Innovation Concepts — Startup of the Week
#BIFINCS16 Incubator Program Spring 2016 | Netherlands
In the past decades, the increase of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions has become a significant problem for our environment. In order to prevent the destruction of our environment, for the past 5 years Pol Knops with background in Physics has been working on his idea of Innovation Concepts. This week we are happy to introduce you to one of the most sustainable ideas at our Incubator program.
“I want to make a sustainable business case while using CO2 as an input material” — Pol Knops, Founder of Innovation Concepts
What is the problem?
Carbon dioxide (CO2) emission comes from both natural and human sources, such as decomposition, respiration, cement production, deforestation but mainly burning fossil fuels. It amounts even to 80% of the greenhouse gases emitted in general, and thus contributes to climate changes, which will have serious consequences for our environment. These, for example, include the increase in earth’s average temperature, rise in the sea level, reduction of ice and snow cover, increase the acidity of the oceans, shift in ecosystem characteristics and more.
“Paris COP 21 confirmed that CO2 has to be globally neutral by 2050.”
How is the problem solved?
It all started over five years ago when Pol Knops, founder of Innovation Concepts, in cooperation with Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KUL) was deeply involved in the academic research. The conducted research was the beginning of a final product. Through research, Pol Knops got to know that olivine mineral, which is mostly used in the steel industry, reacts with CO2 where carbon dioxide is removed. And during the research it was discovered that (in addition to storing CO2) a unique mineral product was made, when the reaction is executed under certain conditions.
“If successful, it can prevent deforestation, as well as, save costs of production.”
Pol’s goal is to use CO2 and to turn it into value. CO2 can be used to destroy asbestos, to produce high value minerals and to produce bulk minerals (for concrete, polymer and paper “Mineral CO2”). Even though this idea requires a lot of research, it is rather promising. If successful, it actually uses lots of CO2, as well as, makes a valuable product.
How does it work?
CO2 is an acid. Pol Knops’ ambitious idea can take years to develop for the bulk market. Technology Readiness Level is a method to estimate the technology maturity, and at the moment Innovation Concepts can be placed in Technology Readiness Level 4. Since asbestos destruction and high value minerals business cases can progress faster with the Readiness Levels all the way to becoming mature technologies, Innovation Concepts, thereby pays more attention to these two cases.
“I talked to quite some people — they are very interested: if you can prove that you can replace the existing product,” - tells us Pol. However, in order to reach higher Technology Readiness Levels and in a shorter time, Innovation Concepts needs support in the form of access to labs and staff, to actually replace the minerals. Up until today, Pol has tested the product for concrete and it was successful. “We did testing for concrete and it works. We still need to test for the other two — paper and polymer”. Additionally, the asbestos destruction was proved to be successful at lab-scale level!
Developing technology in the field of Chemistry, Biology, Medicine can take as long as ten years. Developing a technology in the same fields which is simultaneously B2B can take even longer. Innovation Concepts has already experienced a successful cooperation with KU Leuven. The university provides lab facilities and students, and in return Innovation Concepts supplies them with the equipment. As a result, they published scientific publications together.
In the upcoming months, the founder of Innovation Concepts is focusing on finding partners for the application side, such as paper and polymer producer, who will ideally help to co-develop product for a particular market. The estimated time to make a product at full scale is still about four years. Moreover, in the near future the founder is focusing on finding partners for test to destroy asbestos with CO2 and to develop end-products that have a value.
With this goal in mind, Pol focuses on three markets, to see where the product will work best and how much pressure there is on society to change the “Business As Usual” scenario. As mentioned in the Paris COP 21 — Sustainable Innovation Forum last year, carbon dioxide has to be globally neutral by 2050. We want Pol to destroy asbestos and make minerals with CO2. Maybe Pol will be the one who will change the world and save our environment? We wish him all the best.