Our method categorizes next-gen materials by their primary input (>50%):
Plant-derived: applies to next-gen materials derived from virgin or waste/byproduct plant matter. For simplicity, fungi (fruiting body), and algae inputs are included in this category, even though they are not plants.
Mycelium: applies to next-gen materials that utilize the root-like structure of some fungal species called mycelium. This category is distinctive from the plant-derived category due to the rich activity of next-gen innovation involving mycelium.
Cultivated animal cells: applies to next-gen materials that utilize tissue engineering approaches to grow animal cell constructs (e.g., skin) in the laboratory.
Microbe-derived: applies to next-gen materials that utilize cellular engineering approaches such as cell culture or fermentation processes to produce products such as proteins and biopolymers for next-gen material formulations.
Recycled material: applies to next-gen materials that utilize recycled plastic or recycled textile feedstock as a main input.
Blend: applies to next-gen materials that use a blend of components not well-captured by any of the above categories.
NEXT-GEN MATERIAL COMPANIES INCLUDED
Our mission is to support the next-gen material industry in producing materials that meet the quality, price, scale, and sustainability needs of the fashion, home goods, and automotive industries. These landscapes include those material companies reviewed in our State of the Industry Report: Next-Gen Materials.
Material companies listed are part of the current MII ecosystem and as such are those we consider more sustainable than the animal material and current-gen alternatives. MII continues to gather relevant data on sustainability and environmental impact and will update our evaluations accordingly.
We are looking for true replacements to animal materials. Many interesting products are similar, but don’t meet necessary industry standards. Some products might be like leather, but do not meet the sensory or tactile specifications for every leather application. Similarly, many plant-based yarns can be woven like wool, but do not meet the sensory or tactile specifications for all wool applications. We include all materials that show promise, even if they don’t meet specifications for every application.
Many alternative materials are currently at higher price points than incumbent animal materials. New technologies generally come with a higher price tag, but with continued innovation and competition, the prices will go down. We have not excluded any company based on the price of their material.
A big issue facing many of these companies is their ability to scale. Some companies on our landscapes are in the research and development phase. Others are working on pilot projects, and still others are producing products. We have not excluded any company based on their phase or current production capacity. Our hope is that innovation will solve scaling challenges.
The Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) provide a way to describe the phase of the startup, whether they are in the early conceptual stage, research and development (R&D) phases, or closer to commercialization. This system was invented by NASA in the 1970s to describe technological maturity levels for aerospace up to "flight ready" level and has since been adapted by many other organizations to broadly define innovation progress.
We define a 1-5 scale for next-gen material TRLs:
TRL 1: early concept, fundamental research
TRL 2: research & development
TRL 3: prototype(s) developed
TRL 4: pilot production, dedicated production facility
TRL 5: commercial-scale production
Note: TRLs are not a perfect science, and the TRL for a next-gen innovator may change rapidly. MII does its best to accurately portray and frequently update the assigned TRLs for next-gen innovators. Please email MII at email@example.com if you feel an assigned TRL is inaccurate.
There is plenty of opportunity for innovation in each material category. If you are an entrepreneur, scientist, or investor interested in this industry, please reach out to us here.
ARE WE MISSING AN INNOVATOR?
Do you know of a company making a non-animal alternative to leather, silk, wool, down, fur, and exotic skins that is not currently on our landscapes? Please let us know here.