By @SimonCocking

An interview with Reinmar Eggers @ReinmarEggers, Chief Executive Officer of Saphium Biotechnology @Saphium , an IndieBio company back by SOSVentures.

Describe the company – the elevator pitch …

Saphium Biotechnology develops bioplastics that are all natural, non-toxic and compostable, in a cost- effective way. Our first product is PHAbolous philaments – a 3D printer filament that provides a green alternative to conventional filaments. Right now the earth’s oceans and ecosystems are being destroyed every single day with all the plastic waste we produce. We can’t turn back time and we can’t abolish plastics since they are an important part of everyday life, but Saphium can make them non-toxic and compostable.

How are you different?

Most conventional plastics are based on crude oil, take hundreds of years to degrade and release toxic additives that accumulate in every human being. Right now every small commodity, such as a toothbrush lasts longer than a human life, but it doesn’t have to remain that way. Saphium’s alternative is a compound that is non- toxic, environmentally friendly and 100% compostable. When put into soil, the compound degrades within 60 days without leaving a trace and even serves as a fertilizer because of its biological origin.

We produce our bioplastics, which are polyhydroxyalkanoates in bacteria and feed on hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The hydrogen is produced by solar panels and carbon dioxide is a waste product of industry. Big industries have to pay to emit their carbon dioxide emissions into the air, but we can take them cheaply and convert them into bioplastics.

Crucially, Saphium has developed a unique secretion system that makes expensive purification with the production of harmful waste obsolete. The combination of these processes has resulted in 100% compostable bioplastic that can be sold for an affordable price. The properties of PHA are comparable to polypropylene, without the drawbacks of other bio- based plastics.

Saphium - Life cycle of PHAbulous Philaments

Why will the company / product do well?

Saphium provides all-natural, non-toxic, UV- stable and water resistant 3D printer filaments that gives users the choice to make an environmentally and financially sound decision when looking at their 3D printing requirements. Consumers will no longer have to throw their flawed prints into the bin any more, but will be able to dispose them in their compost pile and fertilize the soil.

Where are you based? How long will you stay there?

Originally founded in Styria, Austria, Saphium has been based in Cork since May, having being selected to take part in the IndieBio accelerator programme which is located in University College Cork and is the world’s first and only synthetic biology accelerator programme. IndieBio is backed by SOS Ventures, a $250M global venture firm focused on creating the future of technology.

The broadband is fantastic and the lab facilities in UCC are world class.  The IndieBio accelertor programme runs till mid of August.

When was the company launched?

At the beginning of 2015 we decided to apply for the IndieBio accelerator programme. Like every start-up, we spent months meeting up and planning what we wanted to do with our idea’s, until we officially launched Saphium in June.

What have been your biggest wins to date?

Getting selected to be part of IndieBio has definitely being our biggest win to date. IndieBio has attracted start-ups from all over the world, with companies from Canada, France, Ireland, the United States and ourselves from  Austra. At IndieBio, we have been able to develop our concept into a product with mentoring from top experts in industry, along with cash investment and state of the art laboratory space in UCC. Another big milestone for Saphium was the recent launch of our kickstarter campaign. Having an idea, working on the realisation and then presenting it to the world has been an amazing experience.

Saphium has also partnered with the Austrian Center of Industrial Biotechnology, which has incredible experience in biotechnology and a network of over a hundred universities worldwide.

What type of people (market segment) are you trying to attract to your product?

We are targeting creative people as well as manufacturers that work with 3D printing. The range of the market is extremely wide, with manufacturers from a broad spectrum of industries from automotive, aerospace, dental, high tech, and medical products all actively piloting and using 3D printing technologies.The possibilities for 3D printing are vast with a recent report estimating worldwide 3D printing industry will grow from $3.07B in revenue in 2013 to $12.8B by 2018, and exceed $21B in worldwide revenue by 2020.

Saphium - (L-R) Reinmar Eggers, Bernhard Brauner-Runge, Josef Tauchner, Christof Winkler-Hermaden, Katharina Ettl

Tell us about your team?

The team in Saphium met and became friends when studying in the University of Graz in Austria. There are six of us including myself as CEO, Christof Winkler-Hermaden (Chief Strategy Officer), Sanel Durakovic (Chief Technical Officer), Katharina Ettl (Social Media & Marketing) and Bernhard Brauner-Runge and Josef Tauchner (both Lab Executives).

The team has an excellent mix of experience in different fields from business, marketing, genetics, molecular biology and biology in general. Some of us are thinkers and some better on the technical side, which gives our team a really good balance.

What are your long term plans for your product / company?

Once Saphium’s PHAbolous philaments are available on the market, we aim to develop filaments with different properties ranging from flexible to rigid, which would allow us to provide materials for every 3D printing application.

Saphium’s bioplastics can also be used in food packaging as well as medical applications. Our aim is to provide a sustainable and compostable alternative to petro- based plastics in as many applications as possible so as to reduce pollution on our precious planet.

What are your favourite tech gadgets?

The 3D printer of course! It is an unimaginable feeling to first construct something on the computer and then being able to physically touch it. Apart from the 3D printer, I am extremely passionate about playing music and I love the sound effect devices for my electric guitar.

What tech gadgets do you wish you could use to help you?

Katharina, our head of Marketing has suggested a 3D printer that prints chocolate, but for now, I would be happy with an electron microscope.

How can people find out more about Saphium?

People can go to our website  or check out our kickerstarer page 

You can also find out more about us through our social media channels:

Facebook and Twitter @Saphium

If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or @SimonCocking

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