BMW i Ventures, the venture capital arm of BMW Group, has invested in a sustainable materials company. The company, called Natural Fiber Welding, produces plastic-free alternatives to foam and textiles, as well as biodegradable vegan leather.
The company produces the plant-based leather, called MIRUM, by using by-products from other industries. For instance, coconut husk fiber, which is a by-product of coconut water and oil production. It also uses cork powder, a by-product of making wine stoppers.
It’s durable, resistant to abrasion, and fully recyclable.
BMW i Ventures says the product ‘performs on-par’ with animal-based leather, yet sidesteps the downfalls of other leather types.
“Traditional leather production is quite problematic and can be very harmful to the environment,” BMW i Ventures wrote online. Petrochemical-based leather has a lower carbon footprint, but is still difficult to recycle.
The two companies will also form a strategic partnership in a bid to further BMW Group’s sustainability goals. The car manufacturer aims to reduce CO2 emissions along its entire value chain.
‘A truly sustainable future’
Kasper Sage is Managing Partner at BMW i Ventures. Sage said: “Natural Fiber Welding has developed an innovative process of converting plants into all-natural, 100 percent recyclable material that mimic all the properties of traditional leather, yarns and foams.
“Having a scalable, cost-competitive alternative to leather with premium qualities is key to further advancing the decarbonization of the automotive industry.”
The recent financing round will allow Natural Fiber Welding to scale from the batch processing of materials to commercial roll-to-roll production.
Luke Haverhals, Founder and CEO of Natural Fiber Welding, said the team is ‘honored’ by the partnership.
“BMW i Ventures’ commitment to high-performance companies across the manufacturing and transportation sector makes them an excellent investor and partner for [Natural Fiber Welding],” he said.
“We are honored to have their support as we continue to expand into new markets, like automotive, where all-natural, performance materials can have a huge impact in decarbonizing and creating a truly sustainable future.”