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Durham University

Durham University News

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Developed in Durham: Sphera

(28 May 2021)

4 people sitting on a sofa

(L to R) Phil Buckley (COO & Co-Founder), Antonella Pagliarulo (Research Scientist), Natasha Boulding (CEO & Co-Founder) and Scott Bush (Co-Founder).

Founded in September 2019 by three PhD students, Sphera is Durham University’s first student spinout.

It is developing low carbon next generation construction materials. Currently, the team are focussing on a world-first - carbon zero and carbon negative concrete blocks.

Their innovation pipeline includes a concrete accelerant to speed up concrete curing rate and decrease cement content. These pioneering solutions are developed to help tackle climate change by offering the industry low carbon material alternatives that specifically focus on embodied carbon content.

Northern Accelerator funding

Coupled with support from Durham, Sphera has accessed Northern Accelerator programmes to start-up and grow the company

These programmes bring together academics and business leaders, with a host of funding and support, to form sustainable businesses that create more and better jobs.

Developed in Durham

After water, concrete is the most widely used substance on Earth – responsible for 8% of the world’s CO2 production.

Sphera provides an immediate and tangible solution to reduce the carbon footprint of the industry and are targeting forward-thinking architects and developers who want to be ahead of the curve when it comes to the climate crisis and Net Zero.

The next steps for the team, who have just expanded their workforce and sites, is to use the blocks in demonstrator projects in collaboration with architects.

A sustainable future

The team have been the first to admit that starting a business alongside PhD studies is not for the faint hearted, however they have gone from strength to strength.

As a team comprised of scientists, one of their biggest challenges was to learn the ins and outs of the business world. This was made all easier by the availability of workshops locally including those offered by the Blueprint Startup Challenge and Durham City Incubator.

To date, the team has successfully raised significant private and public investment, including being awarded two Innovate UK grants. With help from an advisor from the Northern Accelerator Executives into Businsess programme they are now entering into their pre-Series A investment round to grow the business further.


Find out more

Enabled by £4.9m from Research England’s Connecting Capabilities Fund, Northern Accelerator builds upon two European Regional Development Fund programmes to embed entrepreneurial business leaders into university spin-outs at the earliest stage.