Canberra clean-tech company takes out global startup competition at COP26

Lottie Twyford 15 November 2021
Sophia Hamblin Wang at COP26

Mineral Carbonation International chief operating officer Sophia Hamblin Wang delivered a winning pitch at the COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland. Photo: Supplied.

From a field of 2700 climate change solutions, it was a pitch from Canberra-based cleantech firm Mineral Carbonation International (MCi) that took out the top gong at the COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

MCi chief operating officer Sophia Hamblin Wang travelled to Glasgow to compete in The Clean Energy Start-up Pitch Battle, where she delivered the winning pitch and was crowned Net Zero Technology Centre’s Clean Energy Start-Up of the Year.

Part of Sophia’s pitch was relaying how MCi is able to turn carbon dioxide into building products such as cement, plasterboard, glass and other valuable products. The process is possible thanks to chemical engineering, which uses science to speed up a natural process in which carbon dioxide is taken from the atmosphere and turned into rock.

Naturally, this process takes millions of years, but MCi can do it in just minutes.

Sophia Hamblin Wang on laptop screen

More than 2700 climate tech companies put forward innovative ideas at the COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland. Photo: Supplied.

In her winning pitch, Sophia presented a block of “negative emissions plasterboard … made from industrial emissions”.

She told the audience the block represents the creation of sustainable jobs, removes emissions and avoids further emissions.

MCi CEO Marcus Dawe later explained this is because unlike carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies, which often sees carbon buried underground, MCi is a type of carbon capture-and-utilisation (CCU) technology where the carbon is reused after being stored.

Marcus says winning a competition such as this is a great way of gaining recognition on a global stage, which can often be difficult for a climate technology startup.


READ ALSO: Elizabeth Lee joins world leaders at COP26


He says COP26 is the biggest global stage where “everyone is talking about technology – not just governments who are focused on policy and politics, but startups that care about real solutions”.

Winning is simply a bonus, says Marcus, as the company had “already considered ourselves winners by just making it into the finals”.

“That was a big enough accolade in its own right,” he says. “We’re very proud as a Canberra company to have taken out a global prize.”

Since the win, Marcus says his phone hasn’t stopped ringing and the website has received a flood of enquiries from people who are just learning of the technology for the first time and want to discover more.

Marcus Dawe and Sophia Hamblin Wang

Mineral Carbonation International CEO Marcus Dawe and COO Sophia Hamblin Wang. Photo: Mineral Carbonation International.

It’s the latest in a string of successes for MCi, which is going from strength to strength. Earlier this year, the company was awarded a $14.6 million grant from the Federal Government to scale its technology into a demonstration plant in NSW.

It’s hoped the plant will be turned on by July 2023 at Newcastle Harbour.

MCi hopes to lock away a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from industry into products by 2040, which the company says is key to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

Marcus says the technology can be put to use right away to capture emissions.

“This means it’s really hotly sought-after by anyone who has a need for carbon emissions reductions right now,” he says.


READ ALSO: Is stopping Canberrans from getting home really the best way to fight climate change?


Now Marcus says the company is looking for international partnerships and seeking to conduct a significant capital-raising operation in the first half of 2022.

He hopes part of this investment will come from super funds, while the rest will be from interested industry.

“What we’re showing is that you can actually make a profit from decarbonisation,” he says. “You can’t just expect handouts and government money, and industry just to put their hands in their pockets just because it’s the right thing to do.

“We’d like to think that’s the way the world works, but it just doesn’t so we have to be smart about letting industry take solutions such as ours and then not use market shares or profitability.”


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