20 Soaring Chemical Engineering Startups (2021)

by Josh Howarth - August 26, 2021

From applications in biotechnology to materials science, chemical engineering is an industry that’s set to always have an important place in modern society.

In 2019, the chemical industry in the US recorded $530.3 billion in revenue.

According to Deloitte, that figure fell by 9% in 2020. But it is expected to increase by almost 8% in 2021. On a global scale, the numbers tell a similar story.

We’ve gathered 20 of the best chemical engineering startups from around the world that are set to define the industry over the next few years.

1. RocketVax

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5-year search growth: 99x+

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2020

Location: Basel, Switzerland

Funding: $10M (Seed)

What they do: A biotech company, RocketVax develops novel vaccines. They leverage a digital DNA design platform that combines chemical technology with molecular biology. Currently, their focus is on vaccine development for the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus. RocketVax recently received CHF 7.2 million (or $7.8 million) in seed funding from InnoSuisse, University Hospital Basel, and Canton of Basel-Stadt.

2. FabricNano

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5-year search growth: 99X+

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2018

Location: London, UK

Funding: $15.5M (Series A)

What they do: FabricNano is a biomanufacturing startup that has developed a DNA-based enzyme reactor. With the help of this technology, they aim to manufacture enzymes as replacements for petrochemical products. According to their website, their DNA-based flow reactor can help reduce the cost of biomanufacturing. FabricNano recently landed a $12.5 million Series A funding round led by Atomico, with participation from Entrepreneur First, Backed, and Hoxton Ventures.

3. Dynacure

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5-year search growth: 0%

Search growth status: Peaked

Year founded: 2016

Location: Illkrich, France

Funding: $117.3M (Series C)

What they do: A life science company, Dynacure is involved in clinical-stage drug discovery. Their focus is to develop therapeutics for rare diseases, including centronuclear and myotubular myopathies. The FDA recently accepted the “Investigational New Drug” application for “DYN101,” which is an antisense product developed by Dynacure. In 2019, the startup won Ernst & Young’s “Born Global” award.

4. Forge Nano

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5-year search growth: 110%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2011

Location: Louisville, CO

Funding: $23.8M (Series Unknown)

What they do: A materials science startup, Forge Nano provides precision nano-coating technology and surface engineering. They specialize in atomic layer deposition which, according to the startup, has numerous applications. The US Department of Energy awarded a $5 million grant to Forge Nano for catalyst optimization.

5. Lionano

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5-year search growth: 0%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2013

Location: Woburn, MA

Funding: $48.2M (Series Unknown)

What they do: Lionano (also known as Factorial) is a material manufacturing company. Their focus is improving lithium-ion battery technology used in electric vehicles and renewable energy systems. Lionano has partnered with leading battery manufacturers, auto original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and materials suppliers. Earlier this year, Lionano raised $17.2 million in a venture round.

6. Ginkgo Bioworks

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5-year search growth: 566%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2008

Location: Boston, MA

Funding: $798.7M (Series F)

What they do: A biotech company, Ginkgo Bioworks develops biological engineering products. Specifically, the company designs organisms that have industrial applications. It’s estimated that the company earns up to $77M in annual revenue. Ginkgo Bioworks is currently valued at approximately $15 billion and is planning to become a public company soon.

7. BayoTech

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5-year search growth: 3%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2015

Location: Albuquerque, NM

Funding: $174.1M (Series C)

What they do: BayoTech offers hydrogen-based products. From use in agriculture for fertilizer production to the energy sector for petroleum refining and more, BayoTech’s solutions have several different applications. BayoTech recently acquired IGX Group, which manufactures hydrogen storage systems and related technology. With this acquisition, the company has now become a full-service supplier of hydrogen.

8. Group14 Technologies

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5-year search growth: -100%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2015

Location: Woodinville, WA

Funding: $41.8M (Series B)

What they do: Group14 Technologies specializes in battery storage technology. Their goal is to improve the performance of lithium-ion batteries by replacing graphite with silicon as anodes. Their solutions can be used in the MedTech, aerospace, EV, and consumer electronics industries. In 2020, the Department of Energy (DOE) awarded $3.96 million to Group14 Technologies for winning its “Energy Storage Grand Challenge.”

9. Nelumbo

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5-year search growth: 900%

Search growth status: Exploding

Year founded: 2015

Location: Menlo Park, CA

Funding: $19.5M (Series A)

What they do: A nanotechnology startup, Nelumbo offers custom materials for different verticals. They do this through a surface modification technology that they’ve developed themselves. Mainly targeting the HVAC market, the materials they provide are designed to minimize corrosion and provide greater fluid control. The startup raised $14 million in Series A funding led by Prime Mover's Lab and the University of Tokyo Edge Capital.

10. Sila Nanotechnologies

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5-year search growth: 1700%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2011

Location: Alameda, CA

Funding: $875M (Series F)

What they do: Sila Nanotechnologies provides high-energy density lithium-ion battery technology. Their goal is to reduce the cost of using battery packs and improve the performance of the machines and systems that use them. Sila Nanotechnologies earns up to $5M in estimated annual revenue.

