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Build & Sustainability

Sphera building for future after close of £1.9 million funding round

A built environment materials firm has closed a £1.9 million funding round it says will fuel the next phase of its growth.

County Durham-based Sphera has been backed by investors to further work on next generation, carbon negative aggregate for concrete.

Known as OSTO™ , its lightweight concrete aggregate is being trialled in concrete blockwork, making traditional carbon-intensive blocks carbon-zero.

Bosses say the development, which uses waste plastic that couldn’t otherwise be recycled, will help tackle the colossal carbon footprint of traditional concrete, which makes up eight per cent of global carbon emissions.

Dr Natasha Boulding, chief executive and co-founder of the business, which is based on Fishburn Industrial Estate, near Sedgefield, said: “I’m excited to be welcoming new members and gaining extra resources to support our vision to be at the global forefront of low-carbon and environmentally-friendly material innovation for the built environment.”

The investment round brought together a range of stakeholders, including Green Angel Syndicate (GAS), the UK’s largest specialist network of investors fighting climate change.

Cam Ross, GAS chief executive, said: “Natasha and her team really impressed our specialist members, right from the very first meeting.

“The Sphera approach to decarbonising such a mainstream component of global building materials is very compelling, hence our substantial investment.”

The round also involves other groups, including Northstar Ventures and individuals with considerable experience in the construction sector.

Additionally, Sphera – which aims to expand its team in 2022 – is supported by Innovate UK, BEIS EEF, Tech Nation, WSP’s Emerging Growth Partnership Programme, Creative Destruction Lab, Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, Durham University and Northern Accelerator.

The investment round follows a successful year for Sphera, which recently became an advisory board member for UKGBC’s Innovative Start-Up Forum.

Dr Boulding also appeared on a COP-26 panel in the Green Zone, as a leading voice on materials innovation in the built environment alongside representatives from GSK, AstraZeneca, Unilever and Johnson Matthey.

Interest from industry to use Sphera products has also been growing.

International award-winning practice Ryder Architecture, which has a pioneering advanced materials research stream led by research director Dr Oliver Jones, is at the forefront of embedding advanced materials in its projects and has already earmarked Sphera as a game-changing business.

Dr Jones said: ““Sphera offers one of the most exciting and promising solutions to reducing emissions we have seen outside of the biotech space.

“By working with Sphera and their products, building net-zero homes and non-domestic buildings is more than achievable.

“We have some exciting net-zero projects in the works with our advanced materials partners, and Sphera will be key to delivering these.”

Sphera is also primed to work with Tilbury Douglas Construction, which was recently announced as contractor to deliver a new investigations base for Durham Constabulary.

Mark Gardham, the firm’s regional director, added: “As a forward-thinking contractor, committed to sustainable construction, we are looking forward to working with Sphera in the future to help ensure we are at the forefront of carbon reduction initiatives.

Bosses say the expect to announce several further collaborations over the coming year.