Microsoft unveils accelerator for startups that use technology to help the planet

Microsoft is looking for UK startups that are tackling environmental challenges to join its new accelerator programme, which has been launched in partnership with The Met Office and Social Tech Trust.

The AI for Environmental Sustainability Accelerator will help companies that have a product or solution idea that uses artificial intelligence to have a positive impact in one of six areas: Carbon, water, waste, ecosystems, climate equity and green skilling.

The startups that are chosen to join the four-month programme will receive Microsoft Azure cloud credits, advice from experts on AI, technology, commercial development and social impact, workshops, coaching from Microsoft, The Met Office and Social Tech Trust, networking opportunities and funding support to grow their business and help the planet.

There is no cost for startups taking part in the Accelerator; and Microsoft, The Met Office and Social Tech Trust will not take any equity in the businesses. The startups also retain all intellectual property rights. After the cohort ends, all the companies will remain part of the Microsoft for Startups/Global Social Entrepreneurship Programme community for a further eight months to continue their technical and sales enablement development. The alumni will also join Social Tech Trust’s portfolio, where they will receive ongoing support from the team and have access to a network of social tech alumni.

Clare Barclay, Chief Executive Officer at Microsoft UK, said: “The untapped potential of AI and machine learning can help solve some of the world’s most complex environmental challenges. However, technology on its own is not enough. We will only see progress when we collaborate with more organisations to unleash the power of technology and collectively mitigate the challenges our planet face.”

Edith Szendrodi, Head of Programmes for AI for Environmental Sustainability at Microsoft UK, added: “The AI for Environmental Sustainability Accelerator offers support, guidance and tools at the right time for small business owners so they can grow their companies and take their solutions to the next level.

“Partnerships involving technology will play a vital role in tackling the environmental challenges facing the planet, and Microsoft has launched tools such as the Emissions Impact Dashboard and Cloud for Sustainability to help others start their sustainability journeys. This new accelerator will ensure we are able to share our learnings and tools directly with some of the most exciting and impactful UK startups operating in the sustainability sector.”

Previous environmentally-focused startups that have been helped by Microsoft include ThermaFY, which develops real-time thermal analysis solutions; recycling business Recycleye, which has raised more than £4 million in funding and operates across Europe; and community engagement company Hello Lamp Post, which has grown from an eight-week project in Bristol to a platform deployed in cities on multiple continents.

Peter Hedley, Chief Technology Officer at Recycleye, said joining Microsoft’s accelerator was “one of the best things we did as young founders with a small company”.

“During the cohort we grew from two people to 25,” he added. “It helped us as founders to discuss problems, gain advice and join a growing startup community of passionate and driven people in the sustainability space. The Microsoft team has always been there to support us.”

Tiernan Mines, Chief Executive of Hello Lamp Post, said: “There’s no downside to the accelerator. It’s an opportunity to build a relationship with Microsoft, not just for a few weeks but for the long term. We’ve been constantly amazed by how supportive, friendly and approachable Microsoft have been whenever we’ve had ideas or opportunities to explore.”

Microsoft’s AI for Environmental Sustainability Accelerator will start in mid-March and run until June. To apply, click here. The deadline for applications is Sunday, February 13.