturing and industry.

In 2019, she was one of 12 finalists in Catalyst’s annual Invent competition that showcases Northern Ireland’s best innovators.

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