There’s an Executive Agenda on New Materials: Short Takes

Industry Vet Patrick Thomas Joins MycoWorks Board: Fine mycelium-maker MycoWorks is building out its board, as it looks to scale its mushroom-like innovations.

On Wednesday, the biomaterials company announced former chief executive officer at Hermès Patrick Thomas would join the board.

Counting C-level positions with Lancaster Group and Pernod Ricard, and current roles as chairman of Champagne Laurent Perrier and lead director of Teleperformance among others, Thomas brings more than 30 years of luxury market leadership. The luxury veteran took an interest in MycoWorks after following recent press and believes the company’s “Reishi” leather alternative to be the “answer to a very long quest from the luxury industry so far that had never been fulfilled” because quality sustainable material was lacking.

“Today, with Fine Mycelium and Reishi, you have the product [that] matches what the best companies in this business are able to source, and that’s quite important because the material is not only defined by one feature,” said Thomas, noting that Reishi “matches the quality of animal hides in many areas” including the strength and aesthetics luxury fashion wants but with natural, non-animal origins.

MycoWorks’ Fine Mycelium biotechnology process harnesses mycelium to grow a made-to-order natural material that mimics the performance of animal leather while claiming a lower environmental impact. It can be made without synthetic binders thus maintaining the material’s biodegrability — a point of difference for eco-materials.

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Thomas sees the innovation as an “addition to the offer of raw materials to the luxury goods industry rather than a substitute. I think it’s going to add to the product development possibilities. I don’t think it’s going to replace [existing materials] but as more and more customers worldwide are aware of the environmental challenges we have, it’s one of the ways to contribute to making the world cleaner. Of course, it’s not the only [innovation] — there will be plenty in the future.”

He believes companies are moving faster than the public sector in making inroads on innovation, to further “accelerate” across all companies — not just luxury.

Joining the board independently, Thomas joins MycoWorks board directors Tjerk de Ruiter (independent), Anders Spohr (Novo Holdings), Kiersten Stead (DCVC Bio) and MycoWorks CEO Matt Scullin.

Mentioning the new supercharged MycoWorks factory in Emeryville, Calif., and a “surge of interest” in fashion, Scullin said more news is brewing.

New Sustainability Hires at Eco-Age: Sustainability consultancy Eco-Age is partnering with U.K. charity Future-Fit Foundation, a firm that focuses on environmental, social and corporate governance for investors, while announcing a new strategic hire.

Formerly a sustainability consultant at New Zealand-based firm Proxima, Georgia-Rae Taylor will join Eco-Age as a sustainability strategist alongside a 25-member team to drive implementation of the Future-Fit benchmark across Eco-Age partnerships. The benchmark was built upon 30 years of science and systems thinking, used by businesses like Virgin Money and Fujifilm, among others.

A serial collaborator, Eco-Age has partnered with sustainable rating platform Good on You, along with a handful of brands, to navigate more conscious choices. The latest moves are what Eco-Age chief executive officer Simon Whitehouse said will help “redesign the sustainability rule book and move into a moment of action.”

The Future-Fit benchmark is also aligned with the United Nations sustainable development goals, or SDGs. 

Bio-Nylon Maker Inks $118 Million to Scale: On Tuesday, San Diego-based biotechnology company Genomatica closed $118 million in Series C funding to accelerate the commercialization of its suite of sustainable materials.

Novo Holdings led the round, with participation by existing and new investors, including Viking Global Investors and Casdin Capital.

With the climate crisis intensifying, a May survey from Genomatica found nearly nine out of 10 consumers (or 88 percent) remain distrustful of brands’ green claims even despite their increased appetite for sustainability.

Forging the transition to new sustainable materials en masse remains a driving quest for firms like Genomatica, according to chief executive officer Christophe Schilling.

Citing sustainability as “a must-have” for consumers and ESG-focused investors, Anders Bendsen Spohr, senior partner at Novo Holdings, said “Genomatica is creating more sustainable value chains with both a breadth of partnerships and products that it is distinctively executing on at commercial scales that can deliver the kinds of impact that today’s climate crisis requires.”

A year ago, Genomatica announced pilot progress on its bio-nylon (a plant-based alternative to crude oil-derived nylon) in partnership with Italian nylon yarn-maker Aquafil. The firm is now targeting an additional 50 tons of bio-nylon for pre-commercial use by brand partners — who are yet to be announced.

Genomatica also produces a bio-based chemical used for producing Spandex. In June, the firm gained an additional $300 million to up capacity and build additional commercial plants.

Aquafil produces Econyl for nylon products, as well as bio-nylon with partner Genomatica. Chicago Commercial Photogtaphy

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