Sparxell, a GreenTech spin-out from  the University of Cambridge that has developed high-performance, sustainable, plant-based pigments, has completed a £2.5m ($3.2m) funding round.

The round comprises a mix of seed investments, grants, and awards and will accelerate development and commercialisation of products which will eliminate synthetic chemicals from colourants in multi-billion dollar markets including in cosmetics, fashion, paint, and packaging.

The Circular Innovation Fund, a global venture capital fund jointly managed by Demeter and Cycle Capital with L’Oréal as an anchor investor, participated in the seed funding alongside others including SpaceX-backer Future Communities Capital, a sustainability-focused investor PDS Ventures, impact investor Katapultbiotech and consumer sectors investor Joyance Partners and climate investor SNØCAP.

Sparxell was founded in 2022 by Cambridge scientists, led by Dr Benjamin Droguet and Professor Silvia Vignolini, who discovered ways to replicate vibrant colours in nature using fully plant-based cellulose, a renewable, biodegradable resource that can be extracted from waste streams.

Sparxell’s pigments use the same material that many plants and animals use to produce vivid, durable, and fade-resistant colourants. The products are toxin-free and fully biodegradable with a colour intensity that lasts longer than traditional colourants and pigments on the market.

The business has won significant awards worth more than $350k from Morgan Stanley’s Sustainable Collaborative Prize and the 2023 Ray of Hope Award from the Biomimicry Institute.

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Dr Benjamin Droguet, Sparxell founder and CEO, said: “Traditional chemical colourants are causing major environmental harm through every stage of their lifecycle, from manufacture to degradation.

“Over 10,000 fossil-based chemicals are used in current colouration processes. The textile industry is a well-known emitter of dyes and microplastics, with over 1.5 million tonnes entering the environment every year, while paint has recently been recognised as the largest source of microplastics in the ocean.

“The global movement towards plant-based alternatives has experienced exceptional growth in recent years with a reshaping of entire industries such as meat and dairy.

“The same opportunity exists within colourants, driven by a common interest of consumers, brands and regulators to transition to fully sustainable, biodegradable, circular products. Most brands are committed to eliminating synthetic chemicals from manufacturing processes altogether.

“Our plant-based materials can be grown and sourced locally in a complete rethink of how colours are currently being manufactured while reducing transport emissions. The industrial applications for Sparxell’s products are broad, from cosmetics and textiles to paints and packaging.”

Based on the growth trajectory and levels of interest in co-developing applications for Sparxell pigments across a range of industries, the company expects to launch a Series A funding round in the coming months to upscale production capacity and accelerate commercialisation.

Stéphane Villecroze, co-founder and managing partner at Circular Innovation Fund, said: “The Circular Innovation Fund has invested in Sparxell because its nature-inspired colourants address a range of concerns including plastic waste, carbon emissions, human rights, and water savings. With colourants being such an important component of cosmetics, we are especially excited to see the application of Sparxell products in this sector,”

Shrina Kurani, GP of SNØCAP VC, said: “Sparxell is an incredibly exciting company for SNØCAP because of the vast market implications behind the technology.

“Consumers want cleaner alternatives in the products they buy, and Sparxell is able to deliver on this at a platform level, creating a much bigger climate impact.”

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