Funding Opportunity: BNEF Pioneers Program

About the Organization

BloombergNEF is a leading provider of forward-thinking primary research and analysis on the trends driving the transition to a lower-carbon economy.

With a team of trusted experts across six continents, BloombergNEF (BNEF) leverages sophisticated data sets to create clear perspectives and in-depth forecasts. These are built to frame the financial, economic and policy implications of industry-transforming trends and technologies.

Our approach provides independent analysis and insight through rigorous examinations of specific sectors and markets, as well as broad, cross-sector, global trends and implications.

Our clients include corporate strategy and business development professionals, finance professionals as well as policy makers and regulators. We work with the largest corporations across utilities and generation, oil & gas, equipment manufacturers, banking and finance, and government.

About the Grant

For more than a decade, the BNEF Pioneers program has identified a group of game-changing technologies or innovations annually – each with the potential to accelerate global decarbonization and halt climate change. Pioneers can be innovators serving the energy, transport, materials, manufacturing, consumer and agriculture sectors, or providers of solutions and technologies that help increase understanding of the climate, scale carbon capture, utilization and storage, and promote climate adaption.

In 2024, the program will focus on three global net-zero challenges and will award the Pioneers prize to innovators with scalable, impactful and equitable solutions to these challenges.

BNEF will also select one or more wildcard winners, unrelated to the chosen challenges. These wildcard applicants can address any issue that helps the world address climate change, and we encourage submissions for all climate-tech solutions that lie outside of the three challenges outlined below.

Challenge 1: Relieving bottlenecks in the deployment of clean power

The power sector has a clear path towards decarbonization with the deployment of renewables – particularly solar and wind. While renewables are being deployed at record levels, annual solar installations and wind installations will need to increase three-fold by 2031 and six-fold by 2050 to reach net-zero emissions. Deployment is now less hindered by costs than by slow grid build-out, grid connection backlogs, permitting challenges and supply chain constraints.Nearly 600 gigawatts of solar and wind projects are waiting in grid interconnection queues in the top five European renewable energy markets, and more than 1,250 gigawatts wait in the US. This Pioneers challenge is looking for innovations such as better tools for grid planning, new types of grid equipment, or new ways of securing supply chains and workforces.

Challenge 2: Decarbonizing the construction and operation of buildings

The CO2 emissions associated with buildings account for 33% of global emissions, but the sector is making little decarbonization progress because key technologies, such as heat pumps, have yet to scale. Residential building cooling demand is set to increase by 115% by 2050 in BNEF’s Net Zero Scenario, and heating demand will be more than double that of cooling. For the embodied emissions, 26% of the world’s steel and 45% of the world’s cement goes into the construction of buildings, and there are currently no commercial routes to eliminating fossil fuels from their production. This Pioneers challenge is looking for innovations that address any of the difficulties in decarbonizing the embodied or operational emissions associated with buildings. This could include new kinds of heat pumps, new building materials, new building designs, platforms for accelerating the deployment of clean thermal conditioning systems or demand-side innovations.

Challenge 3: Creating the next generation of net-zero fuels

The fuel burnt by airplanes, ships and long-haul trucks accounts for 7% of CO2 emissions. While other forms of transportation, such as passenger vehicles, are set to electrify, heavy-duty transport requires an energy-dense liquid or gaseous fuel. Next-generation fuels need to offer sufficient performance, scalability, economics, sustainability and not increase land use. Non-food feedstock ‘drop-in’ biofuels, synthetic fuels and others are evolving to meet these needs. This Pioneers challenge is looking for innovations in clean fuels that broaden the range of available feedstock, reduce costs, improve supply chains and reduce sustainability and land-use concerns.


Beyond these three challenges, we select a group of wildcard Pioneers. We encouraged submissions for all climate-tech solutions outside of the three challenges outlined above and choose entries addressing multiple issues that will help the world decarbonize.


Applicants can be any one of the below:

  • Early-stage companies: Climate-tech companies that can be for-profit or non-profit, private, public or subsidiaries.
  • Pilot projects and joint ventures: Any innovative pilot projects or joint ventures working on net-zero challenges.
  • NGOs, laboratories and innovation communities: NGOs, university or state-sponsored labs, and any other innovation groups creating net-zero products or technologies with commercial implications.

Applicants are judged on three fundamental criteria:

Potential impact

What is the scale of the opportunity being addressed? To what extent can this solution address the net-zero challenge? Can you quantify the greenhouse gas emissions your technology could eliminate? Is your business local or can it be rolled out in multiple geographical markets? Will it spawn an entire ecosystem of new supporting businesses? Might there be negative unforeseen impacts of the technology when it scales?


How original is your technology or business model? Is it a ground-breaking modification of what others are doing, or is it something completely new? Is it patented or otherwise proven? Are there barriers to its adoption or success and can these be overcome? What complementary policies or business structures already exist?

Likelihood of adoption

Over what timeframe could your innovation scale? What partnerships, clients and investors do you have? How do you plan to take your product to market? What is your level of cost competitiveness? What would the carbon price have to be? Can your business model or technology attract the necessary amount of investment?

How to Apply

Applicants are shortlisted by the BNEF Pioneers team and finalists are judged by a panel of BNEF experts. Winners must prove they offer a novel, substantial, scalable and competitive solution.

Applications for the competition opened on October 2, 2023 and will close on October 27, 2023. The winners will be announced in early April 2023. Contact us at for any questions.

You can apply here: Link

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