Challenge: Making a concrete impact on the world's largest commodity industry
Solution: Developing a technology that is good for the environment and the bottom line
CarbonCure Technologies Inc. has brought a breath of fresh air – and much more – to the ready mix concrete market.
The Dartmouth-based company retrofits concrete plants with a technology that recycles waste carbon dioxide (CO2) to make a stronger, greener product. In addition, there are cost savings: with the use of carbon dioxide, less cement is needed to achieve a desired strength, and cement is the most expensive ingredient in concrete.
“Several companies have early-stage technologies that convert CO2 emissions into products, but in terms of companies that are actually commercialized, we are really the only game in town. We are by far the most advanced in the world in this space,” says Jennifer Wagner, the Dartmouth-based company’s executive vice president of corporate development.
Technologies that recycle CO2 to make products are known as carbon dioxide utilization technologies, and the industry is growing worldwide, which is a reflection in part of increasing government regulations that often demand companies reduce their carbon footprint. By 2030, technologies that use carbon dioxide to make products are expected to create new markets worth $1.1 trillion and reduce global greenhouse gases by up to 15%.
The concrete industry is the largest commodity industry on earth. At present, CarbonCure has nearly 100 customers in North America. “There are more than 100,000 potential customers globally, so we are just scratching the surface,” says Jennifer. The focus of the company is now on scaling the business and exploring export market opportunities.
The 10-year-old concrete innovator, which employs 30 employees and has a U.S. office in Irondale, Alabama, has also teamed up with leading scientists, engineers and business leaders in the $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE challenge to demonstrate that its CO2-utilization technology can help solve climate change. The competition, which has 10 teams from five countries, challenges the world to reimagine what can be done with CO2 emissions by offering incentives – including a total prize purse of $20 million – toward the development of technologies that convert those carbon emissions into valuable products like plastics, fuels, chemicals or concrete.
For new companies looking to make their mark in the marketplace with new technologies, new ideas and new approaches, Jennifer recommends looking for a helping hand to get started. “In the early days, take advantage the vast number of government funding support programs,” she says. “Without these programs, there would be no CarbonCure.”
Turning to potential clients for helpful insight is also essential. “You can’t develop a technology in the dark,” stresses Jennifer. “The technology, business model and value proposition all look different today, compared to where we started 10 years ago; you need to listen and adapt to your customers.”
UPDATES – In January 2020, CarbonCure was named North American Cleantech Company of the Year by San Francisco-based Cleantech Group. This is the first time a Canadian company has won the prestigious award from the group that provides research, consulting and events to boost sustainable growth powered by innovation. Read more in the February 5, 2020 edition of Huddle.
On May 17, 2019, CarbonCure announced that they secured a major contract with the Hawaii Department of Transportation who is keen to explore sustainable building practices. Read the news release here (English only): https://www.carboncure.com/news-press/hawaii-department-of-transportation
Partnerships focused on driving innovation and the development of new technologies, such as the one with the Government of Canada, play a key role in CarbonCure’s continued growth. Recent investments totalling $2 million through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) have assisted CarbonCure to undertake product development as well as accelerate various marketing activities.
CarbonCure Technologies is a prime example of how innovation and resourcefulness fuel Atlantic Canada’s economy, at home and beyond.
Do you have a business concept—or an innovative idea to improve or grow your business? For more information on programs and services available to businesses in Atlantic Canada, call 1-800-561-7862 or go to canada.ca/acoa