AUT Ventures awarded funding

29 Nov, 2022
 
Jack Chen
Dr Jack Chen, co-inventor of Spherelose

AUT Ventures has been awarded commercialisation funding for its green surfactant technology.

AUT Ventures has just been awarded funding from KiwiNet to support the ongoing development of a sustainable technology invented by AUT Venture’s Senior Lecturer, Dr Jack Chen, and his PhD student, Andres Tiban, named Spherelose.

By way of background, Spherelose is a surfactant - working in a similar way to detergent – but what differentiates it from its competitors is that it is sustainably sourced. Globally, the surfactant industry is worth US$45 billion.

AUT’s Venture Principal, Dr Michael Fielding, says “What’s so promising about Spherelose is that it answers the call for a green, high-performing and sustainable surfactant because its particles are bio-derived, biodegradable, and don’t contribute to tropical deforestation. It can be created using wood pulp and small amounts of plant oils such as sunflower and olive.

“Current surfactants in the market tend to be unsustainably sourced from petroleum products and many are non-biodegradable pollutants.

Under the microscope: Hundreds of Spherelose particles attaching themselves to the surface of oil globules

“Spherelose is a very promising technology that we’re all very excited to be working on as it could reduce tropical deforestation and at the same time build a valuable industry in Aotearoa,” he says.

This round of AUT Ventures funding from KiwiNet is the latest in a string of awards and grants it has received for the ongoing development of Spherelose, reflecting the demand for sustainable surfactants.

The Spherelose team will use the $354,000 from KiwiNet to develop what is known as a Minimum Viable Process, as well as formulating products such as soaps, shampoos, and cremes, and to test their safety and performance.

The commercialisation of Spherelose is being led by AUT Ventures. A patent application was filed in November 2021 and the team are working towards creating a business or licensing options in 2023 or 2024.

In September this year, Dr Chen won nearly NZ$1 million from the MBIE Endeavour Fund Smart Idea Grant. In 2021, he and AUT Ventures received $125,000 from the Science for Technological Innovation Challenge (SfTI), in extension to the $200,000 awarded by SfTi in 2019.

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