Xampla adds senior comms hire to expert team

Xampla, has welcomed new Head of Marketing and Communications Katrina Curl to develop the company’s partnerships with customers and brands as it prepares to launch its first products.

Katrina joins Xampla with more than a decade’s experience in marketing and branding, having led the communications strategies of household names in FMCG, retail and tech.

She spent three years working with Unilever, delivering new purpose positioning, brand strategy and product launch campaigns for Surf across Europe, Africa and Asia.

Katrina has also worked with Britvic, leading an integrated campaign team to brand and bring to market Robinsons Refresh’d. The product was subsequently named the number one soft drinks innovation in 2017, according to Neilson data.

She honed her craft at top UK agencies including BBH London, Creature of London and DLKW Lowe, and joins Xampla from VCCP where she led the Canon account across EMEA, delivering brand strategy.

Xampla’s expert team has grown to more than 20 members after making its first hire in January 2020. Its continued growth follows funding rounds with leading tech investors Horizons Ventures and Amadeus Capital Partners.

The company is now poised to engage its first customers, with Katrina playing a vital role in communicating Xampla’s brand and value proposition.

New Head of Marketing and Communications, Katrina Curl, said: “Xampla’s potential to have a global impact on plastic pollution is what drew me to join the team. Its material is the answer brands have been looking for, and I’m delighted to have the opportunity to develop and lead the strategy that communicates this to our customer-base and beyond.”

Xampla CEO, Simon Hombersley, said: “There couldn’t be a better time for Katrina to have joined our team. She brings key expertise from her work with Unilever, Britvic and other FMCGs that will be crucial in showcasing what our material can do. We’re all looking forward to seeing the science behind our material come to life through Katrina’s work.”

Research Published in Nature Communications

NEW research published today in Nature Communications could signal the end of fossil fuel single-use plastics as the science behind a new plant protein substitute is made public.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge Knowles Lab describe how they can create a polymer film from plant protein that is sustainable, scalable and 100 percent natural.

Made entirely from plant protein which can be sourced as a by-product of the agriculture industry, the resulting material can be consumed in nature after use like any natural waste, leaving no pollutants behind.

The material’s functionality is consistent with conventional plastic, but it requires no chemical cross-linking used in bio-polymers to give them the strength and flexibility of plastic.

The chemicals used in cross-linking are often unsustainable and can even leave toxic pollutants behind once disposed of.

The research shows how the scientists are able to naturally assemble plant proteins so the final structure is very similar to spider silk. The breakthrough is the first time these structures have been shown in a material that derives from plant protein.

Through a process involving acetic acid and water, ultrasonication and heat, the plant proteins are transformed in an energy-efficient way using easily obtainable, sustainable ingredients.

Xampla, the Cambridge University spin-out commercialising the technology, is developing its applications to replace single-use plastics including flexible packaging films, sachets, microcapsules found in home and personal care products, and carrier bags.

The paper is the culmination of more than 10 years’ research into understanding how nature generates materials from proteins.

The scientists were inspired by spiders’ silk which is weight-for-weight stronger than steel but has weak molecular bonds, meaning it can break down easily.  They sought to understand the building blocks of this natural phenomenon, with the aim to create a material with the same molecular properties.

Professor Tuomas Knowles who led the research said: “One of the key breakthroughs is that we can supply this product on a large scale, and it can replace plastic in very specific applications. We have proved it’s possible to solve the single-use plastics problem.”

Dr Marc Rodriguez Garcia, co-author of the paper and Xampla’s Head of Research said: “It’s amazing to realise that a discovery you make in a lab can have a big impact on solving a global problem. That’s essentially why we are doing this – we really love the science, but we also wanted to do something meaningful about solving the overwhelming problem of plastic waste.”

Sian Sutherland, Co-Founder of international campaign group A Plastic Planet said: “This is a huge breakthrough for all the naysayers who want to back the status quo and still tout recycling as the answer to the plastic crisis.

“We have to be forward-looking. We have to get excited about new technologies and materials because these are the innovations that will break our addiction to plastic. This is what the future must be about – no greenwashing, no fossil fuel reliance and new, scalable technologies that put the planet first.”

See the Nature Communications article here.

Next generation plastic start-up accelerates growth with further £6m seed investment

University of Cambridge spin-out Xampla has today announced it has closed a £6.2m seed finance round, led by the backers of Zoom, to accelerate the roll-out of its next generation plastic replacement. The investment follows a £2m round announced in April last year.

The company has ambitious plans to replace microplastics and single-use plastics with its entirely natural plant-protein alternatives. Xampla is chaired by Jeff Seabright, the former Chief Sustainability Officer of Unilever, and is the first UK university spin-out to secure B Corp accreditation.

The finance round was led by Horizons Ventures, the private investment arm of Mr Li Ka-shing, which is a leading investor in some of the world’s most innovative companies and disruptive technologies including Facebook, Zoom, Waze, Spotify, Siri, DeepMind, Improbable, and Impossible Foods.

Xampla is also backed by deeptech investor Amadeus Capital Partners, Cambridge Enterprise, and the impact investment fund Sky Ocean Ventures.

