A leap towards sustainability

by Fatima Benabdelaziz-Tair, editor at fi-compass

Thanks to the venture capital (VC) support from IBB Ventures, backed by European Regional Development Fund resources, Nuventura, a Berlin-based start-up is spearheading a green revolution.

The company develops switchgear – key hardware components omnipresent in electrical grids – which substitute sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), the world’s strongest greenhouse gas, with dry air. Fuelling Nuventura’s momentum, governments worldwide, including the European Union, have set ambitious targets to phase out the use of SF6 in switchgear as soon as 2030.


By replacing SF6 in gas-insulated switchgear (GIS) with dry air, Nuventura’s technology offers significant environmental benefits compared to SF6-based GIS while increasing efficiency and profitability.

Nuventura product - HERO

Nuventura’s patented technology replaces the industry-standard sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) with dry air. One kilogramme of SF6 is as harmful to the climate as 23 500 kilogrammes of CO2 and its atmospheric lifetime estimate is over 3 000 years.

Gas-insulated switchgear (GIS) play a pivotal role in medium voltage systems, serving as essential hardware components within power grids and energy infrastructures that power large buildings, factories, and utilities. Nestled within these critical switchgears is a sealed tank containing pressurised sulphur hexafluoride, commonly known as SF6. This specialised gas functions as an insulator, preventing electrical currents from arcing when the metal components either separate or connect.

Yearly global SF6 emissions are equivalent to the annual CO2 emissions produced by approximately 100 million cars. In response to the ongoing energy transition and the imposition of more stringent regulations, an increasing number of switchgear users (utilities, project developers, industry etc.) are scrutinising their SF6 usage and actively seeking ways to reduce it— all while upholding the principles of safety and reliability.

Nuventura’s conception stems from the personal experience of Manjunath Ramesh, who, during his days working as an electrical engineer for a prominent switchgear manufacturer, witnessed the downsides associated with SF6.

"I was sure we could propose a greener alternative but given I couldn’t make progress within the company where I worked, I quit and moved to Berlin to develop my own prototype in a co-working space"

states Ramesh, reflecting on this realisation.

Luckily, this journey led him to cross paths with Fabian Lemke and Nikolaus Thomale, both seasoned entrepreneurs, who became crucial collaborators and trusted partners in the pursuit of a greener and more sustainable solution.


To facilitate the transition to an SF6-free switchgear industry, in a market largely dominated by major players who distribute system solutions to end customers, Nuventura positions itself as a technology platform.

Manjunath Ramesh

“By replacing SF6 in gas-insulated switchgear (GIS) with dry air, Nuventura’s technology offers significant environmental benefits compared to SF6-based GIS while increasing efficiency and profitability”.

Manjunath Ramesh, Nuventura co-founder

Brought together by their shared commitment to the environment – and a compelling product idea – Manjunath and his two partners founded the company in July 2017. Since then, Nuventura has grown significantly and now boasts a team of 70 employees, and has established partnerships with Iberapa, a Spanish manufacturer of high voltage control and protection electrical equipment and Aktif Elektroteknik A.S., headquartered in Istanbul and a key player in the switchgear and switchboard manufacturing industry since 1981.

Nuventura has also secured its first references with end customers, including notable names such as Westnetz, the electricity and gas distribution network operator in Western Germany, Apex Group, Germany's leading developer of hydrogen power plant solutions, Acciona Energia, a leading Spanish renewable project developer, and E.DIS AG, one of the largest utilities in Germany.

To facilitate the transition to an SF6-free switchgear industry, in a market largely dominated by major players who distribute system solutions to end customers (power grid operators, industrial companies etc.), Nuventura positions itself as a technology platform.

Through this innovation on the business model side, the technology is made available to engineering, procurement and construction companies (EPCs), and smaller manufacturers who would otherwise not have access to such technology due to high development costs or economic constraints.

