7 ClimateTech Startups Are Finalists Of The $500K Climate Launch Prize

7 ClimateTech Startups Are Finalists Of The $500K Climate Launch Prize - Carbon Herald

On Monday, April 22, 2024, the Wilkes Center for Climate Science & Policy announced the seven finalists for the $500,000 Wilkes Climate Launch Prize at the University of Utah. The Climate Launch Prize supports innovative ideas from organizations at all stages, both for-profits and nonprofits – anywhere in the world – to help fund and accelerate solutions to climate change.

The seven finalists are:

The finalists will present their solutions at the upcoming Wilkes Climate Summit on May 14 at the Eccles Alumni House at the University of Utah.

The Wilkes Climate Launch Prize is one of the largest university-affiliate climate awards in the world and is geared to spur innovation and breakthroughs. The prize is specifically calibrated to support unconventional or first-of-a-kind projects that often have difficulty getting funding.

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The finalists’ solutions will be evaluated by a team of expert judges for scalable impact, feasibility and potential for co-benefits for communities, economies or ecosystems. A single winner of the Climate Launch Prize will be announced in September 2024.

In 2023, the Wilkes Center awarded its $1.5 million inaugural prize to Lumen Bioscience. The Seattle-based biotech company beat 77 international teams with their proposal to drastically reduce methane emissions from dairy and beef cattle using a patented mixture of enzyme proteins.

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Capture6 is a water-positive carbon removal company that is leveraging its technology to support climate resilience and industrial decarbonization. The company develops and commercializes highly scalable approaches to remove CO2 from the atmosphere by repurposing existing industrial-scale equipment. The company’s unique approach puts carbon dioxide removal and direct air capture (DAC) at the center of industrial decarbonization, enabling immediately bankable projects and gigaton scale.

“Our mission is to advance affordable and scalable carbon dioxide removal (CDR) that both produces additional freshwater and improves ocean health – allowing us to deliver gigaton-scale carbon removal globally while improving local water security for drought-prone communities and counteracting ocean acidification. Capture6 has three global demonstration CDR projects that leverage technologies operating in large industries like desalination to catapult CDR delivery from 1,000 tCO2/year to >1 GtCO2/year by 2050.”

Climate Robotics

Climate Robotics is a startup of roboticists, soil scientists and AI researchers created in 2020, which aims to combine artificial intelligence and advanced robotics to help sequester carbon.

“Climate Robotics has developed a mobile biochar reactor for agricultural and wood waste with the potential to reduce the cost of carbon sequestration by over 10 times. Our tractor-mounted systems operate on farms or forestry operations, where agricultural/wood wastes are abundant. CR’s systems operate stationary, at the edge of field or continuously, in-field similar to a combine harvester. Our approach eliminates the need to transport bulky material (feedstock, biochar, etc.) over long distances. Our reactor design allows for precise control over pyrolysis conditions including temperature (700-1,000℃) and residence time to produce high quality, durable biochar at lowest cost.”

Octavia Carbon

Octavia Carbon is a Kenya-based startup that is set to become the first company outside the U.S. and Europe to deploy direct-air-capture (DAC) technology that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The company is leveraging Kenya’s vast untapped geothermal potential and low manufacturing base to scale and accelerate DAC down the cost curve.

“Octavia Carbon is the Global South’s first direct-air-capture company based in Nairobi, Kenya. We design, build and deploy machines that directly capture CO2 from the atmosphere using our proprietary DAC technology. We are capitalizing on Kenya’s geothermal resources, geology and highly skilled workforce to develop a low-cost geothermal integrated DAC while promoting socioeconomic growth in the region. To date, we have built seven at-scale DAC machines, with our latest model capable of capturing 10 tons of CO2 per year. We are developing a pilot DAC and storage plant, Project Hummingbird, to be deployed in Q4 this year. The plant will initially have the capacity to capture and securely store 1000 tCO2/yr. for 10 years. Our ultimate mission is to reverse the effects of climate change and end the fossil fuel age.”

Oscilla Power Inc.

Oscilla Power, Inc., based in Seattle, is developing an advanced wave energy converter to capture renewable energy from the world’s oceans. Oscilla has developed the Triton, a one-megawatt wave energy converter that would be installed in an array, similar to wind turbines but using far less area with almost zero visibility. The high efficiency wave energy capture system generates power using the relative motion of two bodies—the different motion between a floating hull and a suspended underwater ring. Oscilla Power was also a finalist for the 2023 Wilkes Climate Prize competition.

“Oscilla Power’s Triton system makes ocean wave energy a commercially attractive complement to solar and wind in many coastal locations worldwide including the U.S. West Coast, making near 100% renewables viable. The Triton overcomes the limitations that have prevented widespread ocean wave energy adoption—namely poor efficiency, low reliability, and low survivability under extreme waves. Through an innovative architecture and use of a novel hydraulic/electric drivetrain, the Triton can capture energy from ocean waves and convert this energy to electricity efficiently across the entire, wide range of wave conditions in a wide range of locations around the world.”

Swanson and Lidstrom Labs

The University of Utah’s own professor of chemistry, Dr. Jessica Swanson and Dr. Mary Lidstrom, professor emeritus of chemical engineering and microbiology at the University of Washington, Seattle, have teamed up to develop a process to harness methane-eating bacteria, known as methanotrophs, which naturally consume methane as their sole food source. Their proposed solution aims to bioengineer these methanotrophs to effectively pull methane from the air at low concentrations in next-generation bioreactors.

“Methane is increasingly recognized as an essential target to limit near-term warming and avoid catastrophic tipping points. We propose to fill a pivotal technology gap for point sources with concentrations in the 100-5000 ppm range, which currently contribute ~50% of U.S. anthropogenic emissions (14 MT/yr), by developing a nature-based bioreactor technology that converts methane waste streams into valuable products. By advancing the biotic/abiotic interface of the bioreactor, we can enhance the mass transfer and net efficiency to launch our technology from lab to pilot scale by 2026, enabling market-driven deployment and the potential removal of 2.4 GT/yr CO2eq by 2050.”

Taking Root

Taking Root is a startup based in Vancouver, B.C., that has developed a technology platform to accelerate forest restoration with smallholder farmers.

“Taking Root’s technology platform enables smallholder farmers in the tropics to restore native forests and remove carbon from the atmosphere. Our innovation connects farmers to the carbon market, so they get paid for growing trees. Historically, the cost and complexity of producing rigorous reporting across thousands of dispersed, small farms has created barriers for farmers to access carbon finance. Taking Root’s technology streamlines operations, requiring only a smartphone to support thousands of smallholders growing trees and accurately measure the carbon they remove from the atmosphere. As a result, 4,200 farmers are restoring 15,000 hectares of land, removing 4.3 million tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere. Taking Root’s solution is demonstrating a scalable model to remove carbon, restore nature, and improve the livelihoods of the world’s 475 million smallholder farmers.”


Verne (San Francisco) was founded with the mission of decarbonizing heavy-duty transportation, a sector that is responsible for 12% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Verne will build and test the first CcH2-powered Class 8 truck and a first-of-kind mobile refueler novel hydrogen storage solution that achieves maximum density, while reducing the densification cost relative to hydrogen liquefaction.

Verne’s CcH2 technology allows trucks to achieve diesel-equivalent range and payload, providing a viable zero-emission solution for heavy-duty trucking. Verne will build and test the first CcH2-powered Class 8 truck and a first-of-kind mobile refueler to demonstrate the performance benefits of CcH2 to truck fleets and manufacturers and other stakeholders.”

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