Singapore-headquartered biotech start-up RWDC Industries Pte Ltd announced today that it has successfully closed a US$13 million Series A2 round co-led by venture capital firms Vickers Venture Partners and WI Harper Group. Finance firm Ridgevale Enterprises Limited and individual investors also participated in the round.
Vickers Chairman and co-founding partner Dr. Finian Tan, along with WI Harper Chairman Mr. Peter Liu, have joined RWDC’s board of directors.
RWDC Executive Chairman Mr. Roland Wee said: “I am heartened by the trust that WI Harper, Vickers Venture Partners, Ridgevale Enterprises Limited and all our other investors have shown in us. We are a highly capable, passionate, and experienced team of scientists, engineers, financiers and marketers. This team is determined and confident in realising our vision of helping make this planet a greener place for future generations.”
Series A2 funds will primarily be used to expand RWDC’s PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate) production capacity in Athens, Georgia (USA), to 2,000 tonnes per year, making it among the world’s largest PHA producers by early 2019.
RWDC develops innovative and cost-effective biopolymer material solutions. In particular, the company produces medium-chain-length polyhydroxyalkanoate (mcl-PHA). PHAs are naturally produced by bacterial fermentation of plant-based oils or sugar, and are widely recognized as the world’s only commercially viable biodegradable bioplastic due to its versatility1.
RWDC’s PHA is certified to be fully biodegradable in soil, water and marine conditions (i.e. all potential end-of-life scenarios) by certification agency TUV Austria (formerly Vincotte). It fully biodegrades within weeks with no toxic residue. RWDC’s customers will be able to label their products as 100% bio-based, non-toxic and truly biodegradable.
“Over the last few months, we have received strong support from our investors, as well as tremendous interest from potential customers, including major packaging manufacturers and F&B brand owners”, Mr. Wee said. “We are extremely excited and focused on the expansion of our PHA facility in the US, as this marks our first step towards producing PHA at commercially affordable prices for the global market. We have concrete plans to scale up very quickly from here.”
RWDC Chief Executive Officer Dr. Daniel Carraway said: “This facility will be a training ground for our staff, provide material for customer trials, and serve as a demonstration of our capabilities. At the same time, we have ambitious plans for the future. We look forward to providing the world with a truly biodegradable, 100% renewable, and highly versatile material.”
“PHA will be a major component in sustainable packaging materials of the future, and RWDC offers a comprehensive technical and material resource for brand owners and converters in the food service, food packaging, and consumer goods packaging industries.
Dr. Finian Tan said: “Every year, the world produces several hundred metric tonnes of plastic, mostly destined for single-use products that persist in the environment after disposal and creates a huge plastic pollution problem that the world is increasingly acutely aware of.”
“While it is unrealistic to curb the massive demand for plastic – especially in emerging markets where consumption is on a constant rise – we can still power innovators such as RWDC to develop a commercially attractive solution to a long-standing socio-ecological problem.”
Chairman of WI Harper Group, Mr. Peter Liu commented: “From microplastics in the arctic sea ice to once-pristine beaches in Thailand and Philippines being shut down, not only is plastic pollution at a negative tipping point but the world needs solutions and education on this topic. We are extremely excited to partner with RWDC and their dynamic management team. PHA produced at their pilot facility has already shown purity and yield above expectations.”
Mr. Liu further added, “Recycling is still the preferred choice among governments worldwide, as current biodegradable solutions may produce waste that has little value. There are many lobbyists for recycling in government, but not for biodegradability. We look forward to bringing positive change and social impact in sustainability for the future generations to come.”
In July, RWDC won the inaugural Liveability Challenge, presented by Temasek Foundation Ecosperity, securing S$980,000 in funding for its proposal to make fully biodegradable drinking straws made of PHA. The company is working towards developing drinking straw prototypes by the end of the year and will produce straws in commercial quantities by mid-2019.
1 RWDC’s PHA is suitable for a broad range of applications, including single-use food service articles (e.g. cutlery, drinking straws and cup lids), paper coatings (e.g. cups, bowls, plates and takeout containers), food and beverage packaging, consumer goods packaging, diapers, wipes and agricultural mulch films.