The Engine Releases 2021 Tough Tech Landscape Report Detailing Record Venture Investment In Climate Change, Human Health, And Advanced Systems & Infrastructure Startups

Oct 21, 2021

PitchBook data shows Tough Tech capital continues to surge, on pace to exceed $115 billion in 2021

The Engine, the venture firm spun out of MIT that invests in early-stage Tough Tech companies solving the world’s most urgent problems, released its report, 2021 Tough Tech Landscape, with data provided by PitchBook, the premier data provider for the private and public equity markets. The data and analysis findings include details on Tough Tech venture deals and exits since the category’s 2016 inception, marking a 48.7% year-over-year increase in deal value from 2019 to 2020. It also highlights continued momentum in 2021, with $77.5 billion in venture capital invested in the first 8 months of the year, on track to exceed $115 billion across 5,800 deals by year-end.


“MIT conceived ‘Tough Tech’ as a new category when it created The Engine just five years ago, offering LPs an investment vehicle that drives both meaningful progress for the world, as well as massive financial returns,” said The Engine’s CEO and Managing Partner Katie Rae. “There’s an urgency to improve human health and agriculture, build resilient systems, enable adaptive infrastructure, and reverse and adapt to climate change. We’re supporting more startups as they take breakthrough science out of the lab and into the world, putting us on pace for a record-setting year in 2021.”


Tough Tech by The Numbers

Driven by breakthrough technical advances, growing adoption and expansion of business applications, and macroeconomic factors like government policies and shifting regulations, the Tough Tech investment environment is thriving.


Overall Tough Tech category highlights include:


  • $307.6 billion total VC invested in Tough Tech from January 2016 through August 2021
  • $77.5 billion total VC investment in Tough Tech from January 2021 through August 2021; on pace to exceed $115 billion capital invested and deal count of 5,800 by the end of year.
  • $80.7 million median late-stage pre-money valuation in Tough Tech hits a new high
  • 48.7% year-over-year increase in Tough Tech VC investing from 2019 to 2020

PitchBook’s data shows record activity in 2021 related to Tough Tech deal volume and size for the period of January – August 2021, including:


Climate Change



  • $22.3 billion VC invested in Climate Change companies
  • 957 VC transactions completed in Climate Change


Human Health

  • $41.7 billion VC invested in Human Health companies
  • 2,057 VC transactions completed in Human Health


Advanced Systems & Infrastructure

  • $20 billion VC invested in Advanced Systems & Infrastructure companies
  • 1,200 VC transactions completed in Advanced Systems & Infrastructure


Fifteen sectors are examined in The Engine’s 2021 Tough Tech Landscape report, spanning 3D printing, advanced manufacturing, quantum computing, agtech & food tech, AI & ML, the built environment, cleantech, life sciences, materials, medtech, mobility, nanotechnology, robotics & drones, semiconductors, and space tech.


To download the full report and see in-depth data and analyst commentary across the individual Tough Tech sectors, visit the 2021 Tough Tech Landscape.