Materials Nexus — why Ada Ventures invested
Ada Ventures has led a £2m investment round in Materials Nexus, an AI company which finds replacements for composite materials, metallic compounds and rare earths. It was founded by Jonathan Bean, a physicist based at the University of Cambridge. Materials Nexus is a unique deep-tech company, with the potential to dramatically reduce our reliance on the some of the most in-demand, but increasingly scarce, natural materials. Read on to find out why.
Why we invested in Materials Nexus
Materials Nexus is an ambitious UK-based start-up, determined to solve a huge market problem. They find cheap, readily available replacements for precious metals and rare earths.
We rely on these types of materials for many technological products that we use every day.
Our reliance on precious metals and rare earths is only set to increase as we switch over to electric vehicles and clean energy solutions.
But mining for these elements can have a huge environmental impact. For instance, the creation of one kilogram of neodymium (a material used in electric vehicle motors and wind turbines) emits more than 70 kilograms of CO2e.
Governments and companies are waking up to that reality and throwing their support behind research and investment projects looking for substitutes for rare-earth and precious metals.
New, better materials are vital for a low-carbon world — but product development is slow, and it can take as long as 20 years to develop a new material far enough to be commercialised. This is where Materials Nexus comes in.
So, what does Materials Nexus do?
Materials Nexus uses artificial intelligence to find cheap, readily available replacements for precious metals and rare elements. Over the last two years, they have developed their own proprietary datasets and machine-learning algorithms. You could compare it to how ‘big pharma’ uses AI to replace some of the R&D in the drug discovery world.
This technology gives Materials Nexus the ability to accurately predict the properties of materials and allows them to design materials in a fast and effective way which prioritises sustainability and emissions from the start.
And it gets better: not only can Materials Nexus suggest new material design, but they go one step further and model the realities of production. They plan to build labs to produce the materials and sell them to large companies like original equipment manufacturers.
Why does Materials Nexus fit the Ada Thesis and what got us excited?
This is a specialist technology company with a unique approach to this hair-on-fire problem for the world. Investing in the early stages is a high-risk investment for any investor, but at Ada we love to back incredible founders at just this stage. We are excited by Materials Nexus and the work they do for a couple of reasons.
First, CEO and Founder Jonathan Bean is hugely impressive. He has a MPhys in theoretical and mathematical physics and a PhD in physics and has been until recently a research associate at the University of Cambridge. However, he wanted to have more of an impact on the real world than academia allowed. He’s gathered an incredible technical team as well as a world class commercial group.
And second, it’s about more than the team. Their product is radical: it could have a real impact on the climate agenda and be key to reaching net-zero.
No one else is doing this that we know of. There are some companies using AI and then providing a SaaS service, but they don’t have labs to find and create the materials themselves.
It’s an enormous market and the business model could capture massive value. The potential for Materials Nexus is global, and huge.
How did the investment happen?
We rely on our scout community to help us find the incredible talent building breakthrough ideas. Ex-operator turned angel investor, Jasmin Thomas has a particular focus on diverse and minority entrepreneurs as well as a passionate interest in climate tech.
While attending the Founders Factory Showcase, she was immediately impressed by the founder of Materials Nexus, Jonathan Bean. He is a great communicator who can explain the intricacies of his work in simple terms, with precision and enthusiasm, even to those without a scientific or academic background.
Jasmin recognised the incredible potential of Materials Nexus in making a positive environmental impact and realised there could be a deep synergy between Materials Nexus and Ada Ventures. As Jonathan had a reputation for being extremely sought after in the investment space, she knew she would have to approach the deal with great care and ensure the right partners were involved for the start-up’s growth.
Jas has built a very strong relationship with Jonathan throughout the process and has shown the impact angel investors can have in nurturing and supporting the growth of transformative start-ups. Her work shows how vital our scouts are to the success of what we do at Ada Ventures.
The timing for all the work they do is urgent given the climate agenda. And it is capital intensive so they will be looking for more funding soon to accelerate progress on this journey.