A North West firm is set to build a new commercial plant following a $7m fundraising round, which will take its work developing eco-friendly biosurfactants for use in detergents and toiletries “to the next level”.
Holiferm, a University of Manchester biotech spin out based at Sci-Tech Daresbury, said its long-term vision is to develop a range of sustainable, green biosurfactants that will remove the global market’s dependency on petrochemicals.
The firm said the $7m investment round, led by US VC firm Rhapsody Ventures, demonstrates “industry confidence” in Holiferm – and will enable it to build a world leading biosurfactant manufacturing facility, as well as support its entry into US chemical markets.
Richard Lock, managing director of Holiferm, said: “We’re trying to redefine what chemical manufacturing means.
“There’s a great misconception that it has to entail huge power stations and industrial plants, but we use a process that is completely green.
“We are working with a molecule that has been designed not by humans, but by nature.
“This fundraising round is another landmark moment in our quest to bring biosurfactants to the mass market. Rhapsody Venture Partners have so much experience and they match our drive and commitment in this endeavour, so we are excited to be working with them.”
Surfactants are a key ingredient in the manufacture of detergents and personal care products, but current mainstream goods primarily use petrochemical and tropical oil-based surfactants, which cause harm to the environment.
While environmentally-friendly products do exist, they use a costly yeast-based batch fermentation process.
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Holiferm said it has developed an approach which allows the yeast-based method to be carried out as a semi-continuous process, allowing the delivery of green products to the mass market at a competitive price point.
At the start of 2021, the firm launched its new pilot plant at Sci-Tech Daresbury, and its headcount has increased from seven to 16.
The new commercial plant is earmarked for a location in Wallasey, Wirral.
The site will manufacture 1,100 tonnes of biosurfactant a year and it is anticipated the investment programme overall will create over 30 new jobs.
Holiferm’s presence at Sci-Tech Daresbury was supported by a £400,000 grant from the Inward Investment Facilitation Fund set up as part of the £75m Business Growth Package introduced by Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region.
Mayor Rotheram said: “When I launched my £75m Business Growth Package in 2019, it was to try and attract innovative and expanding new businesses like Holiferm to our city region.
“I didn’t want us to rest on our laurels – at the time we were the fastest growing region in the country – but to keep pushing to do better.
“We continued that support throughout the pandemic. I am proud that local leaders and I did all that we could to protect jobs and businesses, while trying to create new ones and attract fresh investment. As we can see with Holiferm’s expansion within our region, it is an approach that has really borne fruit.
“And of course, tackling climate change is a major priority for us – something we’ll be showcasing at COP26 in Glasgow. We want our local economy to be built on fantastic, innovative businesses that invest in local people and help us to reach our ambitious net zero targets.”