Sky News has reported on the impact of microplastics on our oceans, and Xampla’s potential as a solution to the problem. View the package here
Xampla, a University of Cambridge spin-out seeking to reduce microplastic pollution, today announced £2 million in seed funding. The round was co-led by global technology investor Amadeus Capital Partners and Cambridge Enterprise, with participation from Sky media group’s impact investment fund Sky Ocean Ventures and the University of Cambridge Enterprise Fund VI, managed by Parkwalk.
Xampla is developing the world’s first plant protein-based replacement for microplastics added to everyday items. The funding will enable the start-up to develop its prototype material into products. Its initial target is the $12 billion microencapsulation market, in which manufacturers of home and personal care products currently rely on synthetic polymer capsules, a usage the EU is considering banning.
Amelia Armour, Principal, Amadeus Capital Partners, said: “Xampla is a great example of deep tech emerging from the UK research base at exactly the right time to respond to regulatory changes and consumer trends around plastic. We’re excited to be investing alongside an impact investor, and backing a world-class science team that can offer commercial solutions for multiple industries.”
Unlike current alternatives to microplastics, which are based on plant polysaccharides, such as cellulose and algae, Xampla’s plant protein materials do not rely on chemical cross-linking for their performance. This enables them to decompose quickly and completely in the natural environment.
Dr Elaine Loukes, Investment Director, Cambridge Enterprise, said: “Xampla has come up with a remarkable alternative to plastic. The fabrication process mimics those used by nature and the product is entirely made from natural materials. We are very pleased to be supporting a company with the potential for tremendous beneficial impact.”
In proposing regulations on added microplastics, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) found that each year in Europe added microplastics equivalent to 10 billion plastic bottles were released into the environment and were practically impossible to remove.
Simon Hombersley, Xampla CEO, explained: “Our mission is to reduce the impact of single-use plastic, and our initial commercial focus is on intentionally-added microplastics. With our new plant protein material, we are committed to helping manufacturers make the transition from traditional plastics to high performance alternatives that protect the planet.”
Vanessa Draper, Director, Sky Ocean Ventures, added: “We have been investing in innovations to end the devastating flow of plastic into the sea for the last two years. We’re excited by Xampla’s potential to replace synthetic microplastics hidden inside everyday products from detergents to paints. Consumers often aren’t aware of these ‘hidden plastics’ and have little ability to reduce their use of them so a new sustainable materials approach is needed.”
The creation of the new material stems from a breakthrough from protein experts Professor Tuomas Knowles and Dr Marc Rodriguez Garcia, inspired by the process a spider uses to create silk. Xampla facilitates a similar transformation at scale and in a very efficient process by using widely-available and renewable plant proteins, without the need for harmful solvents. The resulting Supramolecular Engineered Protein can be structured into plastic-like materials such as films, gels and capsules. Xampla holds two patents for the new material, with a third in development.
The scale of the potential economic impact of the EU’s proposed restriction can be seen in data submitted by the industry to the ECHA’s stakeholder workshop. For example, Cosmetics Europe, the trade body representing the European cosmetics and personal care industry, stated that a restriction of microplastics in both rinse-off and leave-on products would affect 24,172 formulations, resulting in loss of revenue for the industry of 12.2bn euros per year.
The Xampla team have moved into the brand new BioInnovation Building on the Cambridge Science Park.
Xampla is a finalist in the Science Start-up of the Year 2019 competition, part of the Falling Walls conference. This global competition brings together breakthrough science start-ups from around the world, inspired by the fall of the Berlin Wall to find companies breaking down new walls using science to impact positively on society.
See Dr Elaine Loukes from Cambridge Enterprise and Simon Hombersley, CEO, presenting the company in the competition here.
Watch our video… What’s this made of?
Plant-protein materials developer Xampla has been shortlisted for the €500k Green Challenge Prize, one of the largest annual competitions for sustainable entrepreneurship.
It’s an incredible validation of our technology and the potential of our business. The competition selected Xampla as one of 25 shortlisted companies globally, from over 1,100 companies assessed by the competition’s expert panels around the world. We’re in the running for the €500k prize, which will be announced in October.
Tuomas Knowles has been named Academic Entrepreneur of the Year by Business Weekly. The Xampla founder is a serial entrepreneur, having previously founded Wren Therapeutics and Fluidic Analytics.
On 30 January 2019 the EU announced a proposal to ban added microplastics. It’s a major step from the EU, which will have a huge impact on plastics in our environment — and on many industries.
Added microplastics touch our lives every day. Between waking up and breakfast this morning, you used microplastics repeatedly. They were in your toothpaste, your shampoo, your shower gel, in your clean clothes. They may have been in your cosmetics, they were probably used in making your bowl of cereal. And in each case, the microplastic will end up in our environment, even the ocean. And they never truly biodegrade.
The impact of the EU’s move will be huge. The Guardian reported that the EU releases — each year – microplastics equivalent to 10bn plastic bottles. Reuters reported the Commission’s Vice President Jyrki Katainen claiming that the EU ban could set a standard for industries around the world. Business of Fashion reported that the ban would cost their sector £12bn in lost revenue, and require the reformulation of over 24,172 products.
The process will take a while, with no legislation expected until 2020, and industry will negotiate a gentle transition. But this ban will have a massive impact on entire industry sectors. And as a technology start-up with the perfect entirely natural alternative to microplastics, it represents a huge opportunity. Cosmetics, fragrance, homecare and other manufacturers don’t need to cancel product lines and shut down plants. They simply need to work with us.
A solution for industry, and our oceans.