CPI has supported Biome Technologies on taking next generation bioplastics work to commercialisation.
Biome Bioplastics is one of the UK’s leading developers of intelligent, natural plastics, with its mission to produce bioplastics capable of challenging 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.
Working closely with CPI, Biome has developed a roadmap to guide their journey to commercialisation.
Bioplastics maker Biome Technologies approached CPI for guidance to navigate the challenging stages of innovation.
With the potential to create sustainable, low-cost and environmentally-friendly products, Biome was keen to build on its market position with the launch of next-generation bioplastics.
However, existing production methods mean the cost of bioplastics manufacturing is three to four times higher than traditional petroleum based products.
In response, Biome has 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 was 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 commercial manufacturing.
Biome Bioplastics initially teamed up with CPI in 2013 to undertake an initial road mapping study.
This 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 used 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 it 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 LigPoly project being awarded.
This builds on the initial in-house feasibility work and the roadmapping study with CPI, to bring Biome’s technology significantly closer to market.
Paul Mines, chief executive of Biome Technologies, commended CPI on its flexibility and adaptability throughout the project.
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 expertisePaul Mines
Biome Technologies' chief executive
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 the project held significant potential and therefore continued to invest in research and development activities.
In total, more than £5m towards research and development has been raised to date.
While Biome expects the development process to take around seven to eight years, the progress made thus far means it hopes to have a commercial demonstration of the process during 2018.
This project demonstrated how 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.