Scaling up the next generation of bioplastics
Navigating the challenging stages of innovation
UK based SME Biome Technologies works with CPI to progress their technically challenging project along the journey to commercialisation
Biome Bioplastics is one of the UK’s leading developers of intelligent, natural plastics. Its mission is to produce bioplastics that can challenge the dominance of oil-based polymers. With the potential for reduced costs, increased sustainability and biodegradability properties, bioplastics have the potential to create significant environmental and economic impacts. Biome worked closely with CPI’s highly experienced team to develop a roadmap to guide their journey to commercialisation.
An input is a unique capability, service or method of support that was provided, such as equipment or expertise.
- Feasibility study
- Bid writing and consortia building
- Technical knowledge and expertise
An output is the result of the work, such as an experimental finding, an actual product or a pilot demonstrator.
- £5m Investment in 3 CR&D projects
- TRL Progression from 2 to 5
- Collaboration with industry and academia
An outcome arises from implementing the outputs, for example, a profit, an investment, providing jobs or delivering societal benefits. Outcomes continue once an innovation has been implemented and deliver benefit every year.
- 7 patents developed
- Private investment secured
- Jobs created
Leading bioplastics manufacturer Biome Technologies Plc. approached CPI for guidance to navigate the challenging stages of innovation.
With the potential to create sustainable, low cost and environmentally friendly products, Biome Technologies were keen to build upon their current market position with the launch of their next generation bioplastics.
However current production methods mean the cost of bioplastics manufacturing is 3 – 4 times higher than traditional petroleum based products. In response to this challenge Biome have developed an innovative technology that extracts high performance chemicals from lignin (a by-product from the paper and bio-fuels industries) for use in bioplastics. Once the lignin can be broken down under the right conditions, and the resultant chemicals can be extracted at scale, this process provides the foundation for a new generation of cost effective bioplastics.
Following a successful in-house feasibility study in conjunction with Warwick University, Biome were confident of their product capabilities and potential market applications, and as such were in a position to progress through to the challenging stages of scale-up and onwards into commercial manufacture.
How CPI helped
Biome Bioplastics initially teamed up with CPI in 2013 to undertake an initial road mapping study. This study provided Biome with an assessment of the potential economic and commercial opportunities in this area and provided a Technology Roadmap. In parallel to this study, Biome utilised CPI’s open access facilities and scientific knowledge to gain a deeper understanding of the scale-up process for their product.
Following an informative output from the roadmapping study, Biome’s next step was to raise funds to progress through the innovation stages of its product development process, something they continued to work with CPI to achieve. A successful collaborative application to Innovate UK in conjunction with CPI and Leeds & Warwick Universities resulted in a £1.7m grant for the project‘LigPoly’ being awarded. This project builds upon the initial in-house feasibility work and the roadmapping study with CPI to bring Biome’s technology significantly closer to market.
Paul Mines – CEO of Biome Technologies commended CPI on their flexibility and adaptability throughout the project, stating:
“It is not just about sticking to the plan of the project, but also exploring other technology options and possibilities to make sure the project will succeed, rather than following the route that was planned originally. CPI moulded their expertise to the project, rather than the project to their expertise”
With such a challenging project with high levels of technical complexity, the road to commercialisation is not a straight one. However following the Innovate UK initial and subsequent investment, Biome’s investors were reassured that the project held significant potential and therefore continued to invest in the companies R&D activities. In total over £5m towards research and development has been raised to date.
Whilst Biome expect the development process to take approximately 7 – 8 years in total, the progress they have made thus far means that they hope to have a commercial demonstration of the process during 2018. This project demonstrated that a small investment in a roadmapping study and creation of collaborative partnerships can lead to significant potential impacts, both economically, environmentally and technically in the years to come.