Scaling Materials Innovation for Decarbonisation and a Circular Economy

All times are shown in London timezone (British Summertime, GMT+1)

Following extensive research, the programme explores the shared challenges for company leaders in CPG, textiles, durable goods, and packaging value chains who are rethinking how materials are produced, consumed, repurposed, and financed to meet their ambitious sustainability commitments.

Looking at the role of materials in mitigating carbon emissions and enabling a circular economy – especially viable alternatives that are reducing our reliance on ‘incumbents’ such as petrochemical, virgin forest and animal-based materials – it has become clear that there is no silver bullet solution. Rather, a multi-faceted strategy is likely to have greater impact, such as, a mix of alternative materials, or combinations of materials that can match functionality, scalability and cost, as well as end-of-life technologies.

With a particular focus on commercialising technologies for more sustainable materials, this year’s summit will showcase the solutions that are ready now, as well as exciting developments for the future, with plenty of opportunities for networking throughout the event to accelerate greater collaboration.

DAY ONE: Tuesday, May 16

09:00
Opening Remarks

A warm welcome to the 2023 Rethinking Materials Summit. Hear from the Rethink Events team on the key themes for this year’s summit, and what you can look forward to over the next two days.

Following extensive research, the programme explores the shared challenges for company leaders in CPG, textiles, durable goods, and packaging value chains who are rethinking how materials are produced, consumed, repurposed, and financed to meet their ambitious sustainability commitments.

Looking at the role of materials in mitigating carbon emissions and enabling a circular economy – especially viable alternatives that are reducing our reliance on ‘incumbents’ such as petrochemical, virgin forest and animal-based materials – it has become clear that there is no silver bullet solution. Rather, a multi-faceted strategy is likely to have greater impact, such as, a mix of alternative materials, or combinations of materials that can match functionality, scalability and cost, as well as end-of-life technologies.

With a particular focus on commercialising technologies for more sustainable materials, this year’s summit will showcase the solutions that are ready now, as well as exciting developments for the future, with plenty of opportunities for networking throughout the event to accelerate greater collaboration.

09:05
Welcome Address // Enabling Innovation for the Future of Materials
  • With the capability of digital fabrication, computational design, material engineering, and synthetic biology edging us into the future of materials, how do we move sustainable solutions into the mainstream?
  • What is the role of governments and legislation in moving the needle?
  • How will innovation as well as economic and societal change playing a role in accelerating the adoption of new solutions?
  • How can we better empower the innovators?
09:15
Opening Panel // Net Zero Strategies: Materials Innovation Aiding the Race to Decarbonisation
  • With polymers, fabrics, metals, and other materials accounting for nearly 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions, it is essential the materials sector looks to radically decarbonise. How are consumer brands, converters, and mills engaging with this endeavour and which actors are leading the way?
  • From lightweighting and repurposing waste to the adoption of new technologies for CO2 utilisation – how are new materials or technologies helping to decarbonise manufacturing of packaging, textiles, personal care and durable goods? Which solutions are viable right now and which long-term vision solutions should brands, converters, and mills be investing in?
  • As ESG and emissions reduction is a shared strategy across entire value chains, as well as across multiple sectors, what level of cooperation are we seeing? Is open innovation a growing industry practice for the producers and end users of materials?
  • How do we address the often chicken-egg problem of upstream production processes influencing downstream adoption of low-carbon materials? What interesting new partnerships are we seeing across the ecosystem?
  • How do we measure the positive impact of new technologies/solutions? Which solutions are showing the greatest promise in mitigating carbon emissions, and what level of CO2 needs to be saved or captured to be impactful?
  • What about the energy powering the materials ecosystem? Is it realistic to think we can defossilise energy sources at scale by 2050? How can the production of materials influence this challenge through efficient energy use?

Moderator:
Anna Moore, Partner, MCKINSEY & COMPANY, UK

Speaker: 
Garrett Quinn, Chief Sustainability Officer, SMURFIT KAPPA, Ireland

10:00
Keynote // Transitioning Towards a Future of Sustainable Materials
  • How can brands, converters, and innovators accelerate the transition away from incumbents like fossil-based plastics? What opportunities do corporate leaders see in transforming value chains? How can a framework for investment that minimises costs and enables growth be created?
  • In examples where next-gen materials are scientifically viable today, how can bands, converters, and mills better navigate the challenge or journey required to make them mainstream and financially viable?
  • How are partnerships between brands, academia, converters, and regulators accelerating routes for new materials discovery? Which new routes of materials discovery are delivering the next-generation catalysts and polymers required for the new net-zero chemistry of consumer products?
  • What does the future of materials innovation look like as we transition from a chemical-based economy to a more bio-based one? From advances in biotechnology to advanced computing, how is industry accelerating technology adoption while stimulating innovation for alternative materials?

