Building the future – Urban Tech

Urbanization is accelerating. By 2050 it is expected that 70% of the global population will live in cities. This will create additional strain on the infrastructure, natural resources, and housing in our cities, which already account for 2/3 of all energy consumption, and 60% of Green House Gas emissions.

In partnership with 2150, we’ve explored the Urban tech startup ecosystem working to make our cities more sustainable, resilient and efficient.

The battle for climate change will be won or lost depending on how well we innovate within our cities and urban environments.

“Ground-breaking innovation is needed in cities, where the battle for sustainable development will be won or lost”

United Nations

Report - Building the future: Urban Tech

What is Urban Tech?

Urban tech is technology that improves the broad urban environments to make them more sustainable, resilient and efficient. Although governments and regulation may be involved, urban tech primarily targets the private sector, selling to businesses and consumers directly. 

Cities are booming, and so is sustainable urban tech

Investment in urban tech has grown from €5B to €23B over the last five years. 

Urban tech funding

Urban tech startups have raised a record €23B so far in 2021, up 4.4x since 2016. Heavy industry giants are getting into the game, such as Cemex and Vale who became active urban tech investors. More investment across all urban tech sectors is required to hit net-zero targets and improve life in cities.

Materials and infrastructure is the fastest-growing segment for unicorns

75 sustainable urban tech unicorns have been built to date, mainly within clean energy or mobility.

Urban tech unicorns

However, six sustainable infrastructure & materials companies became unicorns in 2021 alone, growing at a rapid pace. This is important as more than 15% of emissions come from the materials and infrastructure sectors. These unicorns are needed now to drive the scale required across additional urban tech sectors, driving further innovation and lowering emissions.

High emission sectors are highly underfunded startup segments

Heating, cooling, concrete, steel and alternative material startups are all underfunded. Concrete alone is responsible for 8% of global emissions, and buildings take up a large portion at 36%. By channeling dollars into these high emitting sectors we can bend the emissions curve more steeply. Record investment into concrete and cement in 2021 year to date shows how this can move quickly. Action is underway , but efforts still have a long way to go. 

Cement startup investment

Report - Building the future: Urban Tech