Revolutionizing The Future Of Bio-Ingredients


The German start-up BIOWEG found a way to replace petroleum-based chemicals with innovative bio-alternatives through fermentation and green chemistry. The processing of waste products results in bacterial cellulose, which serves as a substitute for synthetic polymers and thus has diverse potential applications. Their innovation not only reduces the amount of microplastic, therefore reducing the carbon footprint of many products, but the environmentally friendly production process also promotes the circular economy. For these reasons, BIOWEG has been chosen as the ISC3 Start-up of the Month for February 2024.

Year of Foundation:


Addresses the following SDGs:

SDG 6 (Clean water and sanitation), SDG 12 (Responsible consumption and production), SDG 13 (Climate action), SDG 14 (Life below water), SDG 15 (Life on land)


three erlenmeyer flasks filled with translucent liquid and brownish other substance in it
A step in the production of microbial cellulose
two indian men smiling at camera, arms corossed, field/ hill in background
Dr. Prateek Mahalwar (CEO & Founder, left) and Srinivas Karuturi (COO & Founder, right)
brownish, thin layers of gel-like substance, wrinkled
Microbial cellulose

Joining forces to reduce microplastic

Dr. Prateek Mahalwar (CEO & Founder, PhD in Developmental Biology) and Srinivas Karuturi (COO & Founder, Biotech & Business Administration) met through mutual friends while exploring business ideas around sustainability and life sciences. In 2018-2019, they joined a biotech incubation program organized by DSM in the Netherlands. During this program, they focused on a science-based idea to address microplastic pollution. Reading about this topic often in their daily lives and wondering, why no solution has been found yet, inspired the scientists to address this issue. They realized the existence of challenges in academic research and took it upon themselves to find a solution. After validating the initial prototypes, the entrepreneurs promptly registered a limited liability company in Germany in 2019. Beginning with experiments in Stuttgart, the start-up now has a 300m2 pilot-plant, a team of 18 talented individuals, promising collaborations and support from the EU and others who believed in their cause.

“We are dedicated to designing innovative solutions that are in harmony with nature, creating a more sustainable future for the generations to come.”
Stated Prateek.

Although it is difficult for a young start-up to compete with bigger and more established companies for the attraction and keeping of staff, BIOWEG´s R&D teams are brilliant scientists with international careers and accumulative 40 years of experience. The unique combination of expertise and skills of the team is supported by the co-founders´ 30+ years combined scientific and business experience.

BIOWEG comes from Greek word ‘bios’ meaning ‘life’ and the German word ‘weg’ meaning ‘way’. The mission of the start-up is to innovate and develop eco-friendly solutions that not only meet the needs of the present but also pave a way for the well-being of future generations.

Replacing synthetic polymers with bacterial cellulose

BIOWEG´s goal is to substitute petroleum-based chemicals with ecologically friendly, biodegradable alternatives through a sustainable and environmentally responsible process. The start-up uses waste byproducts and turns these into high-value ingredients by the process of fermentation and green chemistry. Compliant with EU laws, their innovation offers 100% biodegradability, more sustainable processes and products, and superior performance compared to synthetic polymers.

The innovation is a solution to the problem, that the founders observed:

“Our world is not just facing a crisis of microplastics but also of waste management where the food and agricultural industries are major contributors to it”
, nexplained Srinivas.

The vast amount of produced waste ends up in landfills or is disposed of through incineration, leading to high environmental pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. To tackle both problems, the start-up has developed a patent-pending circular zero-waste process that utilizes these waste or side streams as feedstock for the production of microbial cellulose.

At the beginning of the process, waste or side-streams, such as molasses and starches, are sourced from local German industries. This not only reduces the carbon footprint but also aligns with the principles of the circular economy. These waste materials serve as feedstock for the fermentation process, resulting in the production of bacterial cellulose. The latter is biodegradable and serves as a sustainable substitute for widely used synthetic polymers and has diverse potential application. By the principles of materials science and green chemistry the cellulose is transformed into microbeads, rheology modifiers, hydrocolloids, agricoatings and others depending on the industry.

In addition, the entire process is energy efficient and requires minimal sterilisation. This dual feature significantly reduces the consumption of water and other sterilising chemicals, positioning it as an environmentally friendly and sustainable solution. In essence, BIOWEG's innovative approach not only promotes the circular economy by sourcing waste locally, but also offers a greener alternatives to widely used microplastics, contributing to a more sustainable future.

Next steps for BIOWEG

Currently, BIOWEG is preparing to launch and commercialise its micropowders and agricoatings for the personal care and agri markets. The start-up also plans to close its Series A seed round in Q1 2024 and to reach the full potential of its pilot production plant in Quakenbrück. They are also working on staffing and equipping their application development centre in Monheim to meet the high demand for application use case development.

BIOWEG, who joined the ISC3 Global Start-up Service in July 2023 as one of the Innovation Challenge finalists, is actively contributing to SDG 6 (Clean water and sanitation), SDG 12 (Responsible consumption and production), SDG 13 (Climate action), SDG 14 (Life below water), and SDG 15 (Life on land).