Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the $1 billion energy innovation fund spearheaded by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, has revealed seven more companies in which it’s investing, including startups that aim to build fusion reactors, produce biofuels with microbes, and pull drinking water out of the air affordably.
In addition to Gates, contributors to the fund include Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, the Virgin Group’s Richard Branson, Alibaba’s Jack Ma and SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son.
The first two companies in the fund’s portfolio — Form Energy and Quidnet Energy, both focusing on power storage — came to light in June in a report published by the Quartz news website. Today Quartz has the first word about the next seven companies. Here’s the list:
- CarbonCure, focusing on a technology to inject recycled carbon dioxide into concrete to increase its strength (and reduce the concrete industry’s carbon footprint).
- Commonwealth Fusion Systems, an MIT spinout that’s working on an unorthodox type of fusion reactor that makes use of high-temperature superconductors.
- DMC Biotechnologies, which genetically tailors microbes to produce high-value chemicals, including biofuels.
- Fervo Energy, making use of modern computational models and horizontal-drilling technology to develop low-cost approaches to geothermal power.
- Pivot Bio, offering a clean alternative to synthetic nitrogen fertilizer that can reduce chemical runoff and help eliminate the production of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas.
- QuantumScape, which is developing an all-solid-state battery well-suited for use in electric vehicles.
- Zero Mass Water, which sells solar-powered “hydropanel” devices that extract drinkable water from the atmosphere.
Breakthrough Energy Ventures says all seven companies satisfied its eligibility requirement: to showcase a scientifically sound technology that has the potential to bring about a reduction of 500 million metric tons in annual global greenhouse-gas emissions, which currently amount to about 40 billion metric tons.
Quartz reports that the companies are receiving levels of funding ranging from $200,000 to $20 million, but the precise amounts for each company are not being publicized.
The grants are meant to give a boost to carbon-reducing startups by means of the money as well as the extra attention that comes with it.
For example, this month the U.S. Department of Energy’s ARPA-E program awarded $3.95 million to Form Energy and $3.3 million to Quidnet Energy as part of a $28 million effort to boost next-generation energy storage technologies. (For what it’s worth, Gates says ARPA-E might well be his “favorite obscure government agency.”)
In addition to the nine companies revealed so far, there are other ventures that are receiving funding from Breakthrough Energy Ventures but have not yet been identified, Quartz said. So stay tuned for more from the energy frontier.