The use of methanol as a fuel and chemical feedstock could become very important in the development of a more sustainable society if methanol could be efficiently obtained from the direct reduction of CO 2 using solar-generated hydrogen. If hydrogen production is to be decentralized, small-scale CO 2 reduction devices are required that operate at low pressures. Here, we report the discovery of a Ni-Ga catalyst that reduces CO 2 to methanol at ambient pressure. The catalyst was identified through a descriptor-based analysis of the process and the use of computational methods to identify Ni-Ga intermetallic compounds as stable candidates with good activity. We synthesized and tested a series of catalysts and found that Ni 5 Ga 3 is particularly active and selective. Comparison with conventional Cu/ZnO/Al 2 O 3 catalysts revealed the same or better methanol synthesis activity, as well as considerably lower production of CO. We suggest that this is a first step towards the development of small-scale low-pressure devices for CO 2 reduction to methanol. © 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited.