Scaling Innovation in New Materials for Consumer Goods

Focusing on upstream innovation (design, new materials, and regulation) the summit sets out to connect technology pioneers with investors and corporate partners to scale innovation in new materials for consumer goods – including packaging, textiles, durable goods, and personal hygiene products.

Providing two days of debate and targeted networking with global consumer brands, producers, converters, policymakers, early-stage innovators, and investors – the 2024 agenda offers a unique opportunity to learn from adjacent sectors and gain insights into innovative applications of new materials and technologies that can future-proof your business and achieve more sustainable supply chains.

Sessions are shown in London time zone (British Summer Time – BST)

Tuesday May 14

Opening Remarks

A warm welcome to the 2024 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. 

Sustainability Pathways: Corporate Transitioning Towards Sustainable Supply Chains
  • From designing out waste to meeting net zero targets, how can we accelerate the transition to more sustainable supply chains and how is innovation in materials supporting these goals? What is the ultimate end goal, and can there be agreement on how to reach it?
  • How do major corporates navigate conflicting and contradictory commitments – how can they innovate while also meeting the interests of shareholders and investors?
  • How is evolving regulation impacting the ability to develop business strategies beyond 10-years? What ripple effect does regulation have on market economics, governance, and technology? What kind of technologies are coming up as the market reacts to the most recent changes in regulation?
  • How are consumer brands across different sectors joining forces, collaborating, and participating in open innovation frameworks? Where are the synergies and cross-sector technologies that could deliver win-win solutions?
  • What strategies are being put in place to pivot over to more sustainable biomanufacturing pathways? How are we upskilling and developing the workforce needed to deliver net zero?

Adam Leyland, Editor-in-Chief, THE GROCER, UK

Martin Ott, Managing Partner, COLLATERAL GOOD, Switzerland
Paul Bedford, Director of Policy and Sustainability, DELIVEROO, UK

Presentation // Challenging Conventional Thinking: Bolder Innovation and Large-Scale Solutions

Pablo Costa, Global Vice President Packaging, UNILEVER, UK  

The Funding Gap: Adapting Investment Models for Next-Gen Materials and Future Infrastructure
  • Climate-tech hardware start-ups face significant funding challenges due to the limitations in current venture capital (VC) models. How can investors help plug this funding gap to finance future infrastructure development for manufacturing and materials processing?
  • How are stakeholders across consumer product value chains working to deploy the levels of capital required by transformative climate-tech entrepreneurs? What level of activity are we seeing from later-stage institutional investors, governments, and sovereign wealth funds?
  • How do companies get beyond the pilot phase “valley of death” to reach industrial scale? What alternative funding models should be explored, and how can new investment models decrease technological risk and increase commerciality?
    Are innovative financing solutions such as Public-Private Partnerships, Green Bonds, and Asset Recycling showing any promise?
  • How will the right level of capital flow help disruptive hardware solutions to challenge incumbents for pricing power and market share? What level of investment is needed to meet demand at scale?

Louisa Burwood-Taylor, Managing Editor & Head of Media & Research, AGFUNDER, UK

Lucy Mortimer, Co-Founder, ARCHIPELAGO VENTURES, UK
Nicolaj Reffstrup, Founder, GANNI & LOOK UP VENTURES, Denmark
Karine Measson, Head of Circular Economy & Sustainable Development Division, EUROPEAN INVESTMENT BANK (EIB), Luxembourg
Shelley De Souza, Director, Banking and Investments, UK INFRASTRUCTURE BANK, UK

Networking Coffee Break

Hosted by

Technology Showcase // Material Innovation Delivering on Performance and Functionality

Meet six early-stage innovators addressing the performance and functionality of new, more sustainable materials. Each presenting company will have three minutes to showcase their solution and take questions from our investor panel.

Target areas for innovation include:

  • Advances in performance and functional barrier coatings
  • Responsive materials with memory effect and self-healing properties
  • Alternative solutions for films and flexible packaging materials
  • Biobased feedstocks and green chemistry for raw materials
  • Applications of nanomaterials such as graphene enhancing or replacing existing materials
  • Advanced composites with high performance applications, such as robust, lightweight, durable, high-heat resistant materials
  • Marine-safe, non-toxic, naturally occurring polymers
  • Biofabricated materials or fibres from alginate, chitosan, seaweed, fungal, cellulose, and protein-based feedstocks

Industry Panel:
Giorgia Scetta, Materials Science & Accelerator Partner Manager, MASSCHALLENGE SWITZERLAND, Switzerland

Jared Raszewski, Founder & Chief Product Officer, DISSOLVES, USA
Roderick Thackray, Co-Founder & CEO, ALGREEN, UK
Michele Stansfield, Co-Founder and CEO, CAULDRON FERM, Australia