Securing VC financing: a challenge for hardware companies

Early-stage innovative companies rely heavily on external financing to develop their products and bring them to market. As VC investments in deep-tech and hardware industry start-ups are still relatively niche, the early support from Berlin's IBB Ventures, a subsidiary of Investitionsbank Berlin (IBB), the promotional bank of the Federal State of Berlin, played a pivotal role in Nuventura's success.

The initial investment was provided in 2019 through the VC Technology Fund, one of IBB Ventures’ ERDF co-financed VC funds. Over the years, the ERDF co-financed VC funds in Berlin have achieved impressive outcomes. They have made substantial investments, attracted significant co-investment, demonstrated a high leverage ratio and supported companies in various sectors. As a result, Berlin has solidified its status as a thriving innovation hub in Europe.

To date, Nuventura has successfully raised over EUR 35 million in total funding, which includes around EUR 3 million from IBB Ventures across multiple investment rounds. Notably, 37% of the funds provided by IBB Ventures are sourced from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). This funding injection enabled the company to take crucial steps towards product industrialisation and preparing for expansion into other markets.

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Venture capital (VC) investments, co-financed by the ERDF, drive growth for Berlin-based start-ups providing innovative and sustainable products. 

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Experiences with ERDF Equity financial instruments in Berlin – interview with Fabian Lemke, Founder, Nuventura.

Stephan Schulze, Investment Director at IBB Ventures, reflects on their investment decision, stating “In the case of Nuventura, our initial contact was made through a business angel from our network. Our decision to invest in Nuventura was primarily motivated by the strength of the founding team and the patentable technology, which offered significant cost savings and was substantially more environmentally friendly compared to existing solutions”.

Fabian Lemke adds a note on the challenges faced: “Things were not always easy. Having a classic hardware product and operating in a very conservative market environment was challenging. Few people have heard of switchgear, their applications and functions, let alone have expertise in this field. Apart from the product needing explanation, our innovative business model approach was also not easily tangible for many people in the VC environment”.

IBB Ventures

What is crucial for the ERDF co-financed VC Fund Technology is the presence of innovative technology with a unique selling proposition and the potential for growth through a correspondingly large target market.

IBB Ventures

“On average, for every euro we invest in companies, an additional five to seven euros are contributed by private financing partners”, Markus Lehmann, IBB Ventures.

“The funds raised fit perfectly into our growth strategy. Not only does this allow us to cushion the risk of a strategically important and highly innovative key project through grants, but it also allows us to leverage venture capital funds on attractive terms” comments Fabian Lemke who stresses that VC financing provided Nuventura founders with not only the capital they needed to grow, but also access to a network of experienced investors and mentors who could provide valuable advice and support to build a solid team with strong competencies.

“We chose Berlin because of its thriving start-up community, access to talent, a favourable business environment, proximity to key players, and of course the advantages of being in the EU”

Fabian Lemke, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Nuventura

Fabian Lemke

“Our role is to elevate companies like Nuventura to a point where they become attractive investment opportunities for larger funds, through a collaborative financing effort with private early-stage investors. This approach enables us to significantly amplify the impact of our public funds. On average, for every euro we invest in companies, an additional five to seven euros are contributed by private financing partners”

Marvin Martsch, IBB Ventures

While grant financing might be instrumental in the early stages of the company because it allows them to fund research and development (R&D) projects without diluting their equity, venture capital financing becomes more suitable as the company matured.

In March 2022, Nuventura received approval for a non-dilutive EUR 2.5 million grant from the European Innovation Council Accelerator. Thanks to the backing, they could finance staff and material expenses, but also external services and patent registrations. Additionally, Nuventura took advantage of a loan from IBB in 2019 paid out in multiple tranches in the years 2020 to 2022 to cover costs related to the development of the switchgear as well as personnel expenses, materials, orders, etc. The programme is called ProFIT – Project Financing and is a combination of grants and loans for technological innovation projects.

