Nanoplastics wins prize for the best innovative project of the Generation of Ideas Programme


The project Nanoplastics, launched by researchers at the Catalan Institute for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2), the Institute for Neurosciences (INC-UAB) and the Centre for Agronomic Research (CRAG), has created a single-layer biodegradable film to increase safety of packaged  and extend their shelf life.


The UAB Research Park and the Biotechnology Reference Centre recently awarded the prizes for the three best projects of the sixth edition of the Generating Ideas Programme (Programa de Generació d'Idees), an initiative which awards the best business ideas presented by researchers of the UAB campus and based on their research studies. This year's edition focused on the sectors of industrial biotechnology and biomedicine.

This year's winner is the Nanoplastics project, which aims to provide greater security for packaged fresh foods abd extend their shelf life. The idea presented was a ’single-layer flexible film based on a biodegradable polymer with anti-bacterial activity. This technology allows guaranteeing food safety and reducing costs associated with recycling and production in the packaging process.

Food waste is a worldwide environmental and economic problem. In 2016 in Europe alone, 88 million tonnes of food were thrown away (20% of the total). One way to solve this problem is to increase the shelf life of products, guaranteeing their safety for as long as possible. In order to achieve this, currently some 50% of fresh foods are packaged into rigid plastic containers with flexible transparent film and a modified atmosphere, vacuum packaged, or using active substances (controlled release from the film into the interior of the package). These strategies use a single-layer flexible film made up of different materials, which make recycling it impossible.

The innovative value of the Nanoplastics proposal is to create a biodegradable single-layer film with clear competitive advantages: recyclable, easy to integrate into existing packaging lines and low production costs.

The project was launched by Achille Francone, researcher at the Catalan Institute for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2); Natalia de la Oliva, from the Institute for Neurosciences (INC UAB); and Ana Beatriz and Tarik Ruiz Medina, from the Centre for Agronomic Research (CRAG).

The programme's second prize went to RES-KIT, a diagnosis kit for the detection of mutliresistant bacteria in veterinary medicine, which permits a rapid and individualised treatement of mastitis in dairy cattle. It is based on a very low-cost microfluidic platform (lab-on-a-film) which allows either on the farm or in the clinic to conduct complex, slow and expensive laboratory protocols by directly using untreated milk samples. The kit reveals the bacteria causing the mastitis and its anti-microbial resistance genes, making it easier to select the antibiotic which best suits each animal.

The technology allows integrating and easily moving functionalised reactives and microspheres within a cartridge with simple light pulses generated by a highly compact tool. The RES-KIT cartridge, in contrast to other available systems, can be built using very low cost technology.

The technology, which has already produced a patent application, was developed by the team led by Antoni Baldi, researcher at the Barcelona Microelectornics Institute (IMB CNM CSIC), and formed by Laila Darwich from the Department of Animal Health and Anatomy of the UAB; Maria Diaz González and César Fernández Sánchez from the IMB CNM CSIC; Lourdes Migura-Garcia from theInstitute for Food Research and Technology (IRTA); Sergi Montané and Sergi Rodríguez from the Institute for Biotechnology and Biomedicine (IBB UAB), and Carolina Liz Mascaró, student of the UAB Master's Degree in Marketing.

The project Ovatec was awarded the third prize. This project was created to cover an ever growing need to increase benefits of cattle farms through the production of genetically selected embryos. That is why researcher Maria Garcia Català, from the UAB Area of Animal Production, and Miguel Espada Aventín, propose to create a business dedicated to  producing cattle embryos “in vitro”.

They affirm that these embryos improve fertility, given that improductive periods are shorten, thys increasing the value of beef cattle and accelerating the genetic improvement of herds.

First place winners received a cash prize of €2,500 and a six-month stay at the PRUAB Eureka Building incubator. Second place winners received €1,500 and also a six-month saty at the incubator, while the third place winners received €1,000 and three months in the incubator.

The projects were evaluated by a jury formed by experts in the sector: Isabel Amat, Director of Development at RJ-Biotech and Vice President of Catalonia BIO; Oriol Sans, Director of the Financial Unit at ACCIÓ; Josep Castells, CEO & Chairman of the Inkemia IUCT Group, and Sara Secall, Director of Investments Inveready. The jury principally focused on the technological and economic viability of the projects, as well as other factors such as degree of innovation, development state, business model, team members, market needs and quality of the presentation.

The wawards ceremony, which took place at the Pier01 - Barcelona Tech City Palau de Mar building, included the participation and performance of show of the theatre company Planeta Impro.


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