Client company Spintex wins Ray of Hope prize

A “graduate” of one of our Science Oxford programmes and resident at the Wood Centre for Innovation, entrepreneur Alex Greenlagh, founder of Spintex, wins the $100,000 Ray of Hope Prize this week.

Spintex uses a spider-inspired spinning process, or pultrusion, to develop artificially spun biodegradable textile fibres for use in fashion and high-performance material applications. The Biomimicry Institute’s Ray of Hope prize is in support of their ground-breaking work.

The Prize, created in honour of the late sustainable business pioneer Ray C Anderson, is awarded each year to the world’s top nature-inspired start-up after 10 finalist teams conclude a 10-week accelerator program. This year, Spintex and nine other 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 start-up 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 fibres from a liquid gel, at room temperature, with water and biodegradable textile fibres 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 fibres. They estimate that their process is 1,000 times more efficient than an equivalent synthetic fibre. As they scale, their goal is to expand upon their textile capabilities, creating high-performance textiles with properties, such as stretch and embedded colour, all while creating biodegradable and non-bioaccumulating textiles.

Congratulations, Spintex. We are proud to have you in our Wood Centre for Innovation.