Skip to main content

PGC, L3C can be blamed for being mercifully repetitious: the cement sector is one of the highest emitters of CO2, responsible for roughly 6-8% of human-made emissions.1 Cement is the “glue” that holds together concrete, the second most used material resource after water.2 Cement’s inherent CO2 emissions, regionally dependent production, and low market price make it difficult to take on the added cost of decarbonizing production. Traditional cement production is CO2 intensive because kilns used to make cement require intense (1300-1450℃) heat, often supplied by fossil fuels.2  This heat drives a chemical reaction that converts limestone to clinker. This conversion also emits CO2 as a byproduct, roughly 60% of the total emissions from cement production.3

One sustainable cement startup, Cemvision, takes a materials based approach and “explores using alternative binders” other than limestone to avoid the chemical reaction of traditional Portland cement. They instead use industrial waste like slag from steelmaking and other by products from mining, claiming that this combined with a renewable electricity-powered kiln emits 80-100% less CO2 than traditional cement.4 The wide range is due to the various types of cement they produce depending on the intended final use. Cemvision’s efforts seem to have garnered some belief in the form of €10 million seed funding from Swedish BackingMinds venture capital, infrastructure investor Polar Structure, and Zacua Ventures in California.5 BackingMinds founding partner, Susanne Najafi stated that their conviction is based on the impressive market response to Cemvision’s product, which she claims responds well to the increasing environmental and regulatory pressures of an industry worth several hundred billion dollars.5

  ​Another major challenge in decarbonizing the cement industry is that the demand for the material and the amortization investment equation push companies toward large-scale, 24/7 production. Industrial-scale cement production facilities require tens of millions of dollars in CapEx to build. Another startup based on a mechanical solve, Furno Materials, aims to sidestep this pressure by mass-producing small, modular, vertical kilns that can fit right into construction sites, claiming that their kilns can reduce emissions from fossil fuels by at least 70%.6 They state that they achieve this due to the reduction of heat loss due to turning the kilns vertically.  Additionally machine learning combustion formulae that monitor and control the position of the flame inside the kiln by altering fuel and oxygen delivery also contribute to the abatement. Furno also claims they have a clear path toward using recycled concrete as raw material in their kilns due to this tunability, which can further reduce emissions.

By keeping the materials and chemical reaction the same, Furno may also have an advantage in catering to the unmoving material regulations of construction, which have been demanding roughly the same cement for many years. A $6.5 million seed round led by Energy Capital Ventures followed by Cantos, Neotribe, and O’Shaughnessy Ventures shows some conviction in this project and its feasibility in the market.7 According to Sightline’s 2023 Climate Tech VC report, Industry was the only climate tech sector that had grown, while publicly reported investments in the rest of climate tech were said to have declined 30% from 2022.8 Recently, climate tech VC investment activity seems to have remained mostly quiet–but Furno, Cemvision, and the year-on-year numbers show that industrial decarbonization innovations with potential to compete at scale will find support regardless of hurdles.

(1)  Making Concrete Change: Innovation in Low-carbon Cement and Concrete | Chatham House – International Affairs Think Tank. (accessed 2024-04-11).

(2)  Gagg, C. R. Cement and Concrete as an Engineering Material: An Historic Appraisal and Case Study Analysis. Eng. Fail. Anal. 2014, 40, 114–140.

(3)  3 – Air Hardening Binding Materials. In Building Materials in Civil Engineering; Zhang, H., Ed.; Woodhead Publishing Series in Civil and Structural Engineering; Woodhead Publishing, 2011; pp 29–423.

(4)  Our tech – Cemvision Re-ment. (accessed 2024-04-11).

(5)  Segal, M. Green Cement Startup Cemvision Raises €10 Million. ESG Today. (accessed 2024-04-11).

(6)  Furno Materials – Transforming the second most used commodity in the world. (accessed 2024-04-11).

(7)  Chant, T. D. Furno bets that super-efficient, modular kilns will turn the cement industry upside down. TechCrunch. (accessed 2024-03-14).

(8)  🌏 $32bn and 30% drop as market hits pause in 2023. CTVC by Sightline Climate. (accessed 2024-04-11).