By Karen Peattie

SOCIAL enterprise Sustainable Thinking Scotland CIC (STS) has become the first in Scotland to secure investment from The Catalyst Fund, receiving £190,000 to bring its biochar technology to market.

The £30 million fund was launched in June to support small businesses within the third sector, helping them grow as Scotland recovers from the impacts of coronavirus. Its funding mechanism means the Falkirk-based social enterprise will repay the investment via a share of its revenue as the business grows.

STS was established in 2016 by Sean Kerr and Stephen McQueen to help tackle social and environmental issues in their local area of Bo’ness. It delivers projects that encourage local, sustainable food production, provides community-scale green waste recycling, and creates learning opportunities for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in the area.

In recent years, the enterprise has been developing innovative applications for its biochar water remediation technology to tackle the problem of nutrient pollution in waterways. Biochar, similar to charcoal, is obtained from “baking” waste wood and other biomass at high temperatures and can draw down carbon from the atmosphere into the soil, storing it for years.

Mr Kerr, director at STS, said: “Our mission is to be Scotland’s leading organisation in the development and targeted application of biochar, driving innovation within water remediation technologies and land management, creating a circular economy model which benefits both our environment and the people within our communities.”

The funding, he noted, “will be the catalyst which allows us to drive innovation and regulation within these new carbon markets, helping to set the standards for environmental recovery while contributing towards Scotland’s net-zero ambitions”.

STS will use the investment to accelerate the growth of the biochar project, increase production capacity and research and development, employ staff and develop core business operations for its intended scale-up.

Delivered by Firstport, Scotland’s development agency for start-up social enterprises, and Social Enterprise Scotland, the fund offers loans starting at £50,000 using a revenue-based repayment model, providing social enterprises the flexible finance they need in the early stages of development, without compromising their social mission.