Promoting impact investment in Sustainable Chemistry innovations

Promoting impact investment in Sustainable Chemistry innovations

ISC3 connects international start-ups and investors at the fifth World Chemicals Conference (ICCM5) - Indian Start-up Schutzen wins ISC3 Innovation Challenge

What does it take to establish and maintain sustainability as a measurable value for companies? What conditions need to be created for ideas in Sustainable Chemistry to flourish? And which start-ups worldwide promise the greatest impact in this field with their innovations? These and other central questions about innovations for Sustainable Chemistry were answered at the Investor Forum 2023 of the International Sustainable Chemistry Collaborative Centre (ISC3). The fifth edition took place live as part of the 5th World Chemicals Conference ICCM5 in Bonn. International representatives from politics, industry, NGOs, science, environmental associations and investors met 18 international start-ups to talk about meaningful cooperation and to award the most innovative ideas and solutions in the field of Sustainable Chemistry at the finals of the ISC3 Innovation Challenge, which is endowed with a total of 25,000 euros.

Start-ups and ISC3 staff.
The Innovation Challenge is an integral part of the Investor Forum. The 2023 Award on the topic of "Sustainable Chemistry and Agriculture" won Indian start-up Schutzen with bio-based, biodegradable textiles, paints and varnishes, body care products and household chemicals made from the seeds of the tamarind tree. In the "Special Impact" category, Makabi (Croatia) convinced the international jury with its development of 3in1 capsules to reduce agrochemicals in agriculture. Molepse Bioresources (Kenya) won the "Special Regional Impact" category with multitarget pesticides to protect stored grain and the Audience Award went to Natupla (Colombia) for developing bio-based, biodegradable materials and adhesives. The founder of the German start-up ClimEtSan-OnTheGround received an honourable mention from the jury as best female founder for her business idea and contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. For the 2024 Innovation Challenge, ISC3 is looking for start-ups from around the world with the best ideas in the field of "Sustainable Chemistry and Textiles".

"Sustainable solutions such as those presented here show the potential of innovations for combating environmental pollution,"
State Secretary Dr Christiane Rohleder noted in her speech at the official opening of the Investor Forum. Representing the BMUV, she spoke about the role of Sustainable Chemistry in international chemicals management, the BMUV's German sustainability agenda and the role of the ISC3. Finally, she addressed the start-ups presenting at the Investor Forum directly:
"Your ideas inspire more innovations in the chemical sector that meet the requirements of Sustainable Chemistry."

"With the Investor Forum, ISC3 brings together selected international start-ups from the field of Sustainable Chemistry with investors every year. Financing is still one of the biggest challenges for the development of start-ups. Especially in the pre-seed and seed phase, many start-ups struggle to find an investor. As part of the ICCM5, we had a great political framework to bring the topic of innovation in Sustainable Chemistry as a central field of activity into the discussion on sustainable chemical management with concrete solutions. The finals of our annual Innovation Challenge and the award ceremony was again a highlight. Also this year, I was deeply impressed by the sustainable solutions presented by the start-ups, which motivates us at ISC3 to continue promoting them,"
says Dr Thomas Wanner, Managing Director of ISC3.
Dr. Thomas Wanner
woman giving a speech
Dr. Christiane Rohleder
At the Investor Forum 2023 panel discussion, international experts spoke about the role of investors and governments in supporting start-ups, the importance of Sustainable Chemistry and the cooperation between business and science:
“Not least because of the need for action, societal pressure and political commitments, I am convinced that in the next 30 years we will witness a sustainability revolution that will make sustainable investments the most profitable investments imaginable”,
said Fabian-Domenic Meier (Groon IO, Germany). Marcelo E. Cobrol (Chief Scalability, Knowledge and Impact at IDB Labs, USA) concluded that the highest impact projects must also be profitable.
Fabian-Domenic Meier

In his final statement, Melvin Kizito encouraged the start-ups:

"Very often in the journey of building a new venture you will have to do something nobody has done before. Maybe it’s developing a new business model, or an engineering process. When you get to this point, you must be brave and take the step forward and trust in yourself that you will achieve what you believe in. If it's important you must do it even if the future is uncertain".

The second part of the Investor Forum was dedicated to the final pitches of the ISC3 Innovation Challenge Finalists and the Award Ceremony.

Melvin Kizito (on the right) and Contimi Kenfack Mouafo of 3E's 4 Africa (on the left)

The winners of the Innovation Challenge 2023:

In the pitch of the 8 finalists of the Innovation Challenge 2023, SCHUTZEN, won the first prize of 15,000 euros. The start-up from India produces bio-based and biodegradable textiles, paints and varnishes, personal care products and household chemicals. The company's goal is to replace fossil chemistry with C-12 isotopes and toxic groups with C-14 chemistry. SCHUTZEN mitigates climate change, reduces the toxicity of pollutants and ensures high biodegradability.

The Croatian start-up MAKABI was awarded €5000 as the winner in the "Special Impact" category. The start-up has developed a smart 3in1 capsule containing a formula of microparticles with a 3in1 effect for nutrition and protection of plant parts. They focus on the application of green encapsulation of bioactive components isolated from nature in agricultural products. This approach is expected to reduce the use of agrochemicals by 30% and reduce the negative impact on the environment. The start-up also offers collaboration in research and development for new products.