Speaker: 
Michael Saltzberg, CEO, COVATIONBIO, USA

10:15
Panel // Supply Chain Transformation: Rethinking the Building Blocks for Sustainable Materials
  • How is the growing coalescence between biology and chemistry transforming the building blocks of materials? How is the development of new scientific platforms providing sustainable routes to the chemicals used in consumer products, from CO2 to renewable feedstocks?
  • How will the role of biomaterials evolve in delivering a more sustainable status quo for chemicals production? What’s on the horizon for future materials and performance where biotechnology allows us to alter the molecular biology of cells, enzymes, and proteins?
  • What is the future role of chemical companies in making the transition to more sustainable feedstocks? How are they looking at business opportunities in green chemicals? What is the long-term vision?
  • What opportunities are there to address chemicals of concern? How can we work to phase out fluorinated substances such as PFAS, particularly in food and skin contact materials?
  • If we know we need to replace incumbents negatively impacting on the environment – what needs to happen across the industry to address the price challenge? What incentives could be put in place? Is a pollution tax part of the solution?

Speakers: 
Mariagiovanna Vetere, Global Public Affairs Director, NATUREWORKS, Italy
John Bissell, Co-CEO & Founder, ORIGIN MATERIALS, USA

11:00
Networking Coffee Break

Time for a brief networking coffee break.

11:30
Technology Showcase // Material Innovation Delivering on Performance and Functionality

Meet four innovators addressing the performance and functionality of new, more sustainable materials. Each presenting company will have five minutes to showcase their solution and take questions from our industry panel.

Inviting pitches from early-stage startups and SMEs, the target areas for innovation include:

  • Food waste reduction through enhanced moisture and oxygen barrier properties
  • Advanced composites with high performance applications, such as robust, lightweight, durable, high-heat resistant materials
  • Coatings that demonstrate improved durability and reliable protection
  • Biodegradable and recyclable compounds from agricultural waste and other renewable resources
  • Water soluble polymers for packaging
  • Fabricated materials or textiles from alginate, chitosan, seaweed, fungal, cellulose, and protein-based feedstocks

Industry Panel: 
Semi Hakim, Co-Founder & CEO, KÖK Projekt, Turkey

12:15
Panel // Industry Symbiosis: Capitalising on Cross Sector Collaboration and Waste Stream Valorisation
  • With waste being one of the biggest challenges of our time, how are consumer brands working with the opportunity to utilise this fast-growing resource?
  • What examples are we seeing where one industry’s waste has become another’s valued resource? What products or solutions are coming out of this area of innovation? What successful examples are we seeing?
  • How has the food and beverage sector embraced the opportunity to create value from by-product waste as a key raw material to other sectors? Which sectors are engaging and what new revenue opportunities have spun out? What do partnerships in this area of innovation look like?
  • Which technologies are needed, and how are they advancing? How is synthetic biology used to convert agricultural feedstocks into fine and commodity chemicals? Where is that technology heading?
  • What about apparel and textiles? Where are the opportunities for waste valorisation in this sector, and which opportunities have yet to be explored?

Speakers:
Carolina García
, Global Sustainability and Innovation Director, ANHEUSER-BUSCH INBEV, USA
Tony Perrotta, PA Sustainable Materials and Regenerative Economy Expert, PA CONSULTING, USA
Erik Licht, Advanced Polymer Solutions New Business Development Director, LYONDELLBASSELL, Germany

13:00
Networking Lunch Break

Our audience in London will take a networking lunch break.

14:00
Panel // Enhanced Performance: Developments in Barrier Properties, Durability, and Functionality
  • How are new novel materials succeeding on performance while tackling the demands of sustainable production? What advancements are we seeing on enhanced strength, flexibility and transparency?
  • How are new materials aiding the circular economy? Is biodegradability the “holy grail” of material innovation? And if not, what is?
  • Which examples of new novel materials are completely circular – such as non-toxic, naturally occurring polymers? Which industries can benefit from these materials right now? When are chemically modified properties required? What has been the role of bio-hybrid material formats in achieving functionality?
  • How are these materials being tested and regulated? How does regulation encourage the adoption of new sustainable alternatives to conventional plastics or chemical properties? What has been the role of testing and certification in supporting industry adoption and trust?
  • How do we deliver functionality at price parity when competing against the fossil-based incumbents? What is the role of challenger brands as early adopters of new materials in achieving a proof of concept?

