Start-up series: To the top of the world market with bioplastics?
Sustainability in medical technology is important. Everyone would have said so a few years ago - but did they act on it? But the wind has changed, the framework has been set and now everyone is in a hurry. The founders of Biovox from Darmstadt seem to have caught the right moment. The start-up is the first provider of recyclable bioplastics approved for medical technology. In our series on young companies, we introduce Biovox.
Bioplastics for medical technology
Sugar cane as the basisBased on many discussions with market participants from clinics and medtech manufacturers, the final business model was formulated from the idea and brought to market maturity in less than three years. This also involved understanding the needs and the waste disposal system in the hospitals, where a large part of the plastic used - everything that had patient contact - is still incinerated as hazardous waste.
Today, Biovox can already offer its customers around ten different granulates, which differ in terms of important properties such as stiffness, heat resistance and surface hardness depending on the intended use. But they have one thing in common: they are made from bio-based raw materials, for example sugar cane, and thus save up to 85 percent CO2 equivalents. "You can think of plastic like a baking mix. There is the polymer as the main ingredient and additives and fillers to adjust the properties and make it easier to process. What these are and how much of them - we also do this formulation," Carmen Rommel explains the start-up's performance. It obtains its basic materials from suppliers in Europe and Asia, and production is carried out in Germany by a contracted company.
Small stand, big namesMedtecLIVE with T4M in Stuttgart in 2022 was the first trade fair at which Biovox was represented with a small stand. "And it was really cool. Big names from the medical industry came to us and said we'd like to make our products more sustainable. But there is nothing else on the market that is sustainable and safe," Rommel recalls. At that time, the sustainability transformation of medical technology and the health sector as a whole had already gained momentum.
Sustainable and safe, that's what plastics from Darmstadt are. "We found a very good product market fit. The problem has been recognised, our solution fits it and the timing is also right," says the COO happily.
Currently, Biovox customers, including prominent names such as B. Braun in Melsungen, are primarily located in Germany, Switzerland and Austria, where there are particularly many medtech companies. Contracts with other customers are about to be signed, she says. In the future, the start-up wants to go global. That is why it has been decided to hire a Head of Sales who will build up a sales team - a function that was previously performed by the founders themselves. Where will this lead? "To the top of the world market," says Rommel confidently. "We want to be the brand for sustainable plastics in medical technology. Our plastics can also be used in pharmaceutical packaging and laboratory technology, and these markets are also just starting to pay more attention to sustainability, and we want to offer solutions here. That is ambitious. But you have to set ambitious goals, otherwise you won't get anywhere."
Closing the loopThe Biovox founders are particularly concerned that the recycling loop can be closed as soon as possible, i.e. that used plastic products are increasingly recycled. Either through mechanical recycling, in which the plastic waste is shredded and melted down, but which in many cases means that the raw materials are lost for reuse in medical technology. Or - even better for demanding applications - through chemical recycling, in which the polymer chains are broken down into their individual parts, impurities are removed and a very pure raw material is produced. However, this chemical recycling has not yet been implemented on an industrial scale.
Biovox is also actively involved in closing the loop: CEO Julian Lotz is one of the heads of the "Alliance for Sustainable Medical Technology", which was founded in 2023.
The cycle will never be perfect, so new material will always have to be supplied from outside - in many cases still on the basis of petroleum. That is why it would be particularly important to include the use of bio-based plastics by way of government regulation. That is one wish Carmen Rommel has for politics.
|Year of foundation||2021|
|Head office location||64293 Darmstadt|
|Founders||Dr.-Ing. Julian Lotz, Dr.-Ing. Vinzenz Nienhaus, Carmen Rommel|
|Number of employees||7|