Molepse Bioresources won the prize in the category "Special Regional Impact" and received prize money of 5000 €. The Kenyan start-up produces and distributes novel multitarget pesticides to protect stored grain from weevil infestation. Its two products, Dudukit and Dudumit, comply with the 12 Green Chemistry Principles (GCP), are socially acceptable, contribute to economic growth and promote environmental stewardship. They are also more affordable than the products of commercial grain traders.

From left to right: Fahmy Abdel Rahman, Managing Partner Youthinkgreen Egypt (YTG), Egypt; Alexis Bazzanella, ISC3; Raj Tanna, SCHUTZEN CARE Private, India; Silvia Perez-Hector, ISC3.
From left to right: Alexis Bazzanella, ISC3; Marko Vincekovic, MAKABI Agritech, Croatia.
From left to right: Fahmy Abdel Rahman, Managing Partner Youthinkgreen Egypt (YTG); Alexis Bazzanella, ISC3; Donatus Njoroge, Molepse Bioresources, Kenya; Silvia Perez-Hector, ISC3.

Audience Award Winner:

Colombian female-led Start-up Natupla develops and produces bio-based and biodegradable adhesives as an alternative to petroleum-based materials. Its products are a water-soluble resin for film production and a bio-based adhesive for paper. With its innovative approach, the start-up creates affordable and more sustainable alternatives for plastic packaging and adhesives.

In the middle: Katerin Carillo, NatuPla, Columbia.

Honourable mention for best female founder:

ClimEtSan-OnTheGround, a German female-led start-up, helps companies reduce and eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by providing high-value carbon credits from climate projects based on a sustainable circular approach. In the Global South, these projects include, for example, the production and sale of fuel-efficient pyrolysis cookers, the installation of ecological sanitation systems, the production of biochar compost and the implementation of regenerative agriculture programmes with farmers. The cookers and composting remove greenhouse gases and the application of biochar compost reduces CO2 levels.

In the middle: Katharina Prost, ClimEtSan-OnTheGround GmbH.

Finalists of the ISC3 Innovation Challenge 2023

For the finals of the ISC3 Innovation Challenge, an international jury of experts had selected the following finalists (in alphabetical order) from a total of 113 high-ranking applications from start-ups from five continents, in addition to the winners mentioned above:

BIOWEG (Germany) has developed biodegradable, bio-based agricultural coatings that combine the power of bacteria, biotechnology and green chemistry. Their biodegradable coating emulsions replace petroleum and acrylic-based coatings on fertilisers and seeds.

Ecorich Solutions Limited (Kenya) has developed the WasteBot, an AI device for decomposing household waste that converts household waste into affordable organic fertiliser that is 70% cheaper than conventional fertiliser in just 24 hours. Ecorich Solutions uses soil bacteria, AI-powered recycling, robotics, computer vision and machine learning to convert waste into organic fertiliser with 95% accuracy.

KNUST Precision Aquaculture - AquaMet (Ghana) is an integrated system that enables fish farmers to efficiently monitor and manage their water quality to reduce high fish mortality rates and increase yields and revenues. KNUST's technology uses a smart IoT probe that captures water quality parameters and sends them via Bluetooth to a server, which then transmits the data to a mobile app for farmers.

Neptunus Biotech (Mexico) is on a mission to address the challenge of plant stress caused by climate change. The start-up has developed biostimulant products using microalgae technology. Its goal is to increase the resilience and productivity of crops, especially under stressful conditions such as drought, high and low temperatures, and mechanical or chemical damage.

Start-ups at the ISC3 Investor Forum 2023

At the Investor Forum, the following 10 start-ups presented their innovative solutions in the field of sustainable chemistry (in alphabetical order):

  • Ashaya, India, which produced the world’s first sunglasses made from recycled chips packets, presented by Anish Malpani.
  • E[co]work, India, which supports informal micro-entrepreneurs through solutions for safe and inclusive electronic waste management, presented by Deepali Sinha-Khertriwal.
  • Alkyl Recycling, the Netherlands, which found a method to break down used disposable diapers into their individual components, such as plastic, wood pulp, and superabsorbent polymer, presented by Melvin Kizito.
  • Ray Cosmetics, Ethiopia, which produces skin and haircare products from extracts of collagen from fish skin waste, presented by Rewla Ephrem Abreham.
  • Zila BioWorks, US, which makes 100% bisphenol A (BPA)-free bio-epoxy resin made from industrial hemp, presented by Jason Zachary Puracal.
  • Human Material Loop, the Netherlands, which creates high-performance textiles utilizing waste keratin protein fiber, presented by Zsofia Kollar.
  • Mavisol, the Netherlands, which develops budgetary machine vision and learning systems (MVS) for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) preforms, plastic film, and fiberglass cloth, presented by Nikolai Bredelev.
  • Materials in Works, Malaysia, which recovers valuable resources from collected industrial solid wastes and supplies those reliable green raw materials to specific industries, presented by Ooi Chong Sen.
  • NatuPla, Colombia, which designs and produces natural-based and renewable materials as alternatives to traditional plastics, presented by Katerin Carillo.
  • Le Qara, Peru, which creates high-quality vegan leather that is biodegradable and toxin-free by using biotechnology, engineering expertise, and microorganisms, presented by Jacqueline Cruz Loayza.