Next-Gen Materials White Space Report
Next-Gen Materials White Space Report
MII’s first-of-its-kind white space analysis of the materials industry details opportunities for animal-free, sustainable leather, down, wool, silk, fur, and exotic skins. A joint project with The Mills Fabrica, an investor and ecosystem builder in sustainable food and fashion, the report shows next-gen materials set to follow alternative proteins in growth and profitability.
Report Highlights Lucrative Opportunities for Investors and Innovators in Next-Gen Materials
“Our goal is to show this nascent industry underserved technological efforts that will make a big impact,” says MII Chief Science Officer Sydney Gladman, Ph.D. “These white spaces do not focus on a single product or market, but instead highlight opportunities that will produce a ripple effect across the entire next-gen materials industry and beyond.”
For this analysis, we define white spaces as areas with significant opportunity for focused R&D, as well as the creation of new technologies and companies to fulfill unmet needs across the next-gen materials ecosystem.
The most significant white spaces are in materials other than leather. Approximately two-thirds of current players are producing next-gen leather. This leaves silk, wool, down, fur, and exotic skins with limited innovation efforts so far, providing many profitable opportunities, especially in fur and silk.
Other white spaces identified include:
Sustainable feedstock and additives (White Spaces 2,3,4).
Versatile end-of-life strategies (White Space 5).
Implementing bottom-up materials design in R&D (White Space 6).
Hot spots in biotech process challenges (White Space 7).
Watch MII Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Sydney Gladman share findings from the 2021 White Space Analysis
Past Reveals Parallels with Alt Proteins
Like the alternative protein industry a decade ago, the next-gen materials industry is filled with untapped opportunities. Innovators and investors are now in a position to start the next-gen material versions of Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, reaping the rewards of future billion-dollar companies.
Millions of tonnes of agricultural waste have been identified as potential feedstock for cellulosic and natural fibers & materials. | Data from: Institute for Sustainable Communities et al., Spinning Future Threads: The Potential of Agricultural Residues as Textile Fibre Feedstock (June 2021).
“We are delighted to join hands with The Material Innovation Initiative to discuss the untapped potential of the next-gen materials. As consumers’ awareness of sustainability continues to increase, it’s the right time to keep the traction by introducing these material innovations to the wider community,” says Angus Tsang, Research from The Mills Fabrica.
MII’s co-founders, Nicole Rawling and Stephanie Downs, both came from the world of alternative protein.
Nicole notes: “The expanded interest in next-gen materials is very exciting. We are seeing a lot of enthusiasm from those involved in alternative proteins and the fashion industry, as well as entrepreneurs and investors without experience in either. Our hope is this report will spur new R&D and the founding of companies, just as we saw in the food industry.”
Read the Roadmap for Doing Well By Doing Good
According to the United Nations, industrial animal farming is a leading cause of many of the most pressing problems of our time. These include climate change, biodiversity loss, environmental degradation, air and water pollution, excessive waste, public health risks, and animal cruelty. Given that at least two thirds of a brand’s sustainability impact can be tied to its choice of raw materials, brands will need alternatives to current animal materials to meet sustainability goals.
There are opportunities available across the board. Dr. Amanda Parkes, chief innovation officer at next-gen clothing company Pangaia, puts it simply: “We need a lot of people doing some things better, rather than a few people doing everything perfectly.”
This whitespace report provides a roadmap for innovators and investors – as well as brands, startups, scientists, and engineers – looking to do well by doing good.
Next-gen materials should ideally advance a circular economy. Innovators should consider versatile strategies with multiple options for end-of-life including reuse, recycling, and biodegradation. | Adapted from: European Environment Agency (EEA). Textiles and the environment in a circular economy (2019).