Lignin is the name of the material that will soon replace crude oil in a wide variety of areas. It is made from all plants that we humans do not eat, such as wood and straw. It is also perfectly suited for the production of bio-based and biodegradable microplastic particles, which are also used in the cosmetics industry for tesa film and other applications. we already wrote about Vertoro, a Dutch start-up around lignin. The Hamburg-based start-up LignoPure, a spin-off from the TVT Institute of the TUHH, wants to make the world a better place with this great material.
How did you come up with the idea of founding the start-up?
Wienke Reynolds, Co-Founder and CTO: Research on lignin as a product has been going on at the TVT Institute of the TUHH for quite some time. Joana, also co-founder and CEO of Lignopure, saw the potential of lignin right from the start, thanks to her life science background. Joana Gil worked for several years for a Mexican company, in the area of pharmaceutical & cosmetics. She also came up with the idea of using the material with its particularly fine particle shape and natural quality in these demanding industries. She was also the driving force behind the spin-off activities.
Where do you see the application areas of lignin and why is it important?
Lignin is to be understood as a chemical that we offer as a B2B business to B2C customers – for example a cosmetics manufacturer whose products we can then buy in a drugstore. There are many possible applications in which lignin is the only or main component: for example, as an edible oil absorber or excipient, but also as a bio-based component of a tesa eco-tape, as an insulating material or microparticles in cosmetics.
What makes lignin special compared to other products?
With our lignin for the life sciences sector, we are first movers, which means that there is currently no comparable lignin on the market. What’s new for example, – compared to lignin from the paper industry – is that the lignin is absolutely non-toxic, low-odor, temperature-stable and very fine. Only this makes it possible to use it in our everyday products.
What was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome?
Of course, we are still “fighting”… – but that is normal as a start-up! Above all with the search for customers, strategic partners and investors…
Was there a moment when you wanted to give up?
Fortunately not yet! We get a lot of inquiries from the industry and a lot of support from the TUHH and our partners. That motivates us a lot and we still have a lot of ideas!
And vice versa: What was the best moment for you with regard to the foundation? What made you particularly proud?
We are proud, for example, of the Hamburg Start-up Award, which we won at the beginning of May, and of our participation in the YES!DELFT Program 2019. We are also proud of the first tesa prototype, which we developed as part of the Biorefinery2021 research cluster and in which TUHH played a key role.
What can we look forward to in the coming years, in other words: What can we expect from you in the coming years?
First of all, the spin-off and market entry are planned. We see potential for our lignin as a fine chemical for the life sciences as well as for materials science. For example, we have already received expressions of interest from various companies in the fields of chemistry, cosmetics/pharmaceuticals and biomaterials.
We would also like to use our innovation potential to develop lignin-based products together with biomass utilization companies and our customers. Many of these companies either do not know what to do with their residual biomass electricity containing lignin. Or they would like to use lignin but need the support of an expert.
What is your vision: Where do you see your company in 5 years and what is your ultimate goal?
We don’t just want to make our daily products a little greener – or browner (laughs) – with our lignin. We also want to have the courage to finally bring the versatile research that exists in this field at German universities to the market.
Our vision is:
We want to make lignin, as the second most common biopolymer in the world, finally a permanent fixture in our daily products – we will make it socially acceptable!
- Joana Gil, Co-Founder und CEO, Doctorate in the field of lignin particle and product formulation
- Wienke Reynolds, Co-Founder and CTO Lignopure, Doctorate in the field of lignocellulose digestion
- Daniela Arango, CBDO, Master student biotechnology and bioprocess engineering at TUHH und NIT
- Stefan Boersting, PPD, Master student biotechnology and bioprocess engineering at TUHH
Year of foundation:
The foundation activities have been running since summer 2018. A registration as UG/GmbH is planned for the end of summer.
So far only by bootstrapping. The financing of the spin-off and the IP takeover are currently our largest construction sites.
Number of employees: 4
Vision: To make lignin the second most common biopolymer in the world socially acceptable.
This film gives more insights into Lignopure.