Materials Nexus, a deep tech AI and quantum mechanic company, announced Wednesday the close of a £2 million seed round led by Ada Ventures. The National Security Innovation Fund, The University of Cambridge, as well as angel investors Andrew MacKay and Jasmin Thomas also participated in the round.
The company, which was founded in 2020 and based in the U.K., seeks to amplify zero-net technologies, including renewable energy generation and energy storage, in a way that gives higher performance and sustainability at lower costs.
CEO and co-founder Jonathan Bean, a theoretical physicist from the University of Cambridge, and his team worked for the past two years on an AI model that reduces the need to conduct physical tests to discover new materials. This allowed them to build their own datasets and algorithms, accelerating the discovery time, meaning that products could be pushed to the market faster. Materials Nexus works with businesses of all sizes to discover materials that can later be patented, and it hopes to one day build a facility to produce materials to then sell to large companies, like an equipment manufacturer.
Bean says the company plans to use the money to scale its commercial and scientific operations. It’s also hoping to prove the effectiveness of its technology, finding alternatives to materials that are already used in products such as semiconductors and batteries to help innovations like wind turbines and electric cars scale more rapidly and sustainably. In the midst of the AI craze, Bean described his fundraising efforts as “quite fun.”
Bean started looking for capital in October 2022, and said he got a term sheet within five months.
Matt Pennycard, a co-founding partner at Ada Ventures, called Jonathan a “remarkable technical founder and company leader.” “He’s a needle in the haystack that we VCs spend years searching for,” Pennycard told TechCrunch, adding that the company is also an exemplar of using technology for good. “Our strong bet is that Materials Nexus has the potential to play a very significant role in our fight against climate change and be the solution to the damaging addiction to rare earths and unique metal compounds we’ve built.”
With this raise, Bean joins a rare club in the U.K.: the handful of Black people who have been able to raise money. The last official numbers were released in 2020, and it estimated that only around 40 Black founders had ever raised in the U.K., picking up less than 0.4% of venture capital funding in the nation.
Climate change in the U.K. has become a pressing matter, and having diverse perspectives on the issue is imperative for achieving true environmental reform. Bean said he went through the Cambridge database to find people who had experience in materials engineering and called up alumni, asking questions and trying to understand the market.
Bean says his dream is to one day set up operations in the U.S. But for now, there is much work to do in the U.K. After all, someone has to help trail-blaze the “Unicorn Kingdom.”