Speakers:
Teo Pazanin,
Innovation Programme Lead for Mycelium and Novel Materials, ECCO, Netherlands
Alessandra Funcia, Executive Management Member, SUKANO, Switzerland
Luke Halsey, Partner, AIIM PARTNERS, UK

14:45
Fireside Chat // Designing for Sustainability: End-To-End Product Innovation to Achieve ESG Objectives
  • When we look at the entire life cycle of a product from the raw materials used to the ability to recycle, reuse or otherwise divert materials from landfill through biodegradability, how can design better support genuinely sustainable products?
  • How can materials enable different design choices? Where has R&D got to in finding the “holy grail” replacement for single use virgin materials? What percentage of solutions are ready and succeeding on scale and performance? Which materials are genuinely recyclable?
  • How are designers navigating material choices, while considering the carbon footprint and lifecycle of products? What is the role of LCA’s in this decision-making process?
  • How can brands and materials innovators support the education of designers working with new materials? Where can young designers access these new materials, and work with them to understand their potential? What impact could this have on the future adoption across different sectors?
  • How can designers address the limitations of waste collection and processing capacity when “designing for sustainability”?

Speakers:
Johanna Wiese,
Director, Circular Economy, MISTLETOE, Philippines
Manuel Maqueda, CEO, BIONOMIA, Spain

15:15
Panel // Next-Gen Textiles: Bridging the Gap from Lab to Market and Routes to Faster Commercialisation
  • For the many start-ups coming to market with a solution capable of replacing the incumbents, how do they move from lab scale to larger scale production at speed? How do we take next-generation materials to any company expressing scale?
  • How have biomaterials been adopted and applied in the apparel/textiles industry? What have been the hurdles for this industry of early adopters?
  • As we bridge the gap from benchtop to commercialisation, what speciality skills are needed or missing? How can start-ups lean on larger corporates for access to specific skills? What are the opportunities are there to educate future designers working with new materials?
16:00
Networking Coffee Break

Time for a networking coffee break.

16:30
Technology Showcase // Innovation Supporting the Decarbonisation and Circularity of Materials

Meet four innovators with technologies promoting the decarbonisation of materials in a value chain. Each presenting company will have five minutes to showcase their solution and take questions from our industry panel.

Inviting pitches from early-stage startups and SMEs, the target areas for innovation include:

  • Carbon capture and CO2 utilisation for materials
  • Decarbonising materials with advanced material technology; geopolymer technology, machine learning, and algorithms
  • Solutions for efficient material waste recycling and repurposing
  • Innovating with structural properties of materials to support lightweighting
  • Advanced manufacturing reducing environmental footprint of materials
  • Synthetic biology converting agricultural feedstocks into fine and commodity chemicals
  • Circular and green chemicals solutions
  • Advanced recycling methods: enzymolysis, pyrolysis, gasification, depolymerization
17:15
Closing Panel // Investment Trends and Partnerships Commercialising New Innovation for Materials
  • What big trends are investors seeing in materials innovation? Which solutions are most viable? Which new solutions are they banking on?
  • How differently do VCs and Corporate VCs engage with start-ups in the materials innovation arena? What does success look like for these different parties? How do their objectives differ and what valuable attributes do they bring to the table?
  • What funding strategies can be implemented to de-risk investments in materials technology? Where are we seeing patient capital plugging innovation gaps along the supply chain? What about project financing? How does this work and are there any success stories?
  • For impact investors, how do they measure the positive impact from technologies in this space? What KPI systems are being developed?
  • How are corporate investors helping to commercialise the next generation of materials? Which technologies are most attractive to them and how do early conversations impact the direction of those technologies?
  • What do investment evaluations look like currently? Is this set to change? Where geographically are we seeing the most promising evaluations?

Speakers:
Michael Smith, General Partner, REGENERATION.VC,USA
Markus Solibieda, Managing Director, BASF VENTURE CAPITAL, Germany
Michael Nettersheim, Managing Partner, EUROPEAN CIRCULAR BIOECONOMY FUND (ECBF), Germany
Courtney Lowrance, Managing Director, Sustainability and Corporate Transition, CITI, UK

18:00
Close of Day One & Networking Drinks

After a busy first day of the summit, you are invited to relax and reconnect with industry colleagues and new faces over evening networking drinks. We look forward to welcoming you back tomorrow for another packed agenda of thought leadership and networking.

