Ahead of his speaking role at Rethinking Materials, we were pleased to catch up with Charles Dimmler, Co-Founder and CEO to learn more about Checkerspot’s ambtious plans and recent success stories to overcome challenges.

What was the inspiration behind Checkerspot?

Charles Dimmler
Charles Dimmler, Checkerspot

We exist because the world needs new materials that perform better and are more sustainable.

In 2016, Checkerspot incorporated as a Public Benefit Corporation with the specific purpose of advancing environmental stewardship by developing and democratizing more sustainable materials as a way to catalyze innovation and the betterment of local communities.

Our approach to materials innovation is based on the three pillars of our innovation platform: Molecular Foundry, Material Science & Chemistry, and Fabrication.

Our vertically integrated platform enables a shorter and more cost-effective product development approach, the foundation of which is biomanufacturing technology. Checkerspot is driving towards a post-petroleum world, in which performance materials are developed and supplied by breakthroughs in biology.

What recent successes / case studies that highlight your breakthroughs and how you are overcoming challenges with your technology?

From the inception of Checkerspot, we knew how important it was to animate what is possible with our technology. With that mentality in mind, we created WNDR Alpine, our own direct-to-consumer, outdoor brand. WNDR Alpine is an extension of our laboratory and brings to life what is possible with Checkerspot materials and the Checkerspot platform.

The initial products of WNDR Alpine, backcountry skis fine tuned targeting strength to weight and damping properties, showcase our materials in the harshest environments where materials and the gear that you use are critical. With two years under our belt, we have received recognition from industry leaders and have won global awards.

We believe in democratizing our performance materials. They should not be exclusive, so now we are focusing on broadening the applications sets to more product categories and brands, even beyond the outdoor industry.

A range of companies are currently prototyping and adopting Checkerspot materials into their own products.

What role do partnerships and collaboration play to support your mission at Checkerspot?

Partnerships and collaborations are central in our drive towards a post petroleum future. We believe that to successfully address big issues like climate change, we must think in terms of collaboration versus competition.

As a planet we are in a moment where we can’t afford to be thinking and working in silos, we need all hands on deck working together to make an impact. We are entering a new age of discovery in materials enabled by biology. There is a creative renaissance building around these new materials and better ways of making products, I think you will see more collaborative innovations than ever over the next few years.

You’re joining us on the panel discussion ‘Enhancing Performance: Designing Sustainable Materials to Outperform the Competition’ at the Rethinking Materials summit. Why is this such an important discussion for the industry to be having? What will you be sharing with the audience?

From floating garbage islands to droughts and wildfires, the consequences of our global, petrochemical dependency are becoming increasingly hard to ignore. Consumers are shifting their focus and their wallets towards products and brands that are conscious of their footprint. However, in the eyes of brands and consumers, sustainability often comes at the sacrifice of performance.

Checkerspot’s innovation platform frees designers and consumers from this outdated thinking by delivering  materials and products with a reduced carbon footprint that can outcompete the performance metrics of their commodity oil and petrochemical-derived counterparts.

What’s next for Checkerspot and what do you hope to achieve in the next 12 months? In the next 3-5 years?

At our core we are about innovation, over the next year with our materials development platform and our acute focus on applications we will continue to develop and deliver innovative breakthroughs into new industries. One of the areas that we are most excited about is around our work with our partners at GORE and BST to develop new performance textiles.

We know that we are just scratching the surface of possibilities in terms of sustainable solutions and that is exciting. Stay tuned for exciting announcements we have coming up this year.

Charles will be joining the Rethinking Materials Summit on May 19-20, to speak on the panel ‘Enhancing Performance: Designing Sustainable Materials to Outperform the Competition’, alongside:

Gayatri Keksar, VP of Research, MATERIAL CONNEXION, USA
Andras Forgacs, Co-Founder & CEO, MODERN MEADOW, USA
Michael Saltzberg, Global Business Director, DUPONT BIOMATERIALS, USA
Søren Kristiansen, 
Senior Director of Technology, THE LEGO GROUP, Denmark