As we were catapulted into a global isolation in 2020, we were faced with news of bush fires enveloping Australia and floods devastating Indonesia. Then, in July 2021, the sea caught fire. In a time of limited distractions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the earth found its way to send us an unequivocal message – “help”.
Sustainability has always been at the core of Plus X and so Better World Collective is our response to the urgency of the global sustainability crisis. We put our heads together and created a formula with outstanding potential. Many startups are innovating sustainable solutions, but these startups need corporate companies to scale their solutions to generate the impact the earth desperately needs. Through a solution-focused series of summits, Better World Collective match-makes startups with corporates, empowering them to spark further collaboration projects in sustainable innovation.
Corporates are currently facing a time where consumer demands are changing to reflect the planet's needs. People want sustainable alternatives. IBM reported that 6 in 10 consumers are willing to change their shopping habits to be more sustainable. This shift cannot go ignored, corporates must become more agile when approaching sustainable innovation, or, quite simply, they face the risk of being made obsolete. Sustainable innovation, however, is a road that comes with an abundance of hurdles. Especially when a corporate team lacks internal knowledge and resources to effectively endeavour towards a more sustainable future.
We have designed the Better World Collective membership to address these very challenges. From overcoming access to ready-to-scale materials and managing the fear of being perceived as “greenwashing”, to matchmaking corporates with a solution aligned startup and then supporting them through a bespoke innovation programme, designed to implement change.
Plus X innovation hubs began its story with the Central Research Laboratory six years ago, at The Old Vinyl Factory in Hayes, West London. Built on the grounds of invention and ingenuity, the Central Research Laboratory is housed on the site where the Gramophone was invented – the old EMI record plant. Since its inception, the Central Research Laboratory has supported over 270 startups to grow. What’s more, the community are actively breaking norms in the process:
A pattern emerged among the startups flowing through the accelerator programme; alongside health and wellbeing tech, the programme attracted many sustainable startups innovating circular economy materials. Three examples of these startups are Chip[s] Board, Biophilica and Biohm.
Chip[s] Board takes the waste stream of food corporate McCain Foods to create Parblex – a plastic alternative made from potato waste that is currently being prototyped by eyewear brand Ace & Tate. Biophilica transforms green waste into a plant-based leather alternative that is compostable, recyclable, estimated carbon neutral, and plastic-free. Biohm is a leading pioneer in the research and development of bio-based materials, particularly in bio-manufacturing materials for construction, made from waste.
Brighton is a hub for inventive, creative, and sustainable businesses. So it felt right to kick off our activity in the local business ecosystem with Disruptors, a competition championing sustainable startups. The competition saw finalists Gomi Design, Soaked, and Re-Manufactory take to the stage to pitch their sustainable products alongside Marinatex, the competition winner. Through the competition, the founder of Marinatex, Lucy Hughes, won a residence at Plus X Brighton, where she has been using the specialist workshop facilities to develop her plastic alternative material created with waste from the fishing industry.
Since launching the Better World Collective programme, we have been attracting ingenious brands from outside the Plus X community. Notpla is a sustainable startup making packaging disappear naturally by using seaweed and plant-derived materials. Pluumo is creating an impact in the chilled foods delivery industry by creating the world’s first thermal sustainable packaging material, made from feathers.
We’re excited to be kicking off the Better World Collective summit series this September, with the debut focus being packaging. Packaging Transformed will be an intimate and solution-focused two-day summit leveraging the power of collaboration. Day one will prepare startups for corporate collaboration projects through industry mentorship sessions, collaborative workshops, and inspiring talks. Day two will focus on matching corporates with the startups aligning their innovations with the challenges from the corporates are facing. The day will involve keynote talks on sustainable and circular economy innovation, pitching sessions, startup demo stands and dedicated match-making sessions.
Corporates can access Packaging Transformed and other summits in the series: “Circular Fashion” and “Smart Cities” through a Better World Collective membership. With this membership, a corporate can unlock the potential to fast-track their sustainable material innovation with next-gen pioneers, position themselves as disruptive leaders in their industry, and ultimately influence real impact for our planet’s future.
Better World Collective summits are part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund as part of the Plus X and Central Research Laboratory commitment to supporting startups, scale-ups and entrepreneurs to thrive.