Sustainable Feedstocks: Capitalising on Cross Sector Collaboration and Waste Stream Valorisation
  • What opportunities are we seeing across different sectors for waste stream valorisation? How is this area of innovation advancing to convert a broad selection of feedstocks, residues, side-streams and waste to higher value materials?
  • How can we match different processes and extraction techniques to extract compounds from different feedstocks? What exploratory methods can be used to determine the economic feasibility for materials in a company’s supply chain?
  • What level of risk exists in waste stream feedstocks? Is supply consistent or at risk of running out? How can you determine scalability?
  • How is the mass balance approach supporting a gradual transition over to alternative feedstocks? How is mass balance being viewed by different players across the value chain and how can we address challenges in communicating mass balance to end users? 
  • How have the agriculture, food and beverage sectors embraced the opportunity to create value from by-product waste for other sectors? Which sectors are engaging and what new partnerships are we seeing?

Tobias Seikel, Co-Founder and General Manager, PLANET A VENTURES, Germany

Carolina Gregorio, Sustainability and Policy Director P&SP EMEA, DOW, Spain
Farida Bensadoun, Global Packaging Innovation Manager, AB INBEV, Belgium
Mark Elkovitc, Sr. Director of Research and Innovation, TEKNOR APEX, USA
Anne Lamp, CEO & Co-Founder, TRACELESS MATERIALS, Germany

Networking Lunch Break

Hosted by

Innovation Spotlight // Fixing Flexible Packaging: Overcoming One of the Industry’s Biggest Challenges
  • How are bio-based plastics and compostable solutions for flexible packaging progressing? How are bio-based plastics such as PLA, PHA, and others performing as alternatives? What opportunities are arising for new materials when considering advances in additives and coatings? 
  • How could full circularity for flexible packaging be achieved? How can we address the main blockers, such as processing challenges or shifting from multi- to mono-material structures while maintaining barrier properties?
  • What are the opportunities for industry to collaborate on solving this challenge? What successful and innovative projects are the result of collaboration throughout the supply chain?
  • To what level is cost impacting the rate of adoption of new materials or solutions for flexible packaging, and how could this barrier be overcome? How can economies of scale be achieved and are consumers willing to pay more for sustainable packaging?

Helen Bird, Head of Materials Systems Transformation, WRAP, UK

Ved Krishna, Founder, PAKKA, USA
Thomas Merry, Commercialisation and Innovation Manager, SUEZ, UK

Innovation Spotlight // The Speed of Implementation of New Materials: Challenges and Insights from the Packaging Industry


Innovation Spotlight // Reshaping the Future of Footwear: Design, Materials Selection and Recyclability
  • Footwear, particularly trainers, can contain up to 20 different materials, making it incredibly difficult to recycle. How are innovators working to address this challenge? What unique partnerships are we seeing as a result?
  • Which next generation materials are proving their value? How are alternative leathers and other biofabricated materials addressing the challenge of achieving durability and performance as well as recyclability? How well do certain solutions integrate into existing infrastructure and value chains?
  • What is the role of AI and 3D printing technologies in accelerating the pace of innovation for this category? How can they aid a new dimension of possibilities in achieving mono-material and full recyclability?

Allen Zelden, Co-Founder, FUTUREVVORLD, Australia

Luke Haverhals, Founder and CEO, NFW, USA
Solene Roure, Creative Director and Co-Founder, CIRCLE SPORTSWEAR, UK
Carmen Hijosa, Founder and Chief Creative and Innovation Officer, ANANAS ANAM, UK

Networking Coffee Break
Innovation Spotlight // Embracing AI-Driven Solutions to Accelerate the Transition to a Circular Economy
  • How can AI enhance and accelerate the development of new products, components, and materials for a circular economy? How have machine-learning-assisted design processes allowed for rapid prototyping and testing?
  • What opportunities are there for AI to optimise circular infrastructure? How could AI help to build and improve the reverse logistics infrastructure required to “close the loop” on products and materials?
  • What success are we seeing from applications of AI and digitalisation to the value chain of sustainable packaging? What are the opportunities for AI based waste traceability, digital trading platforms for recycled materials, and software solutions for supply chain transparency?

Nuha Siddiqui, CEO & Co-Founder, ERTHOD, Canada
Sasha Novakovich, Founder & CEO, ALCHEMY CLOUD, USA

Lightning Talks // Innovation Furthering Sustainable Materials

Standalone presentations showcasing material innovation in action.