11. NBD Nanotechnologies

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5-year search growth: 0%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2012

Location: Brighton, MA

Funding: $15.4M (Series B)

What they do: NBD Nanotechnologies is a nanotech company that develops additives, adhesion promoters, and coatings. Their products are designed to improve the “wettability” of plastic and glass materials. One of their products, called “InvisiPrint,” won the Frost and Sullivan New Product Innovation award in 2020.

12. MOF Technologies

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5-year search growth: -100%

Search growth status: Peaked

Year founded: 2012

Location: Belfast, UK

Funding: $2M (Series Unknown)

What they do: A cleantech company, MOF Technologies offers materials based on the metal-organic framework (MOF). Their materials are designed for different purposes, including gas storage and protecting perishable items. According to their website, MOF Technologies was the first to commercialize MOF solutions. They also won the GSK Innovation Award 2021.

13. Ioniqa Technologies

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5-year search growth: 0%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2009

Location: Eindhoven, The Netherlands

Funding: $14.6M (Series Unknown)

What they do: Ioniqa Technologies uses patented circular cleantech to break down the PET (polyester) — a type of plastic — into a reusable monomer. They do this with a process called “depolymerization.” Ioniqa Technologies received €10 million (or $11.6 million) in funding recently. The company plans on using this money to expand its plant in Geleen.

14. Porotech

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5-year search growth: -100%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2018

Location: Cambridge, UK

Funding: $10.3M (Seed)

What they do: Porotech provides porous gallium nitride (GaN) solutions that can be used in MicroLEDs, sensors, lasers, and more. The company wants to replace conventional silicon-based semiconductors with GaN technology, which is believed to be more efficient. Porotech recently raised £3 million (or about $4 million) in a funding round led by Speedinvest, with participation from Cambridge Enterprise, Martlet Capital, and IQ Capital, among others.

15. Serstech

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5-year search growth: -43%

Search growth status: Peaked

Year founded: 2006

Location: Lund, Sweden

Funding: $4.4M (Series Unknown)

What they do: A chemical intelligence company, Serstech manufactures and sells spectrometers that can identify different chemical compounds. Their solutions are used to detect narcotics, pharmaceuticals, explosives, and hazmat. In 2020, Serstech received funding from the European Union for its CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear issues) project.

16. Boragen

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5-year search growth: 0%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2015

Location: Durham, NC

Funding: $15.3M (Grant)

What they do: An AgTech startup, Boragen offers a platform that can be used to produce synthetic fungicides. The company’s boron-based (benzoxaborole) solutions are designed to tackle fungicide resistance, thereby improving their efficacies against fungal diseases in plants. The startup received a $300.5K grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in July 2021.

17. Octillion Power Systems

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5-year search growth: 6700%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2009

Location: Hayward, CA

Funding: $6.3M (Series Unknown)

What they do: Octillion Power Systems develops and sells lithium-ion batteries. Their products are used primarily in electric vehicles. They also have applications in industrial energy storage systems. According to the startup, Octillion Power Systems has sold around 300,000 EV battery packs all over the world. Furthermore, EVs using their battery packs have collectively driven for more than 2 billion miles to date.

18. Auterra

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5-year search growth: 0%

Search growth status: Peaked

Year founded: 2003

Location: Schenectady, NY

Funding: $14.8M (Grant)

What they do: A clean energy company in the oil and gas sector, Auterra provides decontamination of crude oil. They do this through their proprietary desulfurization technology. According to their website, Auterra’s technology results in 65% less greenhouse gas emissions compared to hydroprocessing and is up to 50% cheaper.

19. Pyran

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5-year search growth: 30%

Search growth status: Peaked

Year founded: 2017

Location: Madison, WI

Funding: $4M (Seed)

What they do: Pyran is a chemical engineering startup that offers renewable paint and plastic. They use renewable raw materials (such as plants) instead of oils to manufacture these petroleum products. Pyran recently secured a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation. Before that, it received $2.5 million in funding from the Department of Energy.

20. Exigence Technologies

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5-year search growth: 0%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2014

Location: Winnipeg, Canada

Funding: $1.6M (Grant)

What they do: A chemical company specializing in smart coatings, Exigence Technologies manufactures monomers for use in polymer coating systems. Their stimulus-responsive products, called “SymbiCoat™,” have applications in areas where hygiene is a necessity. Examples include food and beverage processing, water distribution, and healthcare, among others. In 2014, Exigence Technologies was one of the 9 startups to win the national Spin Master Innovation Fund awards.

Conclusion

That concludes our list of the best chemical engineering startups to monitor.

From startups working on new products for drug discovery to companies at the forefront of sustainability, the chemical industry is extremely diverse.

And these startups will likely push the industry forward, and in completely new directions.

Written By
Josh Howarth
Co-founder of Exploding Topics.
548 Market St. Suite 95149
San Francisco, California
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