Naturbeads, a Bath-based developer of biodegradable alternatives to microplastics, has won a £425,000 Innovate UK grant to commercialise its technology across multiple industries and markets.
Innovate UK is part of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), which is the national funding agency investing in science and research in the UK.
Microplastics – i.e. plastics less than five millimetres across – are used in a wide range of consumer and industrial products including toothpaste, cosmetics, adhesives and paint to act as sensory agents, structuring agents or emulsifiers. Their presence is now increasingly being seen in the human food chain, and particles have been evidenced in salt, fish, beer and drinking water. Most disturbingly, microplastics have even been found in a new mother’s placenta.
Naturbeads’ alternatives to microplastics are made from cellulose, a naturally occurring substance that gives plants their strength and structure. Once released into the environment as waste, the cellulose-based beads simply biodegrade into harmless sugars.
Giovanna Laudisio, CEO and Co-Founder of Naturbeads, said, “When we wash these products down the sink, the microplastics travel straight through wastewater treatment plants, which are unable to capture them, and then directly into the environment.
“We’re using the Innovate UK funding to explore the feasibility of producing microbeads on an industrial scale across industries such as cosmetics and paints but also cutting-edge applications like carriers for biocatalysis and edible scaffolding for cultured meat.
“Aside from the Innovate UK funding, our growth is also being supported by Innovate UK EDGE, which has provided constructive feedback on our pitch deck and business plan, as well as recommendations for key events.”
“The events have enabled us to present to corporates, both domestically and internationally, and begin fostering partnerships that could make us more attractive to future investors.”
Giovanna believes that the issue of microplastic pollution must be addressed urgently. She continued, “it’s estimated that 250,000 tonnes of microplastics from cosmetics and paints end up in the oceans every year – equivalent to 25 billion plastic bottles.
“We must act now because future generations will not be able to remove microplastics from the environment, they’re just too small and too spread out across the globe.”
Innovate UK EDGE will continue to support as this Bath-based innovator expands globally, delivering the functionality of plastics while curbing its worst side effects.
Pictured above: Giovanna Laudisio, (Centre) CEO and Co-Founder Naturbeads and the rest of the Naturbeads Team