Spider-inspired silk start-up won USD 100000 Ray of Hope prize

Spintex Engineering, a University of Oxford spinoff, has BEEN announced as the recipient of  Biomimicry Institute’s Ray of Hope Prize® for 2021. Spintex has been awarded USD 100000 for its outstanding work as the recipient of the Ray of Hope Prize in 2021.

The promising start-up has devised a process for creating biodegradable textile fibre that is inspired by how spiders spin their silk and is used in fashion and high-performance material applications.

The Ray C. Anderson Prize, named after the late sustainable business pioneer Ray C. Anderson, is given each year to the world’s best nature-inspired firm following a 10-week accelerator program.

Spintex and nine other firms were chosen from a pool of 301 applications from 49 countries this year. All program participants learned about sustainable business practices, interacted with industry and start-up mentors, and practiced scientific communication skills.

While the initiative is unique in that it brings together people from many sectors, they are all united in their goal of developing goods that reduce, or even eliminate, the need for extractive practices like mining and help to restore damaged ecosystems. Companies like Spintex are solving basic sustainability issues by learning from nature and developing innovative products, materials, and processes.

Spiders have acquired the capacity to manufacture spider silk, one of the world’s toughest and most versatile fabrics, over hundreds of millions of years. Spinnerets, specialized organs that convert the liquid silk gel housed in the spider’s abdomen into a firm thread, are the key to a spider’s capacity to make silk.

Spintex has succeeded to duplicate the spider’s astonishing abilities after years of research into this unique mechanism. The firm has developed a method for spinning textile fibres from a liquid gel at room temperature, with the only outputs being water and biodegradable textile fibres.

The textile sector is looking for environmentally friendly technology and solutions that will help it decrease waste, greenhouse gas emissions, and pollution while also enabling a circular economy. Spintex is ideally positioned as a platform technology to replace both silk and oil-derived synthetic fibres in the fashion industry. They claim that their method is 1000 times more efficient than a comparable synthetic fibre. As they scale, they want to increase their textile capabilities, making high-performance textiles with features like stretch and integrated color while remaining biodegradable and non-bioaccumulative.

Spintex’s CEO and co-founder, Alex Greenhalgh, said it’s been a great experience going through the Ray of Hope program. It’s been inspiring to see such a diverse range of fantastic businesses focused on applying Nature’s teachings to the future. They at Spintex are really thrilled to have been chosen as the winners of the 2021 prize and they are appreciative of the chance.

Aquammodate, a Swedish business that creates water filtration devices inspired by diatoms and aquaporin proteins, came in second place with a USD 25000 prize. Their energy-efficient and selective technology deliver high purity grade water in a single filter pass, desalination on any scale, and the removal of industrial pollutants and toxins including arsenic, microplastics, and pharmaceutical residues.

Biomimicry Institute’s Entrepreneurship Director, Jared Yarnall-Schane, said nature has a sustainable and closed-loop system, and the prize promotes ideas that bring human designs closer to natural answers. This year’s cohort provides real-world instances of this nature-inspired approach, as well as jointly tackling global sustainability issues worth billions of dollars.

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