DAY TWO: Wednesday, May 17

09:00
Opening Remarks

Speaker: Rethink Events

09:05
Keynote Address // The Role of Business in Powering the Green Transition
  • What is the role of business in addressing the waste and climate challenge? How are knowledge, skills, and funding being applied to accelerate the transition to where consumer brands, converters, and mills need to be?
  • Which materials or systems will help brands and manufacturers transition towards a more sustainable future? Where is the innovation now and how will it grow? How can industry sectors navigate the viability of new solutions today and in the future for their unique requirements?

Speaker: 
Sian Sutherland, Co-Founder, A PLASTIC PLANET,UK

09:15
Opening Panel // Regulation & Legislation: How to Comply with Fast-Changing Legislation
  • What is the relationship between regulation and innovation? How involved can brands and converters be in setting new, meaningful legislation?
  • Does greater regulation lead to greater investment uptake in sustainable solutions? What is the reality?
  • What is the potential for creating a more harmonized and aligned approach to policy, legislation, and metrics across nations? How can brands stay on top of the changing boundaries on materials legislation and recyclability on a global scale? What does the landscape look like for textiles, plastics, packaging, and durable goods? How does legislation differ for those working in food packaging?
  • How do we legislate to make new material solutions more economically viable? What has been the impact of the European plastic tax?
  • How is mass balance being viewed by different players across the value chain? What are the challenges in communicating mass balance to end users? Could a more stringent certification process be created to prevent greenwashing? What would this mean for different industries?
  • How is regulation in Europe influencing other regions? How does new legislation translate in other geographies and what does this mean for the wider marketplace?

Speaker:
Adam Read,
External Affairs Director, SUEZ RECYCLING & RECOVERY, UK

10:00
Keynote // Innovating and Scaling Regenerative Packaging Globally
  • What is the current position on sustainable/renewable bio-based packaging solutions for the food & beverage industry? How are brands and converters engaging with bio-based alternatives?
  • How are material scientists innovating with packaging solutions that are regenerative? Which solutions are proving viable for flexible and rigid packaging?
  • How do business models need to adjust to fast-track sustainable packaging solution in the supply chain? How do we scale these new, regenerative solutions? What challenges do innovators face, and how can those challenges be overcome?

Speaker:
Ved Krishna, Founder, PAKKA, USA

10:15
Panel // The Role of Packaging in Driving Materials Innovation
  • What does the future of packaging look like? Which solutions are supporting industry in meeting 2025, 2030, and 2050 sustainability objectives?
  • With so much R&D for new packaging materials taking place, which solutions look ripe for mass adoption in food & beverage packaging? How are they achieving on performance and scale?
  • How are plant-based or biodegradable materials performing in rigid and flexible formats? What is the future market potential for packaging materials derived from plant extracts including seaweed, alginate, starch, bagasse, cellulose, or mycelium; chitosan and agricultural waste?
  • What about material innovation for reuse packaging models? Where are brands and converters placing their bets?
  • What is the future role for “intelligent” functionality in packaging, such as environmental sensors or printable electronics? How are these intelligent functions allowing products to communicate between the manufacturer, customer, other packages and smart appliances? What efficiencies and cost savings does smart packaging bring?
11:00
Networking Coffee Break

Time for a networking coffee break.

11:30
Technology Showcase // Digital Solutions Supporting Efficiencies in Materials

Meet four innovators leveraging digital technologies to enhance and prolong the lifecycle of materials. Each presenting company will have five minutes to showcase their solution and take questions from our industry panel.

Inviting pitches from early-stage startups and SMEs, the target areas for innovation include:

  • Smart functionality of materials for reuse, traceability, food preservation and safety
  • Responsive materials; memory effect, self-healing, and sensors
  • Sorting technologies for more efficient recyclability
  • Material informatics and discovery platforms
  • Tech-enabled strategies for circular supply chains
  • Traceability and visibility of material flows along value chains
12:15
Roundtables

One of the most interactive sessions of the programme, each roundtable discussion group is hosted by an industry expert on a specific theme offering you a valuable opportunity to network, brainstorm solutions and discuss ideas with your peers on shared areas of interest.

