What challenges do impact investors face when evaluating ESGs and investing in start-ups? What role does the financial and regulatory framework play in West African Sustainable Chemistry innovations? Which Sustainable Chemistry pioneers captured the hearts of the audience? And who are the winners of the EUR 25.000 ISC3 Innovation Challenge in Sustainable Chemistry and Waste? These were some of the key questions of the International Sustainable Chemistry Collaborative Centre's (ISC3) Investor Forum 2022 on November 9th and 10th, 2022. A total of 121 registered international guests from start-ups, finance, industry, science, NGOs and politics took part in the virtual fourth international Investor Forum.
On the first day of the Investor Forum 2022, Moderator Dr. Alexis Bazzanella (Director ISC3 Innovation Hub) welcomed Ms. Jocelyne Landry Tsonang (Executive team member at African Circular Economy Network, Cameroon), Ms. Katerin Marcela Carrillo (Co-founder Natupla: Natural Plastic, Germany/Colombia), Ms. Alicia Sornson (Manager of Programs and Partnerships - MENA at Village Capital, United States of America) and Ms. Leonie Klimpke (Head of Finance & ESG Expert, Cavalry Ventures, Germany). The experts' round discussed questions about the sustainability criteria when investing in start-ups, as well as the significance of investment impact from investors’ and founders’ points of view. "You can continue doing business only if the planet is still there. The impact assessment goes beyond the carbon footprint. A more holistic approach is needed.” Ms. Tsonang stated.
The second Investor Forum session on November 10th was dedicated to financial and regulatory framework for Sustainable Chemistry innovations in West Africa and their role and challenges to direct investments in sustainable technologies that are needed for a transformative environmental development. Ms. Joanna Bingham (Chief Executive Officer at Footprints Africa, UK/Ghana) opened the panel with topical remarks on specific regional challenges for founders in West Africa and the importance of a strong and diverse ecosystem. "in West Africa, green washing is not accepted by local communities and can cause the end of a venture in the region," Ms. Bingham stated. The panel moderator Mr. Samuel Opoku (Founding Partner, Start.Up Lounge Africa, Ghana) then started the panel discussion with the invited experts Ms. Stephanie Eyram Akrumah (Impact Director, Centre for Green Growth (CenGG), Ghana), Ms. Joanna Bingham (Chief Executive Officer, Footprints Africa, UK/Ghana), Mr. Cyril Okoroigwe (Chief Executive Officer, Regtech Africa, Nigeria), and Ms. Justina Mensah (Program Officer: Deal Room and Investor Engagement, Impact Investing Ghana, Ghana).
The two panel discussions were complemented by two pitching sessions with a total of 19 innovative start-ups on both event days. Furthermore, around 40 start-ups from the field of Sustainable Chemistry had the opportunity to present their innovations on a separate digital meeting platform for investors and start-ups. The showcasing start-ups’ information was also available in an exclusive digital Investor Booklet 2022 for investors.
The best start-up pitch of each event day was selected by the international audience and celebrated with an ISC3 Investor Forum Audience Award. In addition, on the second event day the winners of the ISC3 Innovation Challenge were awarded. This year's competition focused on Sustainable Chemistry and Waste: Prevention, Valorisation & Management and was endowed with a total of EUR 25,000.
The winners of the Audience Voting Award are the following
Vienna Textile Lab from Austria and Ecovon from Ghana won the hearts of the audience on the first forum day. The female-led start-up from Vienna uses microorganisms for the development of textile dyes to substitute conventional synthetic dyes. Ecovon is turning organic byproducts such as coconut husk and sugar cane bagasse into a formaldehyde-free renewable wood alternative.
The second day´s Audience Award went to Brickify from Nigeria. Brickify is tackling plastic waste and homelessness by recycling plastic waste into water, fire, and heat resistant lumber and “lego” bricks to produce affordable furniture as well as to construct low-cost houses.
The winners of the Innovation Challenge in Sustainable Chemistry and Waste: Prevention, Valorisation & Management are:
Female-led Ethiopian start-up RAY Cosmetics was awarded €5,000 as the winner in the category "Best Social Impact". RAY Cosmetics uses organic waste, namely fish skins and scales, to extract valuable protein and further process it to produce domestic natural cosmetics such as skin and hair care products. Their process combines chemical engineering, food waste management and cosmetology. In addition, the start-up team works with local youth and women, who collect the fish waste from the local lake, for example.
The Malaysian start-up Materials In Works won the innovation prize in the category "Best Regional Impact", endowed with €5,000. The start-up has developed a treatment process that recovers cellulose from residual paper liner from the label packaging industry back into the value chain. Thus, the start-up prevents the valuable paper liner residues from ending up in landfills and focuses on recovering the cellulose pulp as a raw material which meets the need of local paper manufacturers, as price and availability of raw material are key concerns for industry players.
The main winner of the ISC3 Innovation Award endowed with €15,000, was the female-led start-up We Are Galaktika from Germany. The start-up team has developed a resource efficient technology for the chemical recycling of end-of-life silicones, and so tackling one of the most pressing but underestimated environmental problems of our society. Their chemical recycling technology allows the use of end-of-life silicones as alternative feedstock for new high-quality silicones, consequently contributing to a circular economy, saving energy and resources, while having a beneficial carbon footprint balance.
Dr. Bazzanella (Director ISC3 Innovation Hub) closed the Award Ceremony: “We would like to sincerely thank all Sustainable Chemistry changemakers and the international expert jury for their important advancements and their participation in this international contest dedicated exclusively to Sustainable Chemistry solutions. The ISC3 Innovation Challenge aims to engage, award and promote Sustainable Chemistry innovators and their original solutions. The Innovation Challenge 2023 will focus on "Sustainable Chemistry and Agriculture". The application period will start in mid-December 2022.”
The Investor Forum 2022 was organized by the ISC3 Innovation Hub located at DECHEMA e.V. in Frankfurt. The hub is also home to the Global Start-up Service that accompanies innovations in the field of Sustainable Chemistry in all development stages, from the laboratory to market maturity to expansion phase. In addition to events such as the Investor Forum, the Global Start-up Service of the ISC3 supports international Sustainable Chemistry start-ups with a variety of further interesting support services.