Technological watch

Sky Ocean Ventures and Innovate UK set up fund to tackle ocean plastic 

Innovative businesses creating green alternatives to plastic bottles, cosmetic beads and synthetic materials are being backed by new funding from the UK government and Sky.

Sky Ocean Ventures has teamed up with Innovate UK –the innovation agency for the UK government - to invest in ten UK companies that have identified innovative solutions to solving the ocean plastics crisis. The ideas range from biodegradable water bottles and packaging made from seaweed, right through to an ingenious way of reducing the plastic microfibre waste that comes from the clothes we wear – by developing clothes that grow with children.

Launched in March 2018, Sky Ocean Ventures is a £25m impact investment fund committed to accelerating young companies and entrepreneurs who are developing ideas that can help turn off the plastics tap. It’s part of Sky’s Bigger Picture initiative and is the solutions arm of the Sky Ocean Rescue campaign, which shines a spotlight on the issues that affect ocean health and inspires behaviour change.

Sky Ocean Ventures and Innovate UK have now announced a £6m joint funding commitment in the global battle against plastic pollution. These 10 UK companies are the first to be funded under the commitment.

Jeremy Darroch, Group Chief Executive, Sky, said: “At Sky we recognise that we have a responsibility beyond our business. That’s why we’re supporting these ten innovators through Sky Ocean Ventures, the impact investment fund we set up as part of our commitment to help create a better and plastic-free future for our oceans. By investing in innovative new products and materials we will help turn off the plastics tap.”

The recipients of the funding all have a pioneering idea in either material innovation, circular economy or responsible consumption.

The first investment was awarded to Naturbeads, a company working to manufacture a replacement to the ocean-polluting microbeads that, despite initial bans in “rinse-off” cosmetics, are found in many personal and home care products and paints. Naturbeads manufacture a biodegradable alternative to plastic microbeads that could reduce micro plastic pollution in the oceans. The technology to create the cellulose microbeads was developed at the University of Bath by Professors Janet Scott and Davide Mattia from the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies in 2017. Professors Scott and Mattia launched Naturbeads in 2018 to commercialise the technology together with Dr Giovanna Laudisio, CEO of the company.

An estimated 30,000 tonnes of microplastics from consumer products end up in our world’s oceans every year. This is equivalent to three times the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or the plastic pollution generated by 5 billion plastic bottles.

The other nine companies to receive funding are:

HD Wool
Established in 1888 H. Dawson have supplied wool around the world for 130 years. They’re now developing HD Wool, an advanced wool to be used as a replacement to synthetic polyester insulation that shed microfibres which pollute our oceans and rivers, an issue highlighted by the HRH The Prince of Wales’ Campaign for Wool.

Flexi-Hex London
Founders Sam and Will Boex recognised the impact that single use plastic was having on their local and the world’s marine environment. Their passion for surfing and their personal experience of transporting boards around the globe inspired them to create a sustainable packaging sleeve for the board sports industry. They’re now expanding the 100% recyclable product into other industries to reduce our dependence on bubble wrap.

Karen Scofield Seal and Dr Charlie Bavington founded the social-impact, bio-tech business in 2018 with the mission to develop innovative seaweed-based products including marine-safe biopackaging. Based at the European Marine Science Park in Oban, Oceanium is using innovative biorefinery methods in order to meet demand for sustainable packaging and food products whilst enabling the sustainable growth of the seaweed cultivation industry in the UK/EU.

Choose Water
Choose Water was founded by James Longcroft after visiting The Gambia and being hit by an awareness of our own wastefulness. The plastic-free, biodegradable water bottle, with a lining made from sustainably sourced plant-based materials that are completely biodegradable, is made entirely from sustainable materials which will degrade within a year, with proceeds being donated to Water for Africa. Choose Water received an initial investment from Sky Ocean Ventures in July 2018.

Bagboard is a new advertising platform that is on the planet’s side. They combine digital and out of home advertising whilst offering a solution to single-use plastic bags. The business turns reusable paper bags into advertising space, distributing them for free across a network of 2,000 independent retailers in London. Their app incentivises consumers to engage digitally in return for personal and social rewards, bringing brands and consumers together to drive sustainability. The platform launches this autumn.

Celia Pool and Alec Mills ran a period subscription service, delivering to thousands of women around the UK. It was here they saw first-hand the plastic and chemicals that go into tampons.
Believing women and planet deserve better they launched their own sustainable tampon brand DAME, and with it the world’s first reusable applicator.

Blue Green Vision
Blue Green Vision provide spectrometers, illumination systems that can vastly improve recycling of plastics by sorting by type accurately. This easily adoptable technology that can revolutionise our recycling value chain.

Petit Pli
Petit Pli is a material innovation and Fash-Tech start-up engineering clothes that grow with children. Children grow seven sizes in their first two years which equates to a lot of waste clothing. Graduate Aeronautical Engineer Ryan Mario Yasin founded the company in 2017 with the vision of designing innovative and sustainable garments for children. The designs are made from recycled plastic bottles and draw inspiration from deployable nano-structure satellites and his new-born nephew Viggo.

And one biotech that is not disclosing its work until the publication of its scientific discovery later this year.


Publication date: 09/08/2019

Bioplastics magazine (News)


This project has received funding from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 837761.