Jamie Rowles, Head of Investments, Sky Ocean Ventures
The devastating impact of plastic pollution is a subject that’s high on Sky’s agenda. Since its launch in 2017, our Sky Ocean Rescue campaign, encouraging people to #PassOnPlastic, has touched nearly 50 million people. And, through our #BeAnOceanHero initiative with WWF, we’re inspiring millions more to join us in the movement to protect our oceans and planet.
As a media and entertainment organisation, we’re in a powerful position to issue a global rallying cry. And we’re taking action as a business too. We’re systematically ridding Sky of single-use plastic, and we’ve recently made an ambitious commitment to be net zero carbon by 2030.
Individual and corporate action is vital, but it’s not the whole answer. To break its addiction to single-use plastic, the world needs innovators and inventors – people with bold ideas that will revolutionise materials, reinvent processes and power the circular economy. So, through Sky Ocean Ventures, our impact investment fund, we’ve committed £25million to accelerate the most promising ideas that can address the ocean plastic pollution crisis.
When we met Xampla, we’d already invested in some exciting start-ups making plastic replacements from other naturally abundant materials. But two words in Xampla’s pitch really stood out: ‘plant protein’ – this is a first-of-its-kind approach and we were excited to see such a significant leap forward in our ability to manipulate nature’s most diverse and abundant building blocks.
The scientific pedigree behind Xampla’s plant protein breakthrough is undoubtedly impressive – Professor Tuomas Knowles’ lab at the University of Cambridge is world-renowned for its understanding of the biophysics of biopolymers. This foundational level of research is reassuring for an investor and we are happy to also utilise our dedicated match-funding with Innovate UK to translate this research into commercial reality.
Our mission is to bring commercial products to scale that can make an impact on the environment; it’s our raison d’etre. So great science needs to be matched by a clear commercial plan for scale. We always challenge ourselves to create a high bar for future materials. We’re looking for approaches that are not just as good as the plastics they aim to replace, they must be better to create a compelling reason for customers to adopt the solution. We cannot rely purely on making a sustainability-led choice.
What excites us about Xampla’s material is that it can do things that plastic can’t. It has comparable functional properties in terms of barriers but it’s consumable, which opens up all sorts of opportunities for food grade applications. Crucially it decomposes quickly and naturally, so it can provide the kind of single-use benefits that we are accustomed too, without plastic’s pollution. And all this from a natural, sustainable and renewable source. This is what the future of materials should look like across industries and we’re excited to a part of bringing this to the widest possible audience.
Of course, a key reason to invest revolves around finding teams committed to working with the industries they’re going to change and this is very much the Xampla ethos.
We’re delighted to be one of Xampla’s seed round investors, and committed to helping them move swiftly from prototype to launch and growth. It could be a truly transformational product, changing the way millions of products are produced and packaged.