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Calculating Climate-KIC's carbon impact

Robert Williamson is studying for a Carbon Management Masters at the University of Edinburgh – a course taught at ECCI. We tasked him and Eduardo Rosales, studying for a PhD in Energy Systems at the university, with auditing the carbon impact of the start-ups we’re supporting through our Climate-KIC Greenhouse and Accelerator programmes. Here, Robert blogs for ECCI about what they found.

Earlier this year, Eduardo and I were tasked with providing carbon and life-cycle analyses for 19 start-ups involved in the Climate-KIC Greenhouse and Accelerator programmes at ECCI. What we found – and the people we were fortunate enough to meet – has been truly inspirational. Beyond any one product, service, company or person, we gained insight into how Climate-KIC is harnessing the amazing talent and enthusiasm of Scotland’s entrepreneurial community towards a sustainable future.

Through direct consultation with all businesses, we quantified the whole-life environmental impacts of each product or service across manufacturing, use, and eventual end-of-life disposal and recycling. After modelling and evaluating each product’s individual characteristics, every company involved can now usefully compare their own product with the ‘business as usual’, unsustainable alternative that it would replace.

We found that, across all four Climate-KIC programmes, a total of 733tCO2e could be mitigated if just one product from each company was used. Based on reasonable production runs, Climate-KIC can conservatively expect to have supported a 114ktCO2e improvement in emissions across the 19 companies.

These benefits are spread across three principle recurring factors:

(1) Reductions in product energy/feedstock use through efficient design principles

(2) Incorporation of innovative low-embodied-energy materials in production

(3) Greatly improved recyclability and composting at the product end-of-life phase

These savings were largely concentrated across the commercial-scale product applications seen particularly in the Accelerator 2 and 3 programmes, and generally occurred evenly across all phases of the product lifecycle.

The total programme savings for one product per company are equivalent to mitigating emissions the weight of 136 male Asian elephants, 4,800 pairs of carbon auditing interns (!) - or avoiding the emissions produced by generating 2,589MWh of UK-grid electricity.

I’ve read a lot of academic documents about the sociotechnical system – how technologies and products exist in a delicate balance with society, both shaping and shaped by their users. Seeing this in real life through the auditing process, and seeing the talent and commitment of the Climate-KIC start-ups behind these revolutionary business ideas, has been an inspiring experience.

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