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Sustainable Innovation Recovery-Funded Project, Developing Ectoine with The University Of Nottingham

Activatec and the University of Nottingham are collaborating in a project supported by the UK's Sustainable Innovation Fund, a £200-million government initiative focused on sustainable economic recovery from COVID-19.


This R&D project aims to develop new technologies for the production of Ectoine, a high-value bio-based product which acts as an effective alternative to synthetic ingredients in the manufacturing of cosmetics.


Consumers of cosmetic products are greatly concerned about cosmetic pollution and the adverse effects of synthetic ingredients, which can cause skin irritation and trigger allergic reactions. Unrefined natural ingredients, while reducing these negative effects, are not always a suitable substitute for synthetic compounds, often failing to produce the results expected from certain cosmetic products.


Biotech active ingredients, part of an innovative and growing biotechnology market, aim to harmonize the desired results of cosmetics with sustainable practices to produce safe and effective cosmetic products. Moreover, as COVID-19 tightens its grip on health systems and economies around the world, the global pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors have an important role to play not only in the development of vital healthcare products but also in economic recovery and the promotion of clean and sustainable production processes.


Biotech active ingredients such as Ectoine have considerably higher efficacy than unrefined natural ingredients, while also being derived from clean and sustainable sources.


A cyclic amino acid, Ectoine provides osmotic balance to a wide number of halotolerant bacteria. A highly effective stabilizer of enzymes, DNA, protein complexes and nucleic acids, Ectoine has been proven to be effective at preventing dryness of the skin and at protecting the skin from UV irradiation. In an attempt to harness these attributes, various industries have begun to market Ectoine as a novel active component in health care and cosmetic products.


Indeed, the possible applications of Ectoine are vast. As well as being an effective alternative to synthetic ingredients in skincare products, Ectoine has also been demonstrated to positively influence the treatment of lung inflammation associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This diverse bio-based product is one of the most valuable products synthesized by microorganisms on the market, and due to its range of utility retails in both the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.


Activatec, an R&D start-up based in Nottingham's BioCity, are collaborating in a 9-month project with the University of Nottingham, working to develop innovative technologies to produce Ectoine by utilising a microbial consortium.


We will validate the technology using a multi-litre fermentation system, producing small batches of the end-product and generating data to facilitate the development of large-scale production in the future. Our collaboration will result in a cost-effective manufacturing process of this vital high-value ingredient. The potential of our innovative technology will be evaluated both technically and economically, exploring potential future applications of our production methods.


This Sustainable Innovation Recovery-funded project will be a key driver towards the commercialisation of a sustainable biotech ingredient so that for the first time the UK will meet its market requirements regarding the reduction of the cosmetic industry's carbon footprint.


Following the successful application of our novel technology, further applications of Ectoine in the skincare, pharmaceutical and healthcare markets will be explored. Cost-effective production methods of this high-value bioproduct will allow more manufacturers to invest in this sustainable ingredient and move away from harmful synthetic substances.


Activatec has already been recognised as a tech start-up to watch in Nottingham. This project - centred around innovative production methods to encourage the use of sustainable ingredients with a wealth of applications - will boost Activatec's business profile further, creating new opportunities, sustainable jobs and growth in Nottinghamshire during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.


Featured Image: 'Jubilee Campus Library Night Shot' by Michael Thomas on Flickr (licence)

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