Avantium’s ambition and commitment to innovation have enabled it to produce a sustainable plastic that could revolutionise food and drink packaging and benefit the environment.

Tom van Aken, CEO Avantium

“Further rounds of investment will be required to build and operate the facility,” explains van Aken. “Once we shift to a period of earning income from selling products in the market and selling licenses to our YXY technology, an IPO could well be part of our financing strategies, as it would provide access to new sources of equity that could help to accelerate our growth ambitions.”

Scientific breakthroughs often require a certain amount of space and time for wide-ranging research to be conducted that may – or may not – result in a product with business applications. Avantium, which was spun out of Royal Dutch Shell in 2000, had considerably leeway to develop its ideas, partly because it already had a successful business model performing experiments for other companies. Now, given the time to refine its discoveries, Avantium’s innovations have the potential to transform food and drink packaging used by billions of people around the world.

“When Avantium was set up the objective was to accelerate and exploit the application of high-throughput catalysis R&D – which uses automated equipment and parallel experiments to accelerate research – for the chemical and pharmaceutical industries using fossil-based feedstock,” explains Tom van Aken, Chief Executive Officer of Avantium Technologies. “But over time we saw an additional opportunity for proprietary development using our experimentation expertise and came up with the idea of using renewable feedstock instead of petroleum to make plastics.”

Scientists had been searching for a way to use bio-based feedstock for plastics for many decades and while there had been some successes, no economically viable process had been discovered. “Looking at over 100 years of chemical R&D, there was a clear constant: water was always used to dissolve the bio-based feedstock, which produced underwhelming results,” says van Aken. “We realised that using alcohol to dissolve the feedstock would open up a spectrum of possibilities. Our eureka moment came one Friday afternoon in 2005 when we dissolved some sugar in ethanol and opened a new, more efficient, pathway to a versatile chemical: 100% bio-based polymer polyethylene furanoate (PEF).”

Please read the whole article about adopting a different mindset, overcoming challenges, financing the future of plastic and a bright outlook in The View, an online magazine of ING Commercial Banking.

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