In 2017 Ben Dolman, a PhD student at The University of Manchester, was named a finalist in Nouryon’s Imagine Chemistry collaborative innovation program for his novel process that uses gravity to separate biochemicals. Two years later, Holiferm, the startup he co-founded together with James Winterburn, is commercialising the technology, which they co-invented at the university, thanks in part to funding from Icos Capital’s ICF III fund. Nouryon is a strategic investor in this fund.

"Current methods are inefficient because of production and processing difficulties, making Holiferm’s production technology a major breakthrough."

“The technology we provide allows for a more cost-efficient production of bio-based materials, including surfactants. The technology uses gravity to separate biochemicals as they are produced, requiring less energy and no solvents, and increasing the output of existing production plants up to four times,” says Dolman. “The financial resources and business support provided by Icos will enable us to rapidly accelerate our business and technical scale-up.”

The technology has been demonstrated at pilot scale with sophorolipids – biosurfactants used in detergents and personal care products. Holiferm now plans to scale up the technology to pre-industrial scale and demonstrate the technology with other bioproducts.

Marco Waas, Director RD&I Industrial Chemicals at Nouryon and member of Icos’s Fund supervisory board, adds: “This is a nice example of our collaborative innovation approach. Holiferm’s technology is a potential breakthrough in process efficiency for products like biosurfactants. The Icos investment will enable them to scale-up their activities to meet the marketplace’s need for green chemicals.”

ICF III is a €50 million collaborative venture capital fund managed by Icos in partnership with Nouryon, Royal Cosun and Bühler Group. ICF III invests in early stage chemical and cleantech startups. It is the fund’s third investment and it plans 9-12 more investments. Other investments of Icos Capital includes Photanol, which is working with Nouryon on a technology to make chemicals from CO2 and sunlight.

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