Bart Swanson of Horizons Ventures said: “We invest in highly innovative companies in Asia, Europe and the US with the potential to disrupt on a global scale. 

“Xampla’s excellent core science and strong commercial advantages set it apart in the race for a replacement to plastic, and we look forward to working with the team to build the business over the coming years.”

Amelia Armour, Partner, Amadeus Capital Partners added, “Plastic pollution is a global problem which has a viable solution in Xampla’s plant-protein alternative. It has been exciting to help Xampla gain traction and we welcome Horizons Ventures as an investor who shares Amadeus’ vision for this great company.”

Jeff Seabright, Xampla Chair, said: “The Xampla team had a great first year, with excellent technical and commercial progress. 

“We look forward to working with Horizons and our other investors to continue to build Xampla and deliver its significant commercial potential by addressing one of today’s most pressing problems – plastic pollution.”

Jeff Seabright Appointed Chair

Jeff Seabright, Xampla Chair

A senior leader from one of the world’s biggest companies and White House climate change advisor has joined a Cambridge University start-up making plastic from peas.

As Unilever’s Chief Sustainability Officer Jeff Seabright is credited with turning one of the world’s largest multi-nationals into a leader in sustainability. But he has gone from leading the sustainability operations of a company with an annual turnover of £50bn across 155,000 staff in 190 countries and 400 household name products, to a company with no sales, no products and 10 staff. Mr Seabright said: “We’ve known we’ve had a plastic crisis for a long time. But the biggest problem with plastic is also its biggest strength. Its durability is great when you are protecting your product and a nightmare afterwards. The great conundrum has been to find a product that is cheap and durable without lasting forever on our planet.

“Xampla is the most exciting innovation I have worked on. It has potential to have a positive impact on a global scale and is a ground breaking solution for industries in desperate need of natural alternatives to plastic. I am very pleased to be joining as Chair at this critical time.”

Mr Seabright will bring Xampla a raft of environmental and commercial expertise from a two-decades long career in sustainability. Before joining Unilever he was Vice President of Environment & Water Resources at Coca Cola. He also led the Clinton White House Task Force on Climate Change. Mr Seabright will champion Xampla’s sustainability efforts as it brings its natural plastic alternatives to market. Xampla has created the world’s first plant protein material for commercial use, aiming to eradicate the need for single-use plastics. Its bio-based materials, some made from pea protein, decompose naturally and fully without harming the environment.

Xampla CEO Simon Hombersley said: “Jeff’s appointment has come at a pivotal point for the company. We are designing our products to meet the sustainability requirements of major companies like Unilever, and Jeff’s experience and leadership will ensure sustainability is our focus as we scale our business.

Xampla is UK’s first Spin-out B Corp

Xampla has become the UK’s first university spin-out to be accredited B Corp status.

B Corps are for–profit businesses which commit to create a material positive impact on society and the environment through their operations.  B Corp Certification is administered by Standards Analysts at the non-profit B Lab. Xampla is a spin-out from Cambridge University, based on the ground breaking work of Professor Tuomas Knowles.

Dr Elaine Loukes, Investment Director, Cambridge Enterprise said: “We couldn’t be more pleased by the news of Xampla’s continued success. Xampla originated at Cambridge University and we continue to work closely with the team.

“Impact is of the utmost importance to us, and Xampla is a prime example of a technology created at the University being developed through a commercial spin-out to make the world a better place. We are looking forward to seeing what the future holds for Xampla with Mr Seabright at the helm.”

Professor Andy Neely, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise and Business Relations, University of Cambridge, said: “The University of Cambridge is committed to seeking innovative solutions to the climate crisis. Companies like Xampla that apply cutting-edge University research to solving urgent environmental problems – and which have the potential to achieve impact at scale – have a vital role to play in global efforts to achieve a zero-carbon future.”

Kate Sandle, B Lab UK’s Director of Programmes and Engagement, said: “Xampla is a B Corp through and through – a business that meets the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability to balance profit for purpose.

“It’s fantastic that a university spin-out has been able to achieve this. I’m sure with Jeff Seabright as Chair, Xampla will go on to do even more fantastic work helping people and planet.”

Xampla named as a global sustainability pioneer

Xampla has been selected by Sifted, the Financial Times’s new media site for entrepreneurs and innovators, as one of its ‘Pioneers of the new world’.

The report lists the key start-ups ‘at the forefront of seismic change’, and highlights Xampla’s CEO Simon Hombersley as the standout pioneer in sustainability.    Xampla leads the ‘Sustainability’ category for its ground-breaking work to create the world’s first plant protein material to replace single-use plastic.

CEO Simon Hombersley told the site:

“Covid-19 is in fact placing severe restrictions on corporate budgets, creating a short-term barrier to achieving long-term sustainability objectives” and that Xampla is at “the vanguard of helping corporates meet the needs of shareholder, consumer, regulator and planet alike”.

Sifted journalists began a world-wide search in April for the start-ups with most potential to make the ‘new world’ an improvement on the old. In highlighting Xampla as particularly compelling, the publication noted the company’s breakthrough could herald ‘a mass evolution in sustainable plastic’.