Product, Service & Design Innovation
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INTESA Sanpaolo, LAUNCH Open New Doors for Disruptive Circular Tech

There’s no stopping the circular economy. Both the public and private sector continue to drive circular innovation towards the mainstream, offering new opportunities for budding disruptive businesses to gain exposure and scale up operations.

Italian banking group INTESA Sanpaolo hosted its 101stStart Up Initiative, in partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in London last week, providing budding circular innovators with the opportunity to present their ideas on a global stage.

Following the success of the conference held in November 2016 on Circular Economy financing solutions, this second edition focused on disruptive materials and their business applications.

Eight businesses engaged in activities ranging from compostable packaging to forward-thinking fibers pitched their plans for the creation of a regenerative economy to equity investors, impact investors, corporate and circular economy leaders.

The four startups that received a significant amount of fanfare were Israel’s Tipa, Netherlands-based Black Bear Carbon, Seattle, WA startup Evrnu and Italian upcycler Orange Fiber.

Tipa has developed a groundbreaking form of bio-based compostable plastic packaging, which draws inspiration from orange peels. The flexible plastic packaging is 100 percent biodegradable while boasting all of the same benefits of traditional options. The company currently offers a range of zipper bags, pouches and wrappers that can be used for everything from food to pharmaceuticals and apparel.

Black Bear Carbon is looking to tackle the problem of tire waste and presented an idea to transform them into ‘the world’s highest quality ‘upcycled’ Carbon Black.’ Traditionally, Carbon Black is a petroleum-based product that is used to line tires. Black Bear has discovered a way to create carbon black by recycling tires, thus creating a regenerative alternative for the industry. The process can also be applied to plastics, inks and technical rubber.

Orange Fiber and Evrnu’s technologies, on the other hand, promise to revolutionize the textile industry by reimagining post-consumer waste as inputs for new products. A winner of the 2015 H&M Global Change Award, Orange Fiber is using byproducts of citrus juice to create a silk-like cellulose yarn that can be blended with other materials to make high-quality fabrics for the fashion industry.

Evrnu is taking a somewhat more traditional — though no less noteworthy — approach to the concept of regenerative fashion, having created a new fiber made entirely from post-consumer cotton textile waste. If adopted on a large scale, the fiber could provide a solution to the more than 14 million tons of textile waste created in the US each year. The company’s technology involves the conversion of solid textile waste into a liquid which can be transformed into a fiber used to manufacture new cotton clothing. Evrnu estimates that the process removes 98 percent of the water consumed in the creation of traditional cotton fibers.


Meanwhile, the NASA-founded, network-centered innovation platform LAUNCH announced the 2017 Design and Manufacturing for a Circular Economy Challenge during the annual World Circular Economy Forum in Helsinki, Finland.

LAUNCH is issuing a global call for innovations that can disrupt the way we design and make products, ultimately moving the economy towards a more circular model. Ten entrepreneurs will be selected to work with LAUNCH to scale their project and receive feedback and advice from industry pioneers, government organizations, investors, innovation experts and technical capacities.

  • Enable the design of superior customer experience and circular products;
  • Drive the use of new types of renewable or recycled materials in design and manufacturing;
  • Explore more agile manufacturing around customizable, modular and localized products;
  • Support the inclusion of emerging markets in a globalized design and manufacturing value chain.

“Never before has international collaboration been more important to accelerate our transition to a more sustainable way of life on earth,” said Cady Coleman, former NASA Astronaut.

Submissions are now open on the LAUNCH website until September 1, 2017.

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