09. Jul 2021
By mimicking how a spider spins silk at room temperature, Spintex creates high performance, sustainable textiles that are 1,000 times more efficient than an equivalent synthetic fiber.
The Biomimicry Institute is proud to announce the 2021 Ray of Hope Prize® award recipient is Spintex Engineering. Spintex is a University of Oxford spinout company that manufactures biodegradable textile fibers for use in fashion and high-performance material applications. As the 2021 Ray of Hope Prize recipient, Spintex has been awarded $100,000 in support of their groundbreaking work.
The Prize, created in honor of the late sustainable business pioneer Ray C. Anderson, is awarded each year to the world’s top nature-inspired startup after 10 finalist teams conclude a 10-week accelerator program. This year, Spintex and nine other participating companies were selected from a pool of 301 applicants from 49 countries. All participants in the program learned about sustainable business practices, met with industry and startup mentors, and refined their scientific communication skills.
While the program uniquely includes participants across industries, all are unified in their mission of creating products that mitigate, or even eliminate, the need for extractive practices, such as mining, and revitalize damaged ecosystems. By learning from nature, companies like Spintex are creating new products, materials, and processes that solve fundamental sustainability challenges.
Over the course of hundreds of millions of years, spiders have evolved the ability to create one of the world’s strongest and most adaptable materials—spider silk! The secret to a spider’s ability to create silk lies within their spinnerets, specialized organs that turn the liquid silk gel held in the spider’s abdomen into a solid thread. After years of research into this unique mechanism, Spintex has managed to mimic the spider’s amazing ability. The company has created a process to spin textile fibers from a liquid gel, at room temperature, with water and biodegradable textile fibers as the only outputs.
The textile industry is searching for sustainable technologies and solutions that will reduce waste, greenhouse gas emissions, and pollution, and enable a circular economy. Spintex is uniquely positioned as a platform technology, to replace not only silk used in fashion, but also oil-derived synthetic fibers. They estimate that their process is 1,000 times more efficient than an equivalent synthetic fiber. As they scale, their goal is to expand upon their textile capabilities, creating high-performance textiles with properties, such as stretch and embedded color, all while creating biodegradable and non-bioaccumulating textiles.
“Going through the Ray of Hope program has been a fantastic experience. It’s been wonderful to see such a wide variety of great startups focused on using Nature’s lessons to build the future. All of us at Spintex are deeply honored to be selected as the winners of the 2021 prize and are so grateful for the opportunity given to us,” said Alex Greenhalgh, CEO and co-founder of Spintex.
The $25,000 runner-up is Aquammodate, a Swedish company that is creating water filtration systems, inspired by diatoms and aquaporin proteins. Their energy-efficient and selective technology produces high purity grade water in a single filter pass, desalination at any scale, and removes industrial pollutants and contaminants such as arsenic, microplastics, and pharmaceutical residues.
“A sustainable and closed-loop system exists in nature, and the Prize amplifies solutions that bring human designs into closer harmony with natural solutions,” said Jared Yarnall-Schane, Entrepreneurship Director at the Biomimicry Institute. “This year’s cohort offers real examples of this nature-inspired approach, while also collectively taking on global sustainability challenges that represent billions of dollars of business opportunity.”
The 2021 Ray of Hope Prize was made possible by the Ray C. Anderson Foundation. biomimicry.org/rayofhopeprize