  • Biomanufacturing High-Performance Bio-based and Biodegradable Polymers with Harshal Chokhawala, Co-Founder & CEO, ZYMOCHEM, USA
  • Leave No Trace Solutions: Material Innovation Tackling Microplastics with Adi Goldman, CEO & Co-Founder, BIOTIC, Israel
Advancing the Bioeconomy: Plant-Based Speciality Chemicals and Bio-Based Building Block Molecules
  • With geopolitical unrest impacting the price of traditional feedstocks, how are producers and end users of materials responding to increasingly volatile supply chains? How is interest in industrial biotech shifting, which sectors are investing more actively in R&D and who will benefit?
  • What challenges need to be overcome before biorefining processes become mainstream? Who are the key players, and how is investment being directed to scale up capacity?
  • 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 capabilities where biotechnology allows us to alter the molecular biology of cells, enzymes, and proteins?

Mary McCarthy, Partner, SOFINNOVA PARTNERS, France

Niels van Stralen, CEO & Co-Founder, CHAINCRAFT, Netherlands
Jason Robinson, CEO, EVOCO, Canada
Gudrun Vogtentanz, Chief Scientific Officer, AMSILK, Germany

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.

Wednesday May 15

Opening Remarks
Designing Out Waste and Driving Radical Market Transformation
  • “We can’t recycle our way out of this mess…” a quote we hear from law and policy makers when addressing the waste crisis we face. What opportunities are there to design out waste upstream? How are innovators rethinking materials and redesigning products?
  • What does innovation look like if you want to be outside the plastic category? Plastics provide high performance abilities – how can industry sectors navigate the viability of new solutions today and in the future for their unique requirements?
  • How will innovation as well as economic and societal change play a role in accelerating the adoption of new solutions? How can we be more ambitious in our efforts to design out waste? What opportunities will ignite radical market transformation?
Regulatory Landscape: Navigating Fast-Changing Legislation at a Local and Global Level
  • How is regulation addressing the needs of today verses the needs of the future? What is the right level of push and pull to leverage change/adoption?
  • From Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and the Green Claims Directive to the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) and the plastic tax – what is the outlook for the regulatory landscape and how might it evolve from here? How is regulation in Europe influencing the USA?
  • What is the definition of plastic? How in turn do we define biodegradability? How has the EU’s definition paved the way for material innovation going forward?
  • How does the action taken by governments facilitate the entrance of new players? What examples are we seeing, and how is this balanced with supporting incumbent industries and local economies?
  • The UN Global Plastics Treaty is expected to provide a comprehensive framework to address the production, consumption, and disposal of plastics, including reducing primary plastic polymers by the end of 2024. How are negotiations progressing? Is a consensus being reached to align different positions on the life cycle of plastics? Where does material innovation come in?

Neil Cameron, Partner, EMERALD TECHNOLOGY VENTURES, Canada

Pierre-Yves Paslier, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, NOTPLA, UK
Steve Morgan, Head of Policy & Infrastructure, RECOUP, UK
Anindya Mukherjee, Co-Founder and Executive Board Member, GO!PHA, Germany

The Future is Paper? Enhancing Performance in the Pursuit of Sustainability
  • As consumer brands look to reduce their plastic usage, how are alternative paper-based solutions proving their viability? How are companies promoting packaging alternatives to plastic while meeting the diverse needs of their consumer base?
  • What level of performance can paper-based solutions offer? What is the role of coatings in providing barrier performance? Where coatings work to extend shelf-life, what is the impact on recyclability? How are companies navigating the compromise of sustainability and functionality?
  • As companies invest more in R&D to accelerate solutions for the circular economy, how far has innovation in paper alternatives come? How is innovation addressing the durability of paper-based solutions? What opportunities are there for further developments in coatings and self-healing?
  • What impact could the introduction of deforestation legislation have on the role of paper as an alternative to plastic? How is innovation in plant fibres addressing this? Which feedstocks are showing the greatest potential and how can they be scaled to meet growing demand?

Peter McGeough, Technology Innovation Director, APTAR GROUP, Ireland

Anna Altner, Founder, YANGI, Sweden
William Connolly, Senior Principal Scientist, DIAGEO, UK
Romain Metivet, Founder and CEO, CELLULOTECH, Canada

Helping Industry Accelerate to a Thriving Post-Plastic Economy

Speaker: Emma Grace Bailey, Partner & Head of Content, PLASTICFREE, UK

Networking Coffee Break
Technology Showcase // Innovation Supporting the Decarbonisation and Circularity of Materials

Meet six early-stage innovators with technologies enabling the decarbonisation and circularity of materials in a value chain. Each presenting company will have three minutes to showcase their solution and take questions from our investor panel.

Target areas for innovation include:

  • Carbon capture and CO2 utilisation for materials
  • AI material informatics and discovery platforms
  • Traceability of material flows along value chains
  • Sorting technologies for recycling and circularity
  • Waste valorisation and recyclable compounds from agricultural waste and other renewable resources
  • Applications of enzyme technologies

Industry Panel:
Rebecca Ravenni, Investment Associate, TECHSTARS SUSTAINABILITY, France

Samuel Grisa, Co-Founder and CEO, BIOMR, UK
Sarah Harbarth, Co-Founder and CEO, KUORI, Switzerland
Nazli Ozdemir, Founder, GULSINE, UK
Ross Mcbee, CSO and Co-Founder, TOMTEX, USA
Jane Jin, Co-Founder and COO, OXCCU, UK
Lee Cohen, Co-Founder & CEO, TEXTRE, Israel


Each roundtable discussion 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.

