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From the sea to Scale-Up

From the sea to Scale-Up

Sustainable biotech company, Kelpi, is the newest member of the SETsquared Scale-up Programme and is on a mission to create a more sustainable future by tackling one of the biggest issues facing the planet’s ecosystems – single-use plastic waste.

Neil Morris, Chief Executive Officer of the Bath based business, talks us through its revolutionary idea and how he hopes the Scale-Up Programme will help Kelpi accelerate its success.

Kelpi was established to harness the fantastic opportunities that seaweed presents and create bioplastics to make home compostable and marine-safe packaging.

Kelpi’s bioplastic will readily decompose into natural elements, leaving no toxins, in less than a year if it accidentally finds its way into our marine environment and will decompose quicker if it’s put into landfill from traditional curb side rubbish collection.

Plastic has become central to the modern way of life as we see single-use plastic being used for everything from food packaging, to shopping bags and even our face masks. But with an increasing reliability on plastic, comes a huge amount of waste.

Around 8% of the world’s oil is used to make plastic, meaning almost all plastic is certainly made of crude oil and this is extremely bad for the environment. A third of plastic waste ends up in fragile ecosystems such as the world’s oceans and if current trends continue, it’s predicted that by 2050 there will be more waste plastic than fish in the sea.

Furthermore, only 9% of all plastic is recycled globally and although recycling is a step in the right direction, it’s not a complete solution as the carbon emissions associated with plastic production and recycling are double those of global aviation. With current growth rates, those will reach 15% of all emissions globally by 2050.

So, there is a huge and growing challenge for plastic, particularly single-use, to fit into a sustainable world.

We chose seaweed to create our unique biopolymers because it is a fantastic plant, soaking up and storing carbon as it grows, while also de-acidifying and re-oxygenating the ocean. It also grows prolifically without needing fertilisers, land or fresh water.

I already knew first-hand the great work SETsquared does for businesses and the opportunities membership can bring as I have been a mentor for some of its start-up members at the Engine Shed in Bristol and also been part of a member company.

After establishing a relationship with the University of Bath and joining a couple of start-up communities, we joined SETsquared as a start-up member. But where we were growing so quickly, we were invited to become a member of the Scale-Up Programme.

We’re currently an early-stage R&D company, working in the lab to develop our proposition and this is where the Scale-Up Programme has been particularly valuable. Science, especially deep-tech science, is expensive and it’s difficult. Having expertise on hand has helped us prepare for investment and introduce us to potential investors and grant funding opportunities, such as those from Innovate UK.

Being a member of the Scale-Up Programme is particularly key for us because we can’t have a meaningful impact on our world and play our part in addressing climate change, if we can’t scale as a business rapidly. We really value the support of Scale-Up because it’s enabling us to look at areas where we can scale rapidly to be able to generate the investment needed to support our products, but at the same time continue with our prototype and product development.

Our future plans include increasing our staffing on both the business and sciences sides, filing for patents, and going out to potential manufacturing partners, and clients to grow our understanding of exactly how our prototype solutions will fit into existing client requirements.

We look forward to reaching our goals as part of the Scale-Up Programme and encourage other businesses looking to accelerate their growth to join the programme.

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SETsquared is a partnership between

  • University of Bath
  • University of Bristol
  • University of Exeter
  • University of Southampton
  • University of Surrey