Whilst the UK remains the dominant country outside the US for fintech investment (nearly £10 billion raised this year), it is also becoming a leading hub for impact tech – companies creating technological solutions to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals. There are nearly 1,200 impact tech companies in the UK that have raised £3.12 billion in funding this year, ahead of last year’s record £3 billion.
Green energy receives the bulk of investment, such as Newcleo, a startup that is developing technology to enable safe uranium recycling (£258 million). Scaleups tackling healthcare inequality, such as Cera which bring technological innovation into social care raised £263m, while GrowUp Farms, a vertical farming company that uses technology to grow food more sustainably raised £100 million. The steady influx of investment into impact tech means the sector now employs more than 53,500 people, up from 37,500 last year.
Digital minister Paul Scully said: “UK tech has remained resilient in the face of global challenges and we have ended the year as one of the world’s leading destinations for digital businesses. This is good news and reflects our pro-innovation approach to tech regulation, continuing support for start-ups, and ambition to boost people’s digital skills.”
Increasing Research & Development in Indoor farming
A number of projects have been raised this year, promoting research and development in the indoor farming sector and contributing to the country’s place as a leading impact tech hub.
- Vertegrow Ltd., Light Science Technologies Ltd., RheEnergise Limited, the James Hutton Institute, LettUs Grow Ltd., IGS Limited, and Sprung Structures Ltd. are members of the V-FAST collaboration (through a UK supplier). A partnership agreement between the partner businesses outlines their intent to investigate the possibility of locating and later erecting collaborative projects that integrate vertical farming, renewable energy production, and High-Density Hydro® energy storage. Vertical Farms and Storage Technologies is referred known as V-FAST. Each of the new V-FAST vertical farms would produce food of a higher caliber at a cheaper cost than a normal indoor farm that uses electricity from the local grid could.
- Warwick University opened a £1.5 million facility called the Elizabeth Creak Horticultural Technology Centre (ECHTC), which also houses The Jim Brewster Laboratory, which will utilize methods like gene-editing to enhance vegetable production. The research will help with the major global concerns of addressing climate change and feeding the world’s expanding population by addressing issues pertaining to disease resistance, crop productivity, adaptability to climate change, and nutritional value in horticulture plants.
- IGS tree seedling trial. In the first UK trials of their kind, tree seedlings are being grown six times faster in a vertical farm compared to traditional outdoor sowing. Growing 40-50cm tall in just 90 days – something that in a field would take up to 18 months – the tree trials could potentially transform the forestry sector and help the UK to meet its net zero targets faster. Vertical farms are more commonly associated with growing herbs, leafy greens and vegetables but these trials have proved that there is no barrier to successfully growing tree seedlings. The trials are being run by Forestry & Land Scotland (FLS) in partnership with precision indoor growing technology specialist, Intelligent Growth Solutions (IGS). FLS has already completed five growing trials at the IGS Crop Research Centre, based at the James Hutton Institute in Invergowrie, just outside Dundee.
Image provided by Light Science Technologies