· Polarfins™ modify surface properties of commodity plastics making them easier to coat, adhere to, and mix with other materials
· Research breakthrough made at the University of Warwick
· University of Warwick spin-out, Interface Polymers, seeks seed capital to complete the first funding round
University of Warwick spin-out, Interface Polymers Ltd is pioneering a new way of making plastic alloys and composite materials using its patented range of polymer additives named Polarfins™. The technology works by modifying the surface properties of commodity plastics such as polyethylene and polypropylene, making them easier to coat, adhere to, and mix with other materials.
Having recently won £500,000 from Innovate UK to fund production scale-up and application development, the company has put together an experienced management team and is now looking for seed capital investment of £1.5m to complete the first funding round.
Newly appointed CEO Phil Smith, a University spin-out veteran, said “This technology promises to open up a world of innovation in the plastics industry. The addressable market is worth at least $3 billion per annum so the potential scale of this business is substantial”.
“Our initial focus is to prove the value proposition for our materials in pilot scale trials. We are also talking to specialty chemical and plastics formulation businesses about collaborative R&D projects that will generate early revenue through licensing. Our aim is to de-risk the venture for early investors while enabling the company to build up its intellectual property assets”.
The research breakthrough was made by Chief Scientific Officer Dr Chris Kay while working as a PhD student under the supervision of Professor Peter Scott in the University of Warwick’s Chemistry Department.
Using a simple and industrially-convenient process, Dr Kay is able to create a range of copolymers comprising a polyolefin segment joined in the middle of the molecular chain to a polar polymer segment. When added in small percentages to a polyolefin resin, such as polyethylene or polypropylene, the additive molecules migrate to the surface and render it more attractive to other polar materials such as metals, ceramics and polar polymers such as acrylic, styrene or vinyl acetate based resins.
The ability to independently modify both segments in the copolymer chain is unique and allows the company to tune the compatibility of its Polarfin™ additives to a diverse range of applications in which two or more previously incompatible materials can be stuck together or mixed. This underlying invention has been patented and the company is now teaming up with international collaborators to develop high-value applications across the adhesives, composites and packaging sectors, with the aim of building a sustainable and knowledge-intensive polymer additives business.
Dr Kay commented “We have now spoken to over 100 potential customers across Europe and North America and it has been very encouraging to see people getting very excited about how they could use our materials to solve existing problems and develop new products. With their input, we are already focusing on a shortlist of the most promising opportunities with high margins and fast adoption potential”.
Simon Waddington is joining the team as Business Development Director after a long and successful career with the Dow Chemical Corporation. With more than 25 years experience, Simon is very well placed in Zurich to help the company engage potential customers and collaborators across the heartlands of the European and North American polymer industries. “We are talking to some of the leading innovators in the polymer industry and there is a growing sense that the timing is good for us” commented Simon. “People are looking for alternatives to chemical adhesion promoters and our technology has the potential to meet that need too”.
Professor Scott said “The new science we have developed addresses unmet needs in this vast industry and opens up new opportunities for surface and interfacial modification of polymers. An impressive business team has been assembled to take the science to market, but I’m particularly pleased that Chris, with his passion and ownership of the project, is playing a central role. I’m looking forward to contributing to the development of our products and to the continuing research effort”.
For more information contact:
CEO - Phil Smith – email@example.com
Chief Scientific Officer - Dr Chris Kay - firstname.lastname@example.org
25 May 2016
Notes for Editors
The Interface Polymers Ltd Executive Team includes:
Chief Scientific Officer – Dr Chris Kay (Founder)
Chris is the researcher who discovered the synthetic procedure on which the spin-out will be based whilst working in the University of Warwick Chemistry labs ran by Professor Peter Scott. He has thrived in the ICURe Innovation-to-Commercialisation programme piloted by the SETsquared Partnership (funded by InnovateUK and HEFCE), and demonstrates the entrepreneurial vigour and passion to make this company succeed.
Chief Executive – Phil Smith
Phil was Director of a successful technology spin-out from Cranfield University that was sold to Elster three years ago. Phil has over 25 years’ experience in general management including three successful start-ups and a technical background in mechanical and production engineering and materials science.
Business Development Director – Simon Waddington
Simon has 24 years’ experience with Dow Chemical Company in marketing and business development roles. He has a wealth of commercial experience in polymer-based product innovation and a long list of contacts across the European plastics industry and its value chains. He is currently an independent consultant advising a US based plastics start-up which is at the stage of exit.
Supporting the executive team are:
Adrian Whitfield – Advisor
Adrian has a track record of building $billion businesses. As CEO of specialty polymer business Synthomer he doubled turnover to £1.2 billion, quadrupled profitability and increased market value by a factor of 20.
Professor Peter Scott – Founder Shareholder
Peter’s core expertise is synthetic chemistry with an industrially-focused interface with polymer science, materials and pharmaceuticals. He has a strong research portfolio in Polarfins and a long standing and fruitful relationship with Infineum Ltd. It was this relationship that resulted in Infineum being actively supportive of the commercial exploitation of Polarfins outside their product areas.
Kevin Marks (Representative of Warwick Ventures as Agents for the University of Warwick’s Shareholding )
Kevin has 30 years’ experience at board level in manufacturing businesses in the Automotive and White-Goods industries. As Manufacturing Director of Lec Plc he was responsible for the manufacture of 500,000 domestic refrigerators pa and the subsequent transfer of their production to China. Immediately before joining Warwick Ventures he was part of a management buy-out of a commercial refrigeration company, its turnaround and subsequent sale.
Professor Ken Lewtas (Founder Shareholder and advisor)
Ken has over 30 years’ experience as an industrial scientist and excels in the knowledge of polymers used as modifiers in a range of media. Ken worked in a variety of technical roles of increasing responsibility in Esso Chemical, ExxonMobil and Infineum before becoming a visiting professor at the University of Warwick and a visiting scientist at the Diamond Light Source and member of the Industrial Science Committee.
The £500,000 Innovate UK award is the culmination of Dr Chris Kay’s (Interface Polymers Ltd Chief Scientific Officer) six month participation in the ICURe programme, (Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research), a scheme funded by Innovate UK and HEFCE that offers researchers funding to build their entrepreneurial skills and to investigate the commercial potential of the project they are working on. The final stage of the programme required the applicants to submit a business plan, showing how they proposed to develop their ideas, and turn them into a product or service.
Interface Polymers Contacts:
CEO - Phil Smith:
p dot smith at interfacepolymers dot com
Chief Scientific Officer - Dr Chris Kay:
c dot kay at interfacepolymers dot com