The enthusiasm for new and innovative materials has never been greater, with food retailers seeking solutions for climate-friendly packaging, fashion outlets being challenged on unsustainable production, and almost every industry striving to use less, reuse more and improve the performance and durability of their products.
2022 saw the celebration of some truly disruptive materials, with previous Rethinking Materials presenters Notpla being awarded the ‘Build a Waste-Free World’ Earthshot Prize for its seaweed-based packaging, and LanzaTech being named a finalist in the ‘Fix our Climate’ category.
To see what 2023 has in store, we spoke with leading investors in the future of materials to discover where they think the key areas for funding are in this space. Which technologies are getting them excited, and what we can expect from start-ups and in-house innovation hubs this year?
From building resilient supply chains and growing the ecosystem, to consumer appetite for sustainable materials and the preference for modification over replacement, read on for their insights ahead of the Rethinking Materials Summit in London this May 16-17. Save the date to join us!
Ginger Rothrock, Senior Director, HG Ventures: “I believe decentralisation will continue to drive innovation in materials, processes, and related business models. Companies in every sector are looking to build resiliency in their supply chains and address labour shortages. I am particularly interested in circular economy innovations that (1) reduce material use, (2) incorporate new materials that are less resource intensive or local, and (3) employ small-scale processes that recapture “waste” as a resource to manufacture new materials and products.”
Markus Solibieda, Managing Director, BASF Venture Capital: “New materials and innovative, as well as significantly improved, chemical processes will play a major role in reducing CO2 emissions and in dealing with climate change. To accelerate the required research and developments, contributions from software development, AI and quantum computing research will be crucial. If we want to achieve significant outcomes, a lot will depend on the interdisciplinary and successful liaison between traditional chemistry and new digital tools.”
Lindy Fishburne, Managing Partner, Breakout Ventures: “This third wave of biomaterials development will be led by cheaper DNA synthesis & sequencing and improved manufacturing of biological inputs, but most critically we are seeing real demand and willingness to spend for sustainable material and a secure supply chain.”
Tawny Scanlan, Associate, FTW Ventures: “We believe modification is superior to replacement: We’re excited about materials that don’t require too much modification for corporations to pilot through existing packaging production, thereby reusing the existing capital investment for the packaging lines and production facilities. These include modified plastic resins that can have additional materials that provide for decomposition or additive coatings that can augment existing biomaterials (ie. papers) to make them function more like plastics. For example, Nfinite Nanotech (an FTW Ventures portfolio company) develops compostable and recyclable barrier coatings that are moisture- and oxygen-resistant and can be easily integrated into current manufacturing processes.”
Semi Hakim, Co-Founder & CEO, Kök Projekt: “I believe we have a pretty exciting period in front of us in terms of the transformation of the sector. The number of start-ups and the ecosystem is growing daily, and now corporates are investing more in circular solutions to build a better and sustainable value chain. I think start-ups will come into the year with more potential opportunities for integration and interest directly from the sector. 2023 will be a year in which we’ll see more sectoral integration and scalable solutions aligned with circular economy disciplines.”
Justin Guest, Partner, Archipelago Eco Investors: “2023 will be a fascinating year. Disruption is occurring simultaneously across a whole number of areas within our economy and occurring at an ever-increasing pace. A range of drivers are powering this disruption; the aftereffects of Covid and responding to supply chain dislocation, macro-economic impacts of conflict and inflation, regulatory and social pressures and the incredible pace of technological development and advancement. What is increasingly clear however is there is real opportunity for innovation to carve a niche in the materials and other spaces and stake a claim in a future circular, net zero economy.”
Join over 300 senior leaders driving material innovation in London this May 16-17 at the Rethinking Materials Summit. Connecting pioneering companies focused on mitigating carbon emissions from textiles, packaging and durable goods, the summit will explore the technologies and material alternatives reducing our reliance on incumbents such as petrochemical, virgin forest, and animal-based materials.