Interface Polymers is a spin-out from the University of Warwick. Its unique Polarfin® additive technology is able to modify the properties of common plastics to enable them to stick to and mix with other materials. It is set to transform the performance and cost competitiveness of polyolefin-based materials across a wide range of market applications. There is exciting potential to add value across a diverse range of applications in the packaging, construction, agriculture and automotive sectors.
Even on a pilot plant, the intention is to recycle raw materials. Reusing solvents in the process, which also brings the cost down in typically high-cost manufacturing plants. There is the added benefit of using less, less raw materials and less resources. Even within the chemical industry, there are a growing number of raw materials that you can get from non-petrochemical sources, even down to ethylene gas to make polyethylene, you can get ethylene from agriculture. Interface Polymers challenges and questions every process, and how to reduce resources.
Being part of the science park means the lab benefits from good university recycling systems without having to put those processes and systems in ourselves.
Three investors said one of the reasons they chose to invest in Interface Polymers is because they wanted to improve their ability, and their customers’ ability to save CO2 and recycle more. For every kilogram of Polarfin that customers use – and where that kilogram of product prevents them from incinerating packaging film – they would save around three and a half kilograms of CO2. In addition, they are then recycling the film, reducing the need for new plastic use to make into film.
“Innovate UK ICURe was a big enabler in helping me to take the invention beyond the four walls of the university and to start building a business to commercialise the proposition. It also allowed me to gain a better understanding of how my invention could be developed to satisfy unmet needs in the market.”
“We were awarded the initial Innovate UK grant in 2016– which was a key turning point. In 2017, we secured two significant private investment rounds. We used the funds to scale-up production to an industrial pilot level and to start determining where the additives work most effectively in lab and customer trials. In collaboration with the Universities of Loughborough and Warwick, we also won a second Innovate UK Grant under the Materials and Manufacturing initiative. The aim of this project was to develop a new product variant and production process Polarfin® Green to improve the performance of crop protection coverings.”
“In 2018 we closed our third investment round, took on an additional two hires and won another significant Innovate UK grant to develop additives that allow higher value recycling of mixed plastic waste. We took the material from our first pilot production to customers across a wide range of applications. We then refined that down to the three products that we’re focussing on now: agricultural film applications, recycling of mixed plastics waste and new ways of making our materials more efficiently. The ICURe bootcamp guided us through this process of broadening, refining and repeating this process with the “double diamond” diagram. I still think about this now and it’s heartening to see how this prediction from then has come true for us now.”
“In 2021 We received grant funding to develop a recycling additive to recycle more mixed plastics, particularly packaging film internally, enabling businesses to reuse that packaging back into their production process. This product is now working reliably with customers.”
Dr Christopher Kay, Chief Scientific Officer, Interface Polymers Ltd
Started ICURe programme
Limited company formed
£500k grant funding secured, ICURe
£483k Innovate UK grant funding secured
£438k Innovate UK continuity grant secured
£32k UKRI grant funding secured
Pilot plant construction commenced in India
Recruited 4 new staff members in UK
What companies had to say about the Innovate UK ICURe programme?
“The ICURe funding enabled me to undertake an intense period of market validation. I spoke to over 100 industrial contacts, that I hadn’t previously known, a significant proportion of whom were very positive about our solutions. Up until that point I had been a junior researcher, inventing and developing Polarfins® in the university lab"
Dr Christopher Kay
Chief Scientific Officer, Interface Polymers Ltd
A crucial part of our commercial development plan is to build a manufacturing plant. We have pushed our laboratory to its limit as it can still only make kilogram size quantities, which a customer can run for a couple of hours, and so has a low treat rate. The feedback we have had is that customers want a lot more, 25 kilograms minimum. And that is what this our new pilot plant in India will be able to manufacture. Once we have completed proper line trials with customers in our pilot plant, we will build a commercial plant.
In March 2023 we secured £6.4m series A funding from strategic investors. We have four new shareholders, one of them builds chemical plants, and they are now building us a pilot plant. The other three investors are German, American and Thai large chemical firms, who all have an equity stake as well.
Our team now stands at 14, as we have hired five new people in the last 6 months.