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Altrove raises €3.7M to design and build alternatives to rare earth materials using AI

Altrove team
Picture credits: Altrove

French deeptech startup Altrove, which creates sustainable alternatives for critical materials, has raised €3.7 million in pre-seed funding. The investment round was led by Contrarian Ventures (which invested in Decade Energy), Emblem, and strong angel investors like Thomas Clozel (CEO Owkin), Julien Chaumond (CTO HuggingFace), and Nikolaj Deichmann (3Shape). 

Notably, Emblem was started by Guillaume Durao, former venture capitalist investor at Mangrove Capital Partners and Eurazeo Ventures, and Bénédicte de Raphélis Soissan, who previously founded Clustree, one of the pioneering European startups in the AI field. 

How will it use the investment?

The funding will accelerate the development of its core technology, currently focusing on substitutes for rare-earth compounds used in transition technologies, electric vehicles, and advanced electronics. 

“Our AI models coupled with our lab technology take the role of the scientist, designing and carrying out experiments while optimizing the properties of the material being developed without human intervention. It enables us to develop new materials faster and cheaper, getting relevant results within weeks,“ said CTO Joonatan Laulainen. 

“A key driver for our investment in Altrove is the team’s exceptional blend of industrial expertise and technological excellence. Having conducted over 100 customer interviews with leading component developers across Europe, they have developed a solution that truly bridges the gap between AI material discovery and industrial applications,” said Rokas Peciulaitis, Founding Partner at Contrarian Ventures.

“Altrove stands out in the industry by moving beyond predictions to actual materials recipe finding. Their unique approach, combining AI and lab automation, enables them to synthesize and co-produce materials at scale. Additionally, their proprietary technology in characterization ensures optimal material quality. With a team led by a serial entrepreneur and a PhD in materials science, they are exceptionally well-equipped to address this challenge,” noted Bénédicte de Raphélis Soissan. 

What challenge does it tackle?

European demand for rare earth elements (REEs) is projected to increase five-fold by 2030, driven by the rapid growth of key transition technologies such as wind turbines, solar panels, and electric vehicle (EV) batteries, which heavily depend on magnets. 

Meanwhile, China controls over 90% of the global supply chain for rare earths, encompassing mining, processing, and magnet manufacturing. This dominance makes Western countries highly dependent and vulnerable to disruptions, price fluctuations, and exposure to unsustainable mining practices. In late 2023, China banned the export of rare earth processing technologies. 

Paris-based Altrove addresses these challenges by creating sustainable and domestically sourced materials for the energy transition.

What does the company do?

Founded by Cambridge alumnus Dr. Joonatan Laulainen and second-time founder Thibaud Martin at Entrepreneur First in early 2024, Altrove develops AI models coupled with an automated synthesis lab to accelerate the discovery process up to 100 times. It invented a proprietary technology for characterisation to learn from each experiment iteratively. 

Altrove helps find the optimal methods to produce relevant materials at an industrial scale. The company has already started collaborating with customers’ sourcing, manufacturing, and R&D departments in the automotive, defence, and electronics sectors, among other industries.

“Our customers need strategic materials to meet the demand for key technologies, but most are facing major sourcing, regulatory, and sustainability issues. We have put together a world-class team to help them build in a more ecological, cost-efficient, and resilient way by providing alternative materials,” said Thibaud Martin, CEO of Altrove. 

What do we think about Altrove?

The recent pre-seed funding fuels its mission to create sustainable alternatives to rare-earth materials, crucial for electric vehicles and advanced electronics. By leveraging AI and automated synthesis labs, it accelerates material discovery, addressing Europe’s dependence on China for rare earths. This innovative approach, backed by strong investors and a skilled team, positions Altrove to significantly impact the energy transition.

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