Case Study:  Naturbeads

Naturbeads aim to reduce plastic in our rivers, seas and oceans. 

They plan to achieve this goal by scaling up an economic and continuous process for the production of cellulose microbeads to replace plastic beads used in personal care products, wastewater treatment plants and many other applications.  

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The technology has been developed by Prof.s Scott, Professor of Sustainable Chemical Engineering and Davide Mattia, Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Bath who are Co-Founders and Directors of Naturbeads. They decided to bring together their expertise to commercialise the technology.

Giovanna Laudisio, PhD, CEO and Co-Founder at Naturbeads has a MSc in Chemistry and a PhD in Materials Engineering. In addition, she has completed an EMBA at the University of Bath with focus on Innovation Management. Giovanna has worked in R&D and Technology Commercialisation for more than 15 years and has worked in research in the academia in Italy, Germany and US before moving to applied research in DuPont where she worked as a scientist and Technical Manager in the Photovoltaic Business. After several years in a corporation Giovanna returned back to the academic world as a Manager first and then Advisor for the Technology Transfer Office of the National University of Singapore. Her latest working experience has been in a venture building company working on CleanTech and Advanced Material Technologies to accelerate the pace of innovation from Academia to Industry.

The below interview with Giovanna Laudisio, CEO at Naturbeads explains more about the business and involvement with the STBAH programme...

I have always been passionate about the environment and technology and, in the last few years, I have been looking for the right technology to scale up, putting in practice all the skills that I have developed during my different working experiences. The cellulose microbeads technology fits perfectly with my interests. In addition, it has raised a lot of interest from companies in different sectors, especially personal care product manufacturers, as plastic microbeads have been banned and are being phased out in several countries. With plastic pollution reaching alarming levels it seemed to me that there were all the right ingredients to start a business, trying to contribute to preserving our planet.

How did you start putting your idea into action?

The two professors have received funding from the EPSRC to continue their research on cellulose beads in collaboration with an equipment manufacturer, a FMCG company and a personal care ingredient company which has already created good connections with potential partners and end users and has the potential to expand our IP portfolio. In addition, they have received funding from Bath’s Impact Acceleration Account to optimize and scale up the process. This is a great support for the technical side. As a CEO of Naturbeads I cover all the other aspects necessary to proceed with the scale up: operations, business development, participation to startup competitions to network with other entrepreneurs, applications for further funding and meeting with potential investors.

How did you let people and potential clients/customers know what you were doing and market your organisation?

Most of the contacts so far have come from connections that the Professors already have through their work or they got thanks to the publicity that their research has received from the media. Having worked in technology commercialisation, I also have a broad network of contacts in several countries that I aim leveraging for Naturbeads.

How do you hope the STBAH programme will help you to develop your business?

Naturbeads is my first direct startup experience, though I have been involved with the world of startups for several years now in my previous roles. I am aware there is a lot more to learn about new business models, how to reach more customers, how to make best use of IP and networking with other entrepreneurs working in this same field. The STBAH programme is going to be invaluable to helping Naturbeads with these and also the hope is for further research collaborations through the programme.

What are your long-term goals for your organisation and aims for the future?

My real interests are in contributing to the preservation of the environment and technology innovation. I am excited about starting-up but don’t think my passion lies in becoming a full time CEO of a big company, should Naturbeads become successful. The plan would be to sell it and start again with another technology to scale up. In fact, I am already in discussion with a friend to start scouting for another technology to reduce the impact of plastic packaging on the environment.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of setting up their own sustainable business?

I believe that technology commercialisation is much more challenging than setting up, for example, an e-commerce business or building an app. I would advise non-technical entrepreneurs to identify a partner with deep technical expertise or to have a strong involvement of the researchers who invented the technology. 

Would you recommend the Sustainable Technologies Business Acceleration Hub Programme business support to others and why?

Deep tech commercialisation is a long-term investment, requiring focused and specialised support. As a first time entrepreneur, it is reassuring to be part of an Accelerator Program focused specifically on the type of technology I aim to commercialise. I would definitely recommend other entrepreneurs working in this field to join the right accelerator that understands their needs and puts them in contact with the right investors interested not just in financial returns but also in having a positive impact on our planet.

Watch the video as Prof Scott explains how cellulose biodegradable microbeads could cut microplastics ocean pollution...


Further information about the research behind this project can be found on the University of Bath website:   Scientists make biodegradable microbeads from cellulose.

NEWS UPDATE: MAJOR FUNDING FOR NATURBEADS and has been awarded £0.5 million by Innovate UK and Sky Ocean Ventures to work with companies to replace micro plastics in personal care products with biodegradable microbeads made from cellulose. Full news story, here.

If you are interested in finding out how the Sustainable Technologies Business Acceleration Hub could help you please get in touch via our expression of interest form.