Notpla lands £1M Innovate UK grant for “disruptive sustainable biomanufacturing by 2050”
30 Oct 2023 — Seaweed-based packaging start-up Notpla has received a £1 million (US$1.2 million) grant from the UK’s R&D funding body, Innovate UK. The funding will support Notpla and its partners, Eco Cascade, Atritor and Plastic Engineering Solutions, to scale up production of the company’s bio-based material for injection molding applications like takeaway cutlery.
The funding came as part of a competition, the winners of which were awarded for “Sustainable bio-based materials and manufacture: Collaborative R&D (CR&D).”
Speaking to Packaging Insights, Notpla co-founder and co-CEO Pierre Paslier says: “The aim of this competition is to develop the design and delivery of new and disruptive sustainable biomanufacturing by 2050. This enables the UK to be more globally competitive by supporting CR&D across different industries and sectors.”
“The grant will also allow us to minimize waste, cut input costs and to further reduce climate and environmental impacts of this innovative material,” he asserts.
The seaweed-based material can be made into pellet form for injection molding.Advancing on the UK’s SUP ban
The UK’s single-use plastic (SUP) ban took effect in England on October 1. Offerings like Notpla Rigid are stepping in as a compliant alternative to single-use rigid plastic packaging and disposable plastic items.
“This revolutionary material, available in pellet form for injection molding, can be easily molded into a wide range of products using standard tooling and equipment. It has been specifically engineered to break down in the natural environment,” continues Paslier.
“We are pioneering packaging that causes no harm, leaves no trace, and respects the rhythms of nature. Once these solutions reach industrial scale, they will become available to everyone and define the new normal.”
“To reach this industrial scale, we need a strong community of seaweed farmers and manufacturers, but we also need to identify commercial partners that share our vision and value set to join our journey,” he adds.
Notpla Rigid is now ready to be tested by companies keen on exploring the next generation of material, says the company. The material can be injection molded into various applications for various industries, including food services, cosmetics, personal care and home care.
Fighting fossil-based financing
A central challenge faced by bio-based material producers is competing with far cheaper and more readily available fossil-based resources, which packaging industry stakeholders can often either not afford or are unwilling to sacrifice short-term profits.
“We have already made significant progress with reducing our costs, given the high processability of Notpla Rigid using traditional injection molding equipment and tooling,” says Paslier.
“This grant enables us to further optimize our costs through material development, and we expect to be increasingly cost-competitive with fossil-based materials as we scale production and continue to innovate.”
Moreover, the company says the grant allows Notpla and its partners to demonstrate the potential for the UK’s Blue and Green Economy, incorporating seaweed grown in the UK into natural packaging designed and manufactured in the UK.
“We’re not only leading the way in tackling plastic packaging pollution but also building the UK industry of the future. Together with our partners Eco Cascade, Atritor and Plastic Engineering Solutions, based in Scotland, Coventry and Wiltshire respectively, this project highlights innovation taking place across the country, from seaweed farming to pellet production to end packaging.”
By Louis Gore-Langton
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