What We Do

The Material Innovation Initiative is a nonprofit that accelerates the development of sustainable, animal-free next-gen materials for the fashion, automotive, and home goods industries. We partner with scientists, startups, brands, investors, and retailers to increase industry knowledge, facilitate collaborations, inspire innovators, inform investors, and empower new and established companies. 


MII’s value follows from our experts' intimate knowledge of the emerging next-gen materials market. We operate at the center of the ecosystem, with connections to the industry’s entrepreneurs, scientists, investors, business incubators, retailers, raw material suppliers, mills, and nonprofits.

“I spoke to MII shortly after their founding and learned they could be the extra set of hands for our apparel and footwear industry as well as other parallel materials-based industries (basically all industries). That first meeting was the beginning of a long relationship. They’re organized at the intersection of product, science, and business, connecting key players to work together to accomplish industry climate goals.” 

-Chase Kahmann, Founder and Principal Consultant at Integrated Sustainability R&D, formerly on Nike Innovation Team

Our Story

The Material Innovation Initiative was founded on one basic premise: a market-driven shift toward sustainable materials is urgently needed, but not inevitable. When MII launched in 2019, it was clear that the gears of change were already turning. Consumer demand for eco-friendly options –– as well as the outcry against polluting and inhumane production methods –– are stronger than ever before, and brands are pushing green marketing at an unprecedented scale. But the gears of change still need grease. The market is ripe for change, but scaled, price-competitive, and market-ready solutions are few and far between. 


MII’s founders, Nicole and Stephanie, had seen this before. As leaders in global sustainable food innovation, both were part of the transformative power of bringing together scientists, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and brands to accelerate change. Before co-founding MII, Nicole worked as the Director of International Engagement for the Good Food Institute, a nonprofit that serves as a central hub for food system innovation. In this role, Nicole led a global expansion of the organization’s programs, launching satellite offices in five countries and establishing a vast volunteer network in more than 30 countries. Stephanie, with encouragement and advising from the Good Food Institute, founded and led the plant-based meat startup Good Dot in India. Under her leadership, Good Dot grew from idea to nationwide distribution within 18 months, with more than a million products sold. 


With their combined experience in nonprofit leadership, international entrepreneurship, and market transformation in the food industry, Nicole and Stephanie set their sights on an industry with pressing problems and an enormous potential for transformation: the materials market. Our women-led team is out to create a profound shift in the way materials are produced, and to close the gap between the supply of truly sustainable materials and the demand for innovative products. To create a future where the planet and all of its inhabitants can thrive, we can’t do anything less.

“Nicole & team are fervently driving toward net-positive impact through all of the work they're doing at MII. Their knowledge of the ecosystem of brands, innovators, investors, technical experts, and industry is invaluable to the industry’s progress at large. They're deep thinkers & reliable executors who are finding synergies between brand needs, technological developments, and planetary boundaries. They’re great to work with – incredibly responsive, agile, and informative – and are absolutely a trusted source of information. They’re kind, fair, and an all-around stellar cast of human beings who are trying to demystify the complexities of the next-generation materials market so we can all experience a fruitful world for generations to come.” 


-Lauren Bright, former Senior Manager of Sustainable Product Innovation at GAP and Material Developer at Nike

How We Accelerate Next-Gen Materials

We analyze existing companies and technologies. This allows our experts to identify areas 

where there needs to be specific scientific research and opportunities for new companies. Then we compile our analyses to help scientists, entrepreneurs, and companies develop those new technologies and products. Examples of this work are our reports describing how to replicate certain materials (“What Makes Silk Silk,” etc.) and our reports identifying industry white spaces.

We work with material companies and entrepreneurs to help them grow and advance. Combining our science and innovation expertise with our cutting-edge Consumer Research, we can provide the insights needed of where the market is heading and what the opportunities are.

Building upon the above, we help investors understand the details and value of this new market. We do this through reports, presentations, and conversations. We also make connections between investors and the opportunities we’ve identified. An example of this work is our State of the Industry: Next-Gen Materials report.

We help brands understand the industry, technologies, and current and upcoming suppliers. In addition to our Consumer Research, we provide global analyses of brands’ current usage of next-gen materials, following up by actively connecting brands with materials which meet their future needs. Since most brands don’t have material scientists on staff, our expertise in material science is invaluable.

Of course, our value extends beyond these four buckets. Our ability to synthesize and share information and understanding connects each of these areas, serving to grow the next-gen materials market around the world.

“MII has supported my company on every step of our evolution. The MII team has served as a springboard for solving complex scientific questions, helped us define our R&D roadmap, and been instrumental in connecting our team with other innovators in the next-gen material community.”

-Kym Canter, Founder / Chief Creative Officer of House of Fluff, a leading next-gen materials company

Download our 2021 Annual Report to learn more about MII's work.

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