Adaptavate – building a healthier future with next-generation materials

Adaptavate is a start-up business who focus on rethinking and redesigning how building materials are produced, used and disposed of. They aim to adapt construction materials to low-carbon products while using an innovative approach to their design and manufacture.

Their next-generation bio-composite materials are designed to improving indoor air quality and enhancing occupant health while lowering energy demand and reducing environmental impact.

In their mission to improve the health and sustainability of the built environment, Adaptavate recognises that collaboration is key, and that product development works best in partnership with leading research institutions and academia. A previous collaboration with the University of Bath was pivotal in the launching of their first product innovation – Breathaplasta, an internal wall plaster that is highly breathable, reduces condensation and mould growth and absorbs indoor air pollutants. Breathaplasta was launched in 2016 and is now supplied throughout the UK and Europe to a market with a surging demand for products that support health and wellbeing in the home and workplace.

Their next challenge: breathable plasterboard

Plasterboard is the third most widely used building material on the planet, and directly responsible for more than 3% of the UK CO2 emissions (Maskell et al 2017). In response to this issue, Adaptavate has now designed Breathaboard – a breathable bio-composite that offers a lower-carbon, more sustainable alternative to plasterboard.

In order to internationally launch their new product, Adaptavate sought the assistance of the Sustainable Technologies Business Acceleration Hub (STBAH) – a programme associated with the Centre for Sustainable and Circular Technologies (CSCT) and funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Through the programme, Adaptavate was able to access business consultancy support to help bring Breathaboard to market, as well as cultivate exciting new research collaborations with the University of Bath to help with future product development.

A radical approach to materials science and business

Adaptavate is building a highly flexible development production line that proves out the scalable continuous manufacturing process they use for Breathaboard and other board products. This unique facility will prove the industrial manufacturing process to the point of certification, taking locally available plant matter and materials and matching them with the demands of the market and the local certification body. This will then allow the company to license the core technology into a range of markets and products.

This ‘think global, act local’ approach required an innovative business platform from which to operate. David Sykes, who provides business consultancy services through STBAH, offered the support needed for the company to attract investment to build a platform that can license the core technology. The company continue to use David’s experience through the pivotal stage of securing the initial license partners and raising the necessary capital.

Brokering fundamental research

Besides accessing David Sykes’ expertise, STBAH also enabled a new partnership between Adaptavate and University of Bath, which saw the launch of a joint research project* to explore the development of a self-healing wall plaster. The project investigated technology developed by Bath researchers Dr Susanne Gebhard and Professor Kevin Paine to assess the feasibility of using bacteria for self-healing wall plaster – an advancement with significant positive environmental and economic outcomes.

Researcher Dr Carolin Kobras, who was then studying her PhD in Microbiology at Bath, worked on this project investigating the compatibility of different feedstocks and the requirements for the bacteria to heal plaster. She also conducted pilot experiments to test the healing properties of bacteria in plaster mixes supplied by Adaptavate.

Whilst the focus of the project was improving the current commercial offering of Adaptavate, it is likely that any research outputs will have relevance to a broader range of Adaptavate products with the same core technology.

Dr Susanne Gebhard

Dr Susanne Gebhard

Discussing the research collaboration project, Dr Susanne Gebhard, from the University of Bath said:

“Overall, the project was very successful in that both sides learnt a lot and the experiments largely went to plan. Through the research, we identified other potential uses for our bacterial technology in Adaptavate products. We will continue to do some additional pilot experiments alongside ongoing research, and following these outcomes more specific plans can then be worked on. It has been a useful proof-of-concept for both sides.”

Jeff ive, technical director, adaptavate

Jeff Ive, Technical Director, Adaptavate

Jeff Ive, Adaptavate Technical Director, said:

“The STBAH programme has been extremely helpful to Adaptavate, both from technical and commercial perspectives. The programme helped facilitate the collaboration with the University of Bath to research the development of this specific product, developing the Science; the potential commercial applications are genuinely exciting.

“I’m delighted that Adaptavate will be continuing to collaborate with Susanne on this project and on other product developments we have in the pipeline.

“For any start-up or SME, the free business support available through the STBAH is extremely useful and, for us, the links with the University of Bath have been an invaluable part of the process. This initial feasibility study indicates that there may be new ways to work with nature to fundamentally alter the material flows in the built environment. This is the reason our company exists and is what motivates us to get out of bed each morning”.

*This project was funded through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) via an Impact Acceleration Account (IAA), an institutional grant to the University of Bath (Grant Ref: EP/R51164X/1) and managed by the CSCT. It facilitated knowledge exchange from the University of Bath to Adaptavate, as well as providing significant impact from the project outcomes.

STBAH is partnered with the University of Bath and the business incubator SETsquared.

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