Just 10 days ago in Glasgow, Scotland, political leaders from around the world wrapped up a United Nations climate conference intended to chart a course toward a low-carbon future. The goal: saving Earth from carbon dioxide–driven destruction.
Critics say the big nations in attendance didn’t commit enough to meeting the goal—that they are willing to trade the long-term health of the planet for short-term economic growth. But what if technologies that are good for the planet, and its citizens, can also bring economic growth?
Such world-improving innovation, powered by chemistry, is at the core of each of the young companies profiled in C&EN’s 10 Start-Ups to Watch for 2021. C-Zero, for example, can create hydrogen and capture the carbon by-product as a solid rather than as a gas that heats the atmosphere. Factorial Energy is developing batteries that will send electric cars long distances without catching fire. Sudoc is rolling out cleaning products certified to not cause endocrine disruption.
Venture capitalists—not people inclined to throw money at do-gooders—seem to agree that these companies show business promise. Over the past year, investors have put millions of dollars into most of them.