  • Packaging:
    Green Premium for Buyers in a Low Margin Market
    The Food Grade Challenge
    Food Waste vs. Plastic Packaging
    Innovation in Barrier Properties
    Biodegradable and Water-Soluble Packaging
  • Textiles and Apparel:
    Fashion’s Plastic Crisis
    Recyclability of Blended Fabrics
    Scaling Regenerative Bio-Materials
    Future Designers & Novel Materials
    Alternative Proteins <> Fermented Leather
  • Non-Wovens in Personal Care
    Innovating for Skin-Contact Materials and Health
    Bio-Based Single-Use Products
    Phasing out Chemicals of Concern
    Sustainable Materials with Enhanced Functionality
  • Durable Consumer Goods
    Performance Testing for High Pressure Environments
    Sustainable Materials that Perform for Generations
    EPR and Regulation Driving Recyclability, Reuse, and Repair
12:45
Fireside Chat // Next-Gen Textiles: Bridging the Gap from Lab to Market and Routes to Faster Commercialisation
  • For the many start-ups coming to market with a solution capable of replacing the incumbents, how do they move from lab scale to larger scale production at speed? How do we take next-generation materials to any company expressing scale?
  • How have biomaterials been adopted and applied in the apparel/textiles industry? What have been the hurdles for this industry of early adopters?
  • As we bridge the gap from benchtop to commercialisation, what speciality skills are needed or missing? How can start-ups lean on larger corporates for access to specific skills? What are the opportunities are there to educate future designers working with new materials?
13:00
Networking Lunch Break

Our audience in London will take a networking lunch break.

14:00
Case Studies Series // Material Innovation in Action

Presentation // Accelerated R&D: Leveraging Big-Data and AI for New Materials Discovery

  • How are digital platforms accelerating the rate of R&D in materials discovery? What examples or success stories have we seen?
  • What platforms currently exist for the wider industry to adopt? Who’s leading in this area of innovation?
  • What opportunities does this present for packaging materials, where the depolymerisation of PET or biobased alternatives with similar barrier properties to polyethylene could be achieved?

Presentation // Biorefineries: Scaling the Engine Powering the Bioeconomy

  • As the Biden administration and the European Union have publicised their commitments to scale biomanufacturing, what new opportunities and challenges does this bring to the marketplace?
  • What is the current capacity for fermentation processes and how can we manage the gap in fermentation capex to match predicted demand?
  • What tools and infrastructure are needed to scale up production? Who is making the bioreactors needed to scale to petro-chem levels of scale? How can the machinery and the materials be optimised in parallel to meet the scale challenge head on?

Presentation // Scaling Up into Factories: How do New Materials Scale?

  • How can start-ups with a new ground-breaking material engage with existing supply chains? What is the journey from showing proof of concept through to adoption at scale?
  • What does it look like when you have a working solution at scale? If factories or converters are looking for a 1-1 replacement, at a competitive price, how can start-ups navigate this territory?
  • How do players across the value chain work together on developing prototypes for proof of concept? How does this process address concern around price, the property requirements, and scale up to meet demand.
14:30
Panel // Achieving Circularity: Recycling, Reuse, Replacement – What Will Make the Greatest Impact?
  • How can we solve the circular economy? How is innovation being applied to circular materials and which solutions present the greatest promise?
  • What impact are new alternative materials having on value chains for textiles, packaging, or durable goods? How can brands, converters, and mills reduce the environmental impact of incumbents, such as plastics on the plant? Are naturally occurring, biodegradable polymers the answer? Should polyester, nylon, acrylics, viscose, polypropylene, and polyethylene materials be replaced, or is it possible to make these kinds of materials better?
  • How is innovation in materials being applied to reuse consumption models? Which brands are finding new ways to shift value across reuse cycles? Are there solutions supporting with the durability, reusability, or repairability of products and their materials?
  • Are new, alternative materials delivering on recyclability? Can modern waste management companies process these materials? How could research into a new class of durable plastics lend itself towards perpetually recyclable polymers for use in packaging, consume goods, and textiles?
  • How do we manage the quality of recycled materials available in the marketplace? How could greater transparency be achieved? How will new digital solutions help to trace renewable and recycled material flows along the value chains?
15:15
Panel // Agile Innovation: Discovering New Applications and Markets for Today’s Solutions
  • From start-ups moving into new markets (such as lab grown meat to leather), to corporations restructuring to speed up innovation – how are business models evolving to deliver future-proof innovation strategies? How does this create the runway needed to commercialise sustainable alternatives to replace the incumbents, such as petrochemical, virgin forest and animal based?
  • How are brands working with start-ups – from utilising their technology to supporting their growth? What successful collaboration models are we seeing? Where corporates have launched incubators or accelerator programmes, what impact has this had on their innovation strategy?
  • How can a more agile approach to innovation help large corporates shift to more sustainable ways of doing business? What flexibility does this bring, and how does it make for a more robust business in the future? What is the process for innovating in a large Fortune 100?
16:00
Closing Remarks

Concluding remarks for this year’s summit.

16:05
Close of Summit