  • Achieving Scale Through Leveraging Market Demand
    Nicolaj Reffstrup, Founder, GANNI / LOOK UP VENTURES
  • AI in R&D: What’s Working and What’s Not
    Sasha Novakovich, Founder & CEO, ALCHEMY CLOUD
  • Regulation and the Definition of Plastic
    Pierre-Yves Paslier, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, NOTPLA
  • Achieving Recyclability Through Materials Innovation
    Dirk Haensch, Open Innovation & Technology Lead Europe, BRASKEM
  • Can Durability and Sustainability be Synonyms?
    Luke Haverhals, Founder and CEO, NFW
  • How to Monetize the Waste to Value Opportunity
    Mark Elkovitc, Sr. Director of Research and Innovation, TEKNOR APEX
  • The Moisture Barrier Challenge for Regenerative Flexible Packaging
    Ved Krishna, Founder, PAKKA
  • Is Paper a Viable Alternative to Plastic?
    Peter McGeough, Director Technology Innovation Excellence, APTARGROUP
  • Innovating for Sustainable Disposable Absorbent Hygiene Products
    Harshal Chokhawala, Co-Founder & CEO, ZYMOCHEM
  • Beware the Hypebeast: Lessons from Past Hype Cycles
    Allen Zelden, Co-Founder, FUTUREVVORLD
  • Are Customers Willing to Accept a Different Look and Feel?
    Stefan Koensgen, R&D Lead Circularity, BMW
  • Progress Over Perfection: Obstacles Impeding Mainstream Adoption
    Jason Robinson, CEO, EVOCO
Networking Lunch Break
Lightning Talks // Material Innovation in Action

Standalone presentations showcasing material innovation in action.

  • Building Premium and Luxury Consumer Products Using Sustainable Materials with Stefan Koensgen, R&D Lead Circularity, BMW, Germany
Achieving Recyclability: Advances in Technology for True Circularity
  • As brand owners increasingly aim for higher recycled content rates in their products, the demand for recycling technologies is expected to grow. How are technologies advancing in this space? How is innovation addressing the need for low-carbon recycling?
  • How are material choices impacting recycling rates? What scope is there to develop new recyclable materials that could replace current hard to recycle materials?
  • What is the role of additives and coatings in achieving the functionality and barrier performances of mono-materials? How do they impact the recycling process, and how can we innovate to overcome their shortfalls?
  • How are data, automation, and AI improving resource recovery? What opportunities are there to support and strengthen the marketplace of recycled materials by digitising the waste sector? How can we better invest in waste management and increase the value of recycled materials?
  • As innovation in materials continues to accelerate, how is the value chain pulling together to address the challenges of recyclability?

Efrat Friedland, Founder, MATERIALSCOUT, Germany
Dirk Haensch, Open Innovation & Technology Lead Europe, BRASKEM, Germany
Deanna Zhang, Investment Director, CIRCULARITY CAPITAL, UK
Jen Keane, Founder, MODERN SYNTHESIS, UK
Martyn Tickner, Chief Advisor Circular Solutions, ALLIANCE TO END PLASTIC WASTE, Netherlands

Investment Trends: Identifying High-Growth Solutions and Navigating Hype Cycles
  • As investors scout the innovation arena for breakthrough solutions in sustainable materials, what level of due diligence will help investors understand what is “cool” verses what is commercially viable? How have overhyped valuations threatened the investment landscape?
  • 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 can LPs, VC and PE funds, corporates, governments, and institutions each play a mutually supportive role to address the capital gap facing industrial biotech and create a new investment ecosystem?
  • How is regulation influencing the tailwinds of future investment in materials innovation? How are taxation, extended producer responsibility costs, and reputational risks impacting the rate of investment in new solutions for sustainable materials?
  • What does the next 12 – 18 months looks like for the most exciting technologies and big investment wins?

Michael Smith, General Partner, REGENERATION.VC, USA

Janina Zippel, Senior Scientist Corporate Venture Capital, BEIERSDORF, Germany 
Guillaume Gras, Investment Director, EUROPEAN CIRCULAR BIOECONOMY FUND (ECBF), France 
Frank Klemens, Managing Director of the Generation Food Rural Partners Fund (GFRP), BIG IDEA VENTURES, USA
Johanna Wiese, Director, Circular Economy, MISTLETOE, Philippines
Laura Coppen, Sustainability Investments, H&M GROUP VENTURES, Germany

Close of Summit