Cement industry Open Challenge targets low-carbon start-ups

By Dominic Ellis
Innovandi Open Challenge covers carbon capture technologies, calcination technologies, carbon use in the construction supply chain and concrete recycling

The Global Cement and Concrete Association (GCCA) has launched the Innovandi Open Challengea global programme which aims to unite tech start-ups and the cement and concrete industry to accelerate the development of low-carbon technologies.

Start-ups can pitch solutions to key industry challenges that require advanced technology, support, and investment and which will have a significant impact on the climate footprint of cement and concrete. It is estimated the cement industry contributes 7% of all CO2 emissions worldwide.

The challenge areas include carbon capture technologies, calcination technologies - for heating materials during the concrete manufacturing process - carbon use in the construction supply chain and improved recycling of concrete.

The industry’s decarbonising mission is vital because the world will need concrete to meet the challenges it faces, including providing safe homes, cities, and a sustainable built environment. Population growth and urbanisation will also mean a greater requirement for critical infrastructure to support resilient communities around the world as well as the global shift to clean and renewable energy such as wind and hydropower.

Dinah McLeod, GCCA Chief Executive said concrete is the most widely used, material on the planet, after water and its members have committed to drive down the CO2 footprint of the industry’s operations and products, and to deliver on our ambition of carbon neutral concrete by 2050.

"However, this ambitious goal will require significant and complex changes in how we manufacture, use and recycle concrete," said McLeod. "Innovation will be crucial at every stage, from new cement and concrete chemistries to kiln technologies, clinker production, and carbon capture. This Open Challenge will help ensure we are bringing the creativity of the best minds from outside the industry to tackle the climate emergency.”

GCCA and the leading cement and concrete companies it represents have committed to use their resources to help start-ups bring innovation from the pilot stage to commercialisation as part of their work towards realising the industry’s global climate ambition to provide carbon-neutral concrete by 2050.

GCCA is working with Techstarsthe worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed, to source start-ups for the challenge. After the initial sourcing phase, experts from GCCA member companies will partner directly with selected start-ups to develop their technologies, utilising their network, world-class expertise, and facilities as well as potential investment to bring them closer to commercialisation and helping the sector to decarbonise.

Claude Loréa, GCCA Cement Director and innovation lead called on start-ups, researchers and innovators globally to work with them to address the most challenging areas in decarbonising concrete and cement. "With the help of Techstars, we’re looking forward to matching outside innovation with industry expertise, which we hope can accelerate the sustainable transformation of the industry. From carbon capture and storage pilots to using CO2 to produce new construction materials, this is a chance to be at the forefront of these innovations which will help the industry to build on its achievement of reducing CO2 emissions by 19% per tonne over the last 30 years."

Selected start-ups will have potential to access to a global cement and concrete market worth $333 billion and a global construction market that is projected to grow to $15.5 trillion worldwide by 2030.

The challenge will be run by the GCCA innovation programme, Innovandi. Launched in 2019, Innovandi also leads the Global Cement and Concrete Research Network, which drives and supports innovation in the cement sector by executing pre-competitive research to improve sustainability and particularly lower CO2 footprint of cement and concrete.

The network includes 40 leading global scientific and academic institutions as well as 30 industry partners, from equipment suppliers to admixture producers and academics, working together to produce pre-competitive research aimed at improving sustainability.

Low-carbon industry updates

  • HS2 has signed an agreement with the UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC) to identify key areas for collaboration on low carbon concrete, such as alternative reinforcement methods, reducing embedded carbon in production, and re-use of materials.
  • Cemex Panamá announced it will be producing its first low-carbon cement as part of its Cementos Vertua general-purpose cement product range.
  • Geocycle Canada and Lafarge Canada’s Richmond Cement Plant recently reached a long-term partnership agreement to co-process biosolids (an organic matter recycled from sewage), produced by CRD from treated wastewater, as an alternative to non-renewable energy sources (click here).
  • Cemex and bp are working together to accelerate the former’s ambition to deliver net zero CO2 concrete globally by 2050.

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