A company working on the development of bioplastics, which received investment from Wallace Corporation earlier this year, has been recognised in a national research commercialisation competition.
The formation of spin-out company Aduro Biopolymers by WaikatoLink Ltd, the technology transfer organisation of the University of Waikato has resulted in a finals place in the Commercial Deal Award on the KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards. Winners will be announced at an awards function on 19 June in Auckland.
Aduro Biopolymers was set up to commercialise a diverse range of materials and polymers from industry co-products and low value waste streams for use in plastics, composites, manufacturing, agriculture and the building and construction sectors. The company’s lead product, a bioplastic called Novatein, is made from naturally occurring materials that on their own quickly degrade in the environment.
In February, the company received investment from Wallace Corporation Ltd, by volume New Zealand’s largest service rendering business. Wallace chairman Sir James Wallace and chief executive Graham Shortland are now members of the Aduro board.
Darren Harpur, acting chief executive of Aduro Biopolymers, says, “It’s really pleasing to be recognised for the hard work done over five or six years, which has culminated in a complex investment and investment structure which intends to build a company of some scale.
“The deal will fully fund all the operations including an Australian product development programme for Novatein. It also aligns with the interests of Wallace Corporation as we provide a way to take innovative technology to market building on Wallace Corporation’s strategy of adding further value to existing commodity products they produce. In this case, bloodmeal. This builds on the strategic partnership Wallace Corporation has with the University as a way to continually source innovation.”
Harpur says the goal is to have price-competitive sustainable product in the market in 2016 to 2017.
The potential of the company is significant, he says. “The global plastics market is worth over a trillion dollars and currently bioplastics represents 5-10 percent of that market and is growing quickly. Novatein creates a compelling proposition for compelling partners and customers due to its simple, cost-effective manufacturing process and its environmental benefits.”
The science behind Novatein originated and continues to be developed by the University of Waikato’s School of Engineering by chemical engineer Dr Johan Verbeek and his team. Novatein has been in development since 2007 and has received investment support from Kiwinet’s PreSeed Accelerator Fund from the Ministry of Science and Innovation.
In an article which appeared in Waikato’s re:think Winter 2013 magazine, Dr Verbeek described the bioplastic material as “having the strength comparable to polyethylene, used in milk bottles and plastic bags, but it’s fully compostable. He added that it was unlikely to be used in either of those things, however, and that it is not a direct replacement for polyethylene. A number of product manufacturing trials have been run including weedmat, pegs, pots and measuring spoons and the researchers have found it’s even possible for Novatein to be blended with conventional plastics to reduce the petroleum load, the article says.