Race to combat urban air pollution begins as Breathable City startups are announced

In April we reported on the launch of  the Breathable Cities programme to find and assist startups working in the air quality field. And now, the search is over.

The organisers of Breathable Cities – Growth Studio and Impact on Urban Health – received more than 70 applications, which were narrowed down to 15 pitches, which took place in front of 12 judges, resulting in 10 startups being chosen.

The founders of GoRolloe making their pitch

The startups will be rewarded with an intense 14 week programme, the benefits of which include a non equity grant of £10,000 and a range of expert support modules which will fine tune business concepts and offer founder and investor readiness, growth marketing, bespoke workshops, pitching clinics and one-to-one coaching.

Paul Finch, Co-Founder of Growth Studio said: ‘This has been an incredible selection process. Given the devastating effect of urban air pollution, we designed Breathable Cities with a sharp sense of urgency in mind. We now have a world class cohort of air quality startups ready to accelerate positive impact against toxic air.’

Anna Garrod, Policy and Influencing Director at Impact on Urban Health, said: ‘Air pollution is the single greatest environmental threat to health. It causes tens of thousands of deaths every year in the UK and costs the economy billions of pounds. But it’s also a social justice issue. Time and time again, research shows that while everyone is affected, it’s those on lower incomes, from minoritised communities, children, or older people, who suffer the biggest burden from air pollution.’

The chosen startups are:

Applied Nanodetecters help people living with asthma predict when they might have an attack, helping them take preventative action to avoid attacks in the future. They do this by monitoring indoor air quality, understanding user behaviour (using AI and self-reporting) and building a picture about what behaviours like cooking, cleaning and opening windows are most likely to trigger an attack.

Enjoy The Air consolidates existing data on air pollution and visualises it in a way that helps governmental organisations make informed and real-world decisions. The Enjoy The Air platform has the ability to model the impact of various interventions, giving a quantifiable way for authorities to prioritise and calculate the return on investment from any given associated action.

GoRolloe creates air-purifying hardware solutions for the mobility sector. They use existing energy from moving vehicles to passively capture airborne pollutants primarily in urban environments. GoRolloe devices are low tech, low cost and use only biodegradable or reusable filters to ensure a circular life cycle.

Hubl has created a new, innovative way for “last-leg” logistics companies to store and deliver cold-produce into cities.. Small individual cooler pods are fitted within delivery vehicles, keeping perishable food refrigerated without the need for emission-heavy ‘chiller units’ (which are big emitters of NOx and PM10). Smaller cooling units reduce the need to keep an entire truck refrigerated, lowering both emissions and cost.

Kleanbus retrofits diesel buses with electric engines, reducing the fleet operator’s environmental impact as well as their running costs. Their ‘repower’ programme allows fleet operators to electrify public transport in the quickest, most financially viable and environmentally friendly way. Kleanbus technology breathes new life into 5 to 10 year old buses, making them both cleaner and quieter for public travel.

Persium is an air quality specialist technology business providing expert services in air pollution monitoring, modelling, source apportionment and data provision. Their solution is a complete, interconnected hardware and software solution for obtaining and analysing air quality data. They have developed highly accurate and advanced mobile sensors that can differentiate up to 12 major pollutants and identify the shape of particulates (for more accurate classification) as well as a range of weather parameters.

Pluvo. Designed for targeted placement at air pollution hotspots, Pluvo Columns draw in polluted air and pump out purified air. Their unique system innovative three stage scrubbing process that eliminates harmful airborne Particulate Matter (such as dirt and soot), targeted gases (such as Nitrous Oxides), and viruses (including Covid-19). Each Pluvo Column has a built in air quality monitoring system, wirelessly sending real-time data about its own performance and the local air quality.

The Tyre Collective Tyre wear is the second-largest source of particulate air pollution and the added battery weight and torque from electric vehicles means this problem is only going to get worse. The Tyre Collective spearheads the capture and monitoring of tyre wear, accelerating the shift towards zero-emission mobility. The business creates retro-fittable devices for last-minute-mile vans, buses and trucks to capture polluting tyre wear. The captured material can then be valorised and sold on.

Zev City help people book emission-free taxis and transport for which Zev earn a booking commission. Passengers are allocated a token every time they book through the platform. All profits from this commission are invested into localised renewable energy projects (such as solar, wind, river- energy projects) through which the token holders then own a share. As more people ride with Zev City, the more renewable projects they can fund – and part own.

Climate Maps use public multispectral satellite data to plot out the levels of NOx, SOx, Methane, Benzine and particulate matter in cities. Without this accurate data, Climate Maps believe governments and corporations are under-reporting their emissions, and contributors to emissions are not being identified. Their technology is highly accurate (10m spatial resolution) and can show historical data up to 6 years into the past. They can also overlay multiple data sets to showcase how pollution has correlated to other lifestyle factors (health, wealth, life expectancy).

Photo: Richard Cannon


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