An increased interest in cleantech

Industries focusing on sustainability themes, especially cleantech, have gained attention in recent years due to the growing emphasis on environmental conservation and the global transition to cleaner energy sources. This heightened awareness has generally made it somewhat easier for companies in these sectors to attract interest from investors who are keen to finance solutions that have the potential to significantly reduce carbon emissions.

Clear evidence of Nuventura’s credibility among investors is the completion in September 2023 of a EUR25 million Series A investment round led by Mirova, through its impact private equity fund, Mirova Environment Acceleration Capital, alongside new investors Forward.one and the EIC Fund, and existing investors IBB Ventures, ADB Ventures, Cycle Group, Future Energy Ventures, and DOEN Participates. The capital will be used to expand Nuventura's product portfolio and further develop its global production capabilities.

Equally, through a new initiative called Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform (STEP), the EU aims to enhance support investments in companies that contribute to preserving a European edge on critical technologies.

With the three priority areas as deep and digital technologies, clean technologies, and biotechnologies, Nuventura fits well into the profile outlined by the STEP initiative, as its innovative technology enables the development of switchgear without SF6.

A ground-breaking decision

While California has already adopted a plan to phase out the use of SF6 by 2025, the European Union has just announced in October 2023 a ground-breaking decision to gradually phase out SF6 and other F-gases. This decision entails a complete ban on medium-voltage systems using F-gases, with a phase-out timeline set by 2030, and a ban on high-voltage systems by 2032. There are approximately 30 million switching systems in operation worldwide, a large proportion of which contain SF6, the growth potential for Nuventura could thus be exceptional.

“This is an extremely exciting time to be in this sector. Greater appreciation for the environmental threats posed by SF6 and accompanying regulatory oversight means that Nuventura, with our dry-air alternatives, is very much in the right place at the right time” comments Fabian Lemke.

Manjunath and Fabian

Thanks to the VC support from IBB Ventures, backed by ERDF resources, Nuventura’s founders are spearheading a green revolution in the switchgear industry.

About ERDF VC funds in Berlin

Berlin, a prominent start-up hub and urban innovation leader in Europe, has been at the forefront of implementing equity financial instruments under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

The federal state of Berlin embarked on this journey as an early adopter, deploying the first equity instruments using ERDF in 2004-2007. These instruments aimed to foster the growth of the Venture Capital (VC) ecosystem within the city which was relatively nascent at the time.

Under the ERDF OP Berlin for 2014-2020, there were two VC funds (financial instrument products):

  • VC Fund Technology with a financial size of EUR 77 million, and
  • VC Fund Creative Industry with a financial size of EUR 49 million

The target final recipients of Berlin’s ERDF co-financed VC funds are innovative, scalable, growth-oriented companies in their early stages of development that can bring significant results in terms of job creation and turnover, in the clusters defined by the regional innovation strategy.

About IBB Ventures

IBB Ventures, a subsidiary of Investitionsbank Berlin (IBB), the promotional bank of the Federal State of Berlin, has been providing venture capital to innovative Berlin-based companies since 1997 and has established itself as the market leader in early-stage financing in Berlin. To date, they have financed over 280 start-ups. In addition to their investment totalling over EUR 280 million, private financing partners have invested a further EUR 1.6 billion. The funds are primarily used for the development and market launch of innovative products or services as well as for business concepts in the creative industries. All their funds are backed by Investitionsbank Berlin (IBB) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), administered by the State of Berlin.

For 2021-2027, recognising the growing importance of impact investing in early-stage venture financing, IBB Ventures launched a third ERDF co-financed Fund: the Impact VC Fund for Social Entrepreneurs. This fund started in the second half of 2022 focuses on start-ups that not only have economic interests but also strive to achieve social or environmental sustainability goals through their business activities. To date, 5 companies have been financed covering a broad range of social activities such as health, education, inclusion and sustainability.