Not only has 2015 heralded a worldwide increase in commercial interest in Nafici Environmental Research’s straw pulp process, it has also been the year in which we were chosen as one of nine of the most innovative start-ups from Climate-KIC UK’s Accelerator programme to pitch at their fourth UK Venture Competition on 9th September. This was not just recognition of how far NER has come towards its goal of developing our process worldwide, but the chance to showcase our company to a large audience, which included potential investors.
This year the Competition was held at the prestigious IMAX theatre at the Science Museum in London. The appropriateness of this venue was made all the more apparent as we approached it via the Museum’s ‘Making the World Modern’ exhibition which includes Stephenson’s ‘Rocket’ Locomotive, reminding us of how far the world has come environmentally since its arrival in 1829.
The calibre of companies taking part was very high, as was the standard of their presentations. In our presentation we highlighted clearly how, in a worldwide paper market that is growing by 10 million tonnes a year, a viable, locally sourced fibre such as straw could halve the carbon footprint of the paper industry. How our newly designed straw pulping process can be installed on or near farms and reduce investment and energy costs substantially as well as being odourless and producing no liquid waste. How in countries such as China our process can help farmers to profit from their excess straw instead of burning it in the field, a practice for which the overall annual CO2 emission could amount to as much as 0.2 Pg (0.2 billion tonnes), corresponding to 15% of the total CO2 emissions from energy production.
After the presentations and some serious questions from the judging panel, we all assembled at Imperial College to discuss the proceedings with other candidates and audience members whilst awaiting the verdict. Unfortunately, we did not win this time, but were delighted with our contribution and the opportunity we were given. Just to have been shortlisted and to have presented in competition with such dynamic companies was a prize in itself.