Procter and Gamble (P&G) is one of the largest influencers in the growing market aiming to serve the consumer looking for a more natural lifestyle. They are creating new products leveraging bio-based ingredients and exploring the possibilities of synthetic biology. But they can’t do it alone.
Procter & Gamble has a long history of partnering with smaller companies and startups to develop ideas, materials, and technologies. This tradition continues with P&G’s Receptor Incubator Challenge, which seeks proposals from potential partners for developing bio-materials with novel functionality. The winning proposals receive not just financial support, but also mentoring from a P&G team to help bring their idea, technology, platform or business model to life (more details below).
Amy Trejo, a member of Procter & Gamble’s Open Innovation Team, spoke with SynBioBeta’s John Cumbers about partnering with P&G during a recent webinar. She described P&G’s approach to partnerships, pointing out that it is essential for the company that both sides benefit. Trejo put it in terms of a “win-win”. The company believes in open partnerships, which enables a mutual exchange of ideas and a spirit of true collaboration.
Over the years, these collaborative partnerships have resulted in inspiring achievements and revolutionary technology development. Last year, P&G’s brand Head&Shoulders partnered with TerraCycle and Suez to create the world’s first recyclable shampoo bottle made up of 25% recycled beach plastic. These bottles reflect a unique, eco-friendly supply chain and are currently available in French supermarkets.
During the webinar, Trejo described a typical partnership format: P&G and their partner-company-to-be agree on a project scope and a collaborative model.
This growing world of bio-based products is driven by consumers. P&G have listened to the call and are working hard to create more product options to serve the consumers seeking a more natural lifestyle. That said, bio-based materials present challenges including cost, scale and in some cases, performance. P&G isn’t willing to compromise when it comes to performance. Their goal is to develop products that meet or exceed existing product standard while still honoring their responsibility to their consumers and the environment. Trejo said synthetic biology will likely play a critical part in achieving these goals moving forward.
Synthetic biology has a multitude of applications, and P&G thinks broadly when it comes to innovation. The company is continuously innovating across the range of its products, and there are many that can benefit from synthetic biology innovations in the future. The company is seeking partnerships for development of new products and technologies across its industry-based sectors. These include fabric care, baby care, home care, feminine care, oral care, skin and hair care, personal grooming, and personal health care. Trejo elaborated on these sectors following questions during the webinar. P&G is actively innovating across their categories with focus on key demographics for the future, including aging consumers and urban millennials.
The company’s Corporate R&D organization supports their business units via five Transformative Platform Technology (TPT) groups. Within this organization, the ideal partner-company will work with P&G teams to integrate or co-develop new technologies or technology platforms to accelerate product innovation. P&G’s Corporate TPTs include:
- Material Science. P&G looks for breakthroughs in high performing materials including commodity nonwovens, fibers, films, and chemicals. Potential innovations include self-folding films, sustainably sourced or biodegradable materials, omniphobic surfaces, and orders of magnitude improvements in film strength and resilience per weight.
- Chemistry: Here, P&G looks for manipulating chemistry and Delivery Systems to overcome long-standing trade-offs in surface chemistry and physics. Opportunities include molecular design for new cleaning and protection, novel surface modification actives for self-cleaning and/ or soil prevention, enzyme technologies/ enzyme immobilization, and surface and interface analysis.
- Life Science: This department aims to deliver transformative, consumer-noticeable benefits in skin health, aging, and sensorial and microbial control. Innovations are needed in general epithelial health and optimization, including preventing, slowing or repairing the aging of epithelial tissues. P&G also has needs in microbial control, functional naturals, and botanicals materials.
- Advanced Packaging: This is a critical department, especially as packaging plays a greater role in consumer choice and environmental impact. Opportunities here include sustainability, biodegradability, packs for megacity Millennials, easy/complete empty, cost-effective sampling, and dosing/dispensing.
- Smart Products: This department aims to create Personalized Consumer Experiences, which delight consumers and drive product efficacy through adaptive and responsive products and services. Potential breakthroughs could come in Smart and Precision Delivery Systems, Embedded Sensors and Intelligence, low-cost microfabricated sensors that digitize the analog world, and by transforming data into actionable insights through embedded or cloud-based AI.
From Trejo’s perspective, synthetic biology is really the intersection of the first three areas (Materials Science, Chemistry, and Life Science). That said, she believes that synthetic biology innovators have much to offer in all of these areas. It not only has applications across multiple platforms, but it also lends itself to the development of materials with superior performance because of its bio-derived nature.
P&G launched its Receptor Incubator Challenge at SynBioBeta 2018 in search of the best ideas and potential new collaborators for developing sustainable bio-materials. If you have promising technology for decomposable biopolymers, self-healing adhesives, or novel surface active materials, you could receive a challenge award with funding, mentoring and scale-up support. Challenge awards include US$25,000 + 6 months of mentoring and support from a P&G team that will work with you/or your team to help bring your idea, technology, platform or business model to life. Visit P&G’s site for details or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. The challenge will close November 30, 2018.
The renewable products industry is blooming. Forward-thinking companies like Procter & Gamble are embracing the bio-based future, but production lags behind consumer demand as companies refine their biostrategies and overcome the technical challenges of bio-based manufacturing. Partnering with innovators in synthetic biology is one way P&G can scale bio-based materials and ultimately make a global impact.