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Head to Head with Alex Greenhalgh at Spintex

September 15th 2020
Spintex

We went head-to-head with Alex Greenhalgh, CEO and co-founder of Spintex – a brilliant new business developing artificially spun silk.

New start-up, Spintex uses a spider-inspired spinning process to develop artificially spun high-performance silk. The process they use is called “pultrusion”. As Alex says, the idea is “backed by 300 million years of R&D”. Not many businesses can make that claim! Just as the spider, the raw materials are protein and water and the pultrusion process expels the water that makes the silk protein microfibres align to produce a low-energy, high-quality fibre.

“Traditional silk production has the second highest environmental impact after leather” says Alex. “What’s unique about Spintex’s process is that it is incredibly environmental”. Unlike the traditional silk industry, energy consumption is low, water is the only by-product, there are no hazardous chemicals, and everything can potentially be recycled. Using biomimicry, or learning from nature, Spintex has turned the ancient silk manufacturing process on its head by rethinking production models. How cool is that?

The resulting Spintex material compares well with natural silks and nylons – it is tough, light, malleable and fine. It has potential for use in the sustainable fashion industry and because of its high performance can also be used in other markets. “We hope it will be used for advanced technical textiles and even for regenerative medicine” says Alex.

Alex and his co-founders, Martin Frydrych (CSO) and Fritz Vollrath, were researchers in University of Oxford’s Zoology Department. The team is backed by a strong advisory board, including scientific advisor, Chris Holland and IP advisor, Robert Harrison. Alex and Martin met working on the European Commission funded FLIPT project that was looking at ways to spin cellulose like a silk using biomimicry. They developed an in-depth knowledge of the spider’s spinning process and realised the commercial potential of replicating this. Originally, they set up Spintex to create medical textiles but were held back by the regulatory process. It was joining the Fashion for Good accelerator that propelled them into sustainable fashion and they’ve never looked back.

Alex is Oxford born and bred and took to science early on in life. In fact, as a teenager, he won a Nuffield Foundation Bursary in microbiology through Science Oxford (which we ran from 1998 to 2014). What do we say we’re trying to do? Inspire the next generation of scientist and innovators…..

Spintex is a winner of an impressive list of grants and awards – including an EU Horizon 2020 grant, the Panacea Stars 2019 Develop programme winners, Fashion for Good accelerator graduates, and investment from the IndieBio SOSV accelerator and the Startup Funding Club.

Spintex does have competitors – Bolt Threads (USA); AMSilk (Germany); and Spiber (Japan) but they are the only company using a non-bioreactor, pultrusion technology which gives them greater environmental credentials and reduced costs.

Aside from COVID-19, which has slowed down their development timeline, Spintex has some key challenges for 2020: to fine-tune the engineering process, another funding round, to further reduce costs to competitive levels and to scale-up. We have no doubt they are up to the challenge. Good luck, Spintex. We are pleased to have you join our science and tech community at the Wood Centre for Innovation at Stansfeld Park.

If you want to find out more about, Spintex or contact Alex, see here.

October 28th 2020

Five minutes with Tim Ballance, Lead Scientist at ColdQuanta UK

ColdQuanta UK, the Oxford-based quantum atomics company, has been awarded £2.8 million in Innovate UK grants to lead a consortium of companies across the UK to develop three projects, including work on a new, ground-breaking quantum positioning system (QPS) or gyroscope.

October 14th 2020

Five minutes with Gerard Shields from Printpool

We spent five minutes with Gerard Shields Founder and Director of Printpool Additive Manufacturing Ltd and Director Srishti Kadu to find out what really goes on in room G6 at our Wood Centre for Innovation. Set up in July 2020 and run by young entrepreneurs Gerard and Srishti, PrintPool’s offering in the 3D printing/additive manufacturing industry is unique.

September 15th 2020

The Wood Centre for Innovation: our green credentials

Did you know that our centre and adjoining Science Oxford Centre in Headington have great sustainability credentials? Our founders, Sir Martin and Lady Audrey Wood, are passionate about the countryside and environmental sustainability.