Royals get an up-close look at green innovations outside of Boston

Somerville, Mass. — The Prince and Princess of Wales got their first glimpse of some groundbreaking innovations as the royal couple aims to foster new ways to combat climate change during a visit to a green tech startup incubator in suburban Boston on Thursday.

William and Kate, who are making their first overseas visit since the death of Queen Elizabeth II, were greeted by hundreds of cheering onlookers as they entered Greentown Labs in Somerville.

They were greeted by CEO Emily Reichert, Mayor Katjana Ballantyne and Joe Curtatone, former mayor of the city north of Boston who is now president of the Northeast Clean Energy Council. William wore a gray suit with a burgundy sweater. Kate wore a burgundy suit by Roland Mouret, a blouse by Burberry and earrings by Daniella Draper.

Since its founding in 2011, Greentown, the largest climate technology startup incubator in North America, has supported more than 500 companies that have created more than 9,000 jobs.

The three-day visit began Wednesday with a reception at Boston City Hall and a trip to a Boston Celtics basketball game. It culminates on Friday with the presentation of the Prince’s Earthshot Prize, a global competition aimed at finding new ways to protect the planet and fight climate change.

The visit also comes amid an uproar at home over an 83-year-old honorary member of the royal household who has reportedly asked the black manager of a women’s shelter in east London where she is “really from” after telling the elderly woman that it was British. Some said the incident was an example of broader racism issues at Buckingham Palace.

On Thursday in Greentown, the royal couple chatted with Shara Ticku, CEO of c16 Biosciences, a company developing decarbonized alternatives for the consumer goods supply chain, starting with a sustainable alternative to palm oil. “Oils today come from animals or plants,” Ticku said. “We made this out of mushrooms.”

At Open Ocean Robotics, CEO and co-founder Julie Angus told the prince and princess about their solar-powered autonomous boats that provide real-time information about the oceans. Angus has a computer and monitor on her desk showing data from a real boat in the port of Victoria, British Columbia, where the company is based.

“Five knots? It’s pretty quick,” said the prince, looking at the screen. “It’s amazing it didn’t capsize,” he added. Angus noted that the boats are capable of righting themselves.

William and Kate also met with Earthshot CEO Hannah Jones, who introduced them to four past Earthshot winners or finalists, including Vaitea Cowan, co-founder of AEM Electrolysers, which converts renewable electricity into green hydrogen.

They also chatted with Katherine Dafforn, co-founder of Living Seawalls, an Australian company that designs eco-friendly marine infrastructure. “Time is ticking for all of us,” William said.

On her departure from Greentown Labs, Kate received flowers from 8-year-old Henry Dynov-Teixeira, who was wearing a King’s Guard costume.

Also on Thursday’s agenda was a visit to Roca Inc., an organization that seeks to improve the lives of youth and young adults by addressing issues such as poverty, incarceration and trauma from urban violence; and a visit to the Boston Waterfront, threatened by rising sea levels.

The royal couple’s first trip to the United States since 2014 is part of the British royal family’s effort to transform its international image. After Elizabeth’s death, King Charles III, William’s father, made it clear that he would be a slimmed-down monarchy, with less pomp and ceremony than her predecessors.

This includes a focus on the Earthshot Prize, which offers £1 million ($1.2 million) in prize money to each of the winners across five different categories: Conservation, Clean Air, Ocean Revitalization, Waste Removal and Climate Change. The winners and all 15 finalists will also receive help to expand their projects to meet global demand.

The winners are set to be announced Friday at Boston’s MGM Music Hall during a glittering show starring Billie Eilish, Annie Lennox, Ellie Goulding and Chloe x Halle. The show will also feature videos narrated by naturalist David Attenborough and actress Cate Blanchett.

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