Munich, December 2023
Two female founders are on a mission to build a scalable lithium-ion battery recycling machine to recover the critical materials inside, like lithium, nickel, cobalt, and graphite in a sustainable way. TOZERO company has won the ST Industrial Innovation Challenge at the 14th Innovation World Cup at HANNOVER MESSE 2024
Our conversation with the Tozero team was truly enlightening. Now, let’s dive deeper into their path to success.
- HOW DID IT ALL START?
The story of tozero started many years ago when Sarah and Ksenija met working in Luxembourg. The two quickly became friends and already knew back then that they would one day revolutionize the world together. But it wasn’t until Ksenija was the first to make a breakthrough in hydrometallurgical recovery at the world’s leading metallurgy research institute at RWTH Aachen headed by Prof. Dr. Bernd Friedrich that the two found their idea to start tozero. From there things moved very fast.
Choosing the right name for a new venture however is no small feat, but for us inspiration came from an unexpected source. The name tozero is derived from the first chapter of Bill Gates’ book “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster,” which explores the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from “51 billion to zero”. The book had a profound impact on both founders, and to this day, all new team members receive a copy as a symbol of our commitment to sustainability and the purpose of elevating the quality of life in the world. Our name not only reflects our values and aspirations but also serves as a constant reminder of the urgent need for action in the fight against climate change.
- WHAT ARE THE KEY MILESTONES YOU HAVE REACHED SO FAR?
We are thrilled to have closed a successful pre-seed funding round of 3.5€ million last year. This significant investment is a first step to enable us to take our mission to the next level and accelerate our efforts to close the loop in Europe. But that’s not all – we are also excited to share that tozero has moved to a new plant location in Karlsfeld, just north of Munich. This state-of-the-art facility boasts a large production space for our pilot plant and will allow us to significantly increase our recycling capacity, streamline our operations as we scale up to better serve the needs of our customers. At tozero, we are driven by a vision of a more sustainable and circular future. With this funding and our new facility, we are better positioned than ever to turn that vision into a reality. We are deeply grateful to our investors, partners, and supporters who share our passion for sustainability and believe in the power of technology to drive positive change.
- WHAT WERE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU HAVE FACED?
One thing we will never change is our commitment to fostering a culture of growth and innovation by establishing a global mindset to tackle such a global problem – almost every second hire comes from a different country.
With such a multi-national team, we are proud to have created an environment that nurtures creativity and experimentation, allowing our team to push boundaries and discover new solutions. We believe that every result is meaningful, as long as we use it as an opportunity to grow. By embracing our culture of continuous learning, we are confident that we will continue to make a meaningful impact on the world and achieve our mission of truly bringing lithium-ion battery waster tozero in Europe.
If we were to do everything again, we would place even greater emphasis on collaborating with accelerator programmes and incubators. Programmes such as the Innovation World Cup® Series have enabled us to connect with stakeholders across the globe and attract top talents to join our mission.
- WHAT IS COMING IN THE NEAR FUTURE?
One of our top priorities is to continue growing our team, particularly in key positions that will help us drive innovation and create sustainable solutions for a better future. Additionally, we are proud to be developing partnerships with exciting companies across the recycling value chain, expanding our reach and impact in the industry. We have already kicked-off several pilot projects with our partners within the battery value chain and we will rapidly scale from there.
5. DESCRIBE YOUR JOURNEY IN THE 14TH INNOVATION WORLD CUP® AND BEING THE WINNER OF THE ST INDUSTRIAL INNOVATION CHALLENGE ?
We are thrilled to have participated in the prestigious Innovation World Cup® Series, which has been instrumental in helping us connect with stakeholders across the entire recycling value chain. The program has allowed us to generate significant traction and raise awareness of our mission to close the loop in Europe, enabling us to connect with key stakeholders to drive real change and truly bring lithium-ion battery waste #tozero. The connections we have made through this program have been invaluable, helping us to identify new opportunities and develop strategic partnerships that will help us achieve our goals. We are proud to have been a part of this program and look forward to continuing to make a positive impact on the world with our innovative battery recycling solutions.
- YOUR THREE TIPS FOR UP-COMING STARTUPS
As a successful participant in the Innovation World Cup® Series, we know firsthand the challenges that come with developing and pitching a new idea. Our top advice for up-and-coming startups is to focus on a problem that you are truly passionate about solving. But passion alone is not enough – you also need a clear and compelling pitch that sets you apart from the competition. With hundreds of other companies vying for attention, you need to make sure that your pitch clearly communicates your unique value proposition, the problem you are solving, and the benefits of your solution. Make sure your pitch is easy to understand and memorable, and don’t be afraid to think outside the box to showcase your innovative ideas. With these tips you can set yourself up for success in the Innovation World Cup® Series and beyond.
WE APPRECIATE THE FASCINATING INSIGHTS YOU’VE SHARED, AND WE EAGERLY ANTICIPATE WITNESSING YOUR FUTURE ENDEAVORS AND THE REMARKABLE STEPS YOU’LL MAKE AHEAD!
Visit Tozero and explore how they are truly bringing lithium-ion battery waste to zero.
Participate in the 15th Innovation World Cup® across a diverse array of categories, including Industrial, Energy, Mobility, Security, City, Agriculture, Home, Lifestyle, and Sports. (For healthcare innovations, please consider the Healthcare Innovation World Cup®).