Deep tech company Materials Nexus has raised £2 million to roll out its ground-breaking AI and quantum mechanics technology which fast-tracks the discovery and development of sustainable, cheaper, higher performing materials.
The round was led by Ada Ventures, with further investment from High-Tech Gründerfonds, The University of Cambridge, National Security specialists MD One Ventures, as well as new institutional investor Michael Eisenberg at Genuine Capital Ventures, and angel investors Jasmin Thomas, Andrew MacKay and Hugh Smith. Existing investors include Carbon13, G-force, Katapult and ET Capital.
The ambitious UK-based start-up is determined to enhance a wide range of net-zero technologies such as renewable energy generation, energy storage and electric transportation by redesigning the advanced materials that underpin them, providing higher efficiency, performance and sustainability and lower costs.
Currently, the development of sustainable materials is based on an incremental experimental approach, which is slow, costly and can have diminishing returns.
Materials Nexus is led by founder and CEO Jonathan Bean, a theoretical physicist from the University of Cambridge who, during his time as research associate, identified the need for a modelling platform to accelerate the uptake of new materials to address the climate crisis.
Over the last two years, Bean and his team – which includes computational physicist Robert Forrest, chemist Dr. Jon Pillow and commercial lead Nic Stirk – have been working on an AI solution that greatly reduces the need to conduct physical experiments to discover new materials.
They have achieved this by building their own proprietary datasets and machine learning algorithms which are capable of predicting the properties of new material compositions – similar to how AI innovation has been used to disrupt R&D in drug discovery. Accelerated discovery means the costs associated with research and development are lower and new products can be pushed to market more quickly and economically.
“As a society, we rely heavily on advanced materials to build the technologies which are vital for a net-zero world. These include magnetic materials used for clean energy solutions like wind turbines and electric vehicles, and precious metals for producing green hydrogen. In the UK alone, there are almost 11,500 wind turbines and more than 810,000 fully electric cars on the roads. Globally, there are currently 314,000 turbines and an additional one million are needed to meet our energy needs. But the mining and processing of rare-earth materials to build them emits over eight million tonnes of CO2 plus other greenhouse gases in addition to using lots of water and toxic chemicals – and this will naturally increase as more of us switch over to green technologies. Our mission is simple – to discover more sustainable materials which governments and companies can use to build green technologies, in a way that’s commercially viable.”
Rather than ‘renting’ out its material design approach as a SaaS platform, Materials Nexus is already working with organisations, from SMEs to FTSE 100 businesses, to discover novel materials which can be filed for patent. These can be licensed to existing manufacturers, but the start-up primarily plans to build facilities to produce the materials and then sell them to large companies like original equipment manufacturers.
The company plans to use the new funding to embark on real-world projects to demonstrate the efficacy of its AI technologies. Applications include finding alternative materials used in batteries and semiconductors, which are ubiquitous in today’s world from mobile devices to solar cells. Another possible application is superconductors used in green technologies such as Maglev transport which currently relies on materials that need substantial cooling or high pressure.
Rupert Cruise, co-founder of Magway, a deep tech company providing innovative solutions for sustainable and efficient goods transportation, says:
“At Magway, we are developing a ground-breaking method of transporting goods that is not only highly sustainable but also incredibly efficient. However, to achieve our goals, we understand the importance of optimising materials usage. By leveraging cutting-edge Materials Nexus technology, we aim to develop superior materials that will not only enhance our sustainability credentials but also result in cost reductions, ultimately driving wider adoption of our game-changing technology."
Matt Penneycard, Co-founding Partner at Ada Ventures, says:
“Jonathan is a remarkable technical founder and company leader. He is the needle in the haystack that we VCs spend years searching for. Materials Nexus epitomises humans using technology for good, at potentially earth-altering scale. This type of investment is why we are in love with early-stage investing at Ada. The vision is boldness itself. The technology is unique and the team is world-class. Our strong bet is that Materials Nexus has the potential to play a very significant role in our fight against climate change and be the solution to the damaging addiction to rare earths and unique metal compounds we’ve built. All of us at Ada Ventures are thrilled to be able to play a small part in this amazingly exciting journey. It is with deep gratitude that we recognise our exceptional Ada Scout, Jasmin Thomas for finding and introducing Jonathan and his team to us.”