Innovations from Quakenbrück against microplastic pollution in the oceans

It is estimated that 15 to 51 trillion microplastic particles accumulate in the oceans. An estimated 219,000 tonnes of microplastics enter the sea from Europe every year – often through liquid microplastics from cosmetics. The risks to the environment and human health are huge. The start-up company BIOWEG from Quakenbrück is working on a solution to this problem. At its new location, the company is developing microbial cellulose as a substitute for liquid microplastics. The WIGOS business development agency Osnabrücker Land supported the project with innovation consulting and, among other things, initiated the project with the German Institute for Food Technology (DIL) and the consulting company MCON.

“Toothpaste, cosmetics, microplastics are almost everywhere and are harmful to the environment. As scientists, we have asked ourselves how we can solve this problem. We have to close the wheel,” explained Dr. Prateek Mahalwar, founder of the start-up. BIOWEG produces bio-based cellulose from bacteria, which serves as a substitute for liquid microplastics. “The first contact with WIGOS was made in November 2020. We were convinced of the project and accompanied the cooperation project with our innovation consultant Dr. Daniel Kipp of MCON Dieter Meyer Consulting. We are very pleased that this project is running so successfully,” said Robert Kampmann from WIGOS Corporate Service when visiting the new BIOWEG premises in Quakenbrück.

Born in India, Dr. Prateek Mahalwar, studied at the Max Planck Institute in Tübingen. Together with the two fellow students from India, Dr. Yogesh Sonavane and Srinivas Karuturi founded Dr. Prateek Mahalwar 2019 the science-based biotechnology company under the name Cellulosic Technologies. The name BIOWEG, introduced in 2021, reflects the philosophy behind the company, according to the scientist, who primarily communicates in English: “Way to bio. BIOWAY. In this way, we are positioning ourselves as a promoter of a clean and sustainable environment.” Two business angels, who support the company financially, also recognized the potential of the start-up.

After a stay in Delft and the prospect of working in the Netherlands, the scientist was invited by Alexander Märdian, Head of Innovation Hub Networks, DIL Technologie GmbH, at the German Institute for Food Technology (DIL) in Quakenbrück. “We were excited about the opportunities at DIL and the collaboration with other experts and scientists. The DIL is also the reason why many innovative companies and scientists come to Quakenbrück. We felt very welcome,” emphasized Dr. Prateek Mahalwar. “There aren’t as many opportunities in all of Europe as there are here, especially in the high-tech food sector. We are internationally networked,” explained Alexander Märdian.

When the BIQ Business and Innovation Park submitted an offer for the settlement, the decision was made in favor of the technology and start-up center in the northern district of Osnabrück. “We were able to offer the young company tailor-made premises in an attractive environment. Due to the proximity to the DIL, we have many highly qualified people from all over the world. The DIL is the driver and source of ideas for the BIQ, which is now 100 percent fully booked,” emphasized Franz-Georg Gramann, Managing Director of the BIQ Business and Innovation Park Quakenbrück. The atmosphere is international: “People from 80 countries live in Quakenbrück,” says Gramann.

With the settlement of BIOWEG, the region will be enriched by further nationalities, as the BIOWEG founder reported with a smile: “We have an international staff. Our ten employees have seven different nationalities. Everyone lives in Quakenbrück.” The BIQ helped with the search for housing. Based in Quakenbrück, Bioweg intends to replace microplastics with bio-based materials and thus revolutionize the cosmetics, food and packaging industries: “Our mission is to improve billions of lives, build a sustainable and clean future and solve industrial problems through bio-innovations ‘ emphasized Dr. Prateek Mahalwar.

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