A new accelerator focused on clean air technologies is seeking 10 startups to receive mentoring and guidance from experienced startup founders and investors, and deep domain input from scientific and industry experts.
The Clean Air Accelerator is a not-for-profit initiative that will support the development and implementation of technologies that can “provide clean air to the world”. It will focus on high-impact solutions in the areas of air monitoring, filtration, HVAC, far-UVC, masks and respirators, data, certification and compliance, and awareness and education. Support is also available for “wildcard” proposals outside these areas.
A paradigm shift in public health
Program director Colin Kinner says the accelerator not only provides a response to COVID-19 – now the third-leading cause of death in Australia – but also seeks to fundamentally change our approach to indoor air.
“It’s become clear that we need to bring in a new paradigm of clean indoor air to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and also other airborne diseases,” he says. “I’m convinced that in the near future it’ll be unthinkable for people to breathe air contaminated by viruses. Breathing clean, safe air will be considered an essential human right in the same way as we expect to drink clean, safe water.”
Kinner notes that many of the tools required to deliver clean air already exist.
“We know how to achieve good ventilation, measure CO2 levels, filter virus particles using HEPA filters and so on,” he says. “But many of these tools pre-date COVID-19 and are far from perfect for the task of reducing airborne virus transmission. There are also a lot of opportunities to use emerging technologies such as far-UVC light to sterilise the air, and even indoor air sampling to detect virus particles in real time and alert people if there’s a risk of getting infected.”
During 20 years of running startup incubators and accelerators, Kinner says he has seen how effectively these initiatives can turn ideas and prototypes into successful businesses. And he believes the Australian HVAC&R industry stands to benefit enormously by being at the forefront of development and commercialisation of clean-air technologies.
“We can think of it in similar terms to the advent of the internet in the 1980s,” he says. “The internet revolutionised the way we communicate and do business, and it enabled the creation of companies that would grow to be worth trillions of dollars. Australia has an opportunity to be a pioneer in spawning high-growth companies that will become global names in protecting people from airborne diseases.”
During the pandemic, a major issue has been the appearance in the market of solutions that may not have been tested with sufficient rigour. At the same time, this has created barriers to entry for smaller innovators who cannot afford the level of independent verification required.
“Testing and validation are essential,” says Kinner. “One of the important roles of a startup accelerator is to help the companies access funding so that they can do the sorts of rigorous tests needed to get products into commercial use. A big part of the accelerator program will be helping the companies to connect with investors and raise their first funding rounds.
“Clean air is going to be a massive commercial opportunity globally, and I’m expecting there will be billions of dollars of investment in this space in the coming years.”
Although the accelerator is focused on startups, Kinner says there is also potential for established companies to participate with new offerings.
“Given the diversity of organisations working on clean air solutions, the accelerator will be open to a wide range of applicants – including startups, scale-ups and innovation teams within established companies,” he says.
“We’ll be giving preference to companies with new or proprietary technologies, that can move fast, that will benefit most from taking part in the program, and that can show a path to having near-term global impact.”
The Clean Air Accelerator is also seeking partner organisations who share a commitment to clean indoor air and can support the Accelerator’s mission.
Applications for the Accelerator are open now until June 2023. For more information, visit the Clean Air Accelerator website.