Eni Award 2020 to Bi-Rex project

Scientific research and innovative entrepreneurial and sustainable ideas awarded at Quirinale

The Eni Award ceremony has taken place at the Palazzo del Quirinale in the presence of the President of the Italian Republic Sergio Mattarella, of Eni Chairman Lucia Calvosa and of Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi.

The Award, now in its 13th year, is also known as the “Nobel Prize for Energy” and has become an internationally recognised award for research in the energy and environment sectors. The Scientific Commission, which evaluated the applicants’ research, is made up of scientists belonging to the most advanced research institutes in the world and over the years has seen the participation of six Nobel Laureates.

In association with Joule, Eni’s business school, the company this year created an additional award for teams, university spin-offs and start-ups, with a view to encouraging technology use, enhancement and transfer, while promoting the creation of a sustainable innovation ecosystem.

One of the projects awarded with this important prize is Bi-Rex an early stage start-up (TRL 4) that has developed a green process for biopolymer production. A significant example of female entrepreneurship, it was founded by Monica Ferro and Greta Colombo Dugoni, two researchers from the Politecnico di Milano, and is in the process of industrial development thanks to the support of a business angel. Recognised by Joule at the 2020 “StartCup Lombardia”, it has benefitted since January 2021 from a customised incubation scheme led by Polihub, with the methodological support of Joule.

Bi-Rex, was born in the Department of Chemistry, Materials and Chemical Engineering "Giulio Natta" from the union of two research projects: study of new green and non-toxic solvents, and study of biopolymers, in particular of cellulose.

Despite being born only a year and a half ago, Bi-Rex led to four patents and the winning of important funding. In fact, after being selected among the winners of the 11th edition of Switch2Product Innovation Challenge, it has won the € 30,000 grant and the acceleration path within Polihub. Furthermore, thanks to the skills acquired, Bi-Rex obtained a pre-seed grant of € 160.000 from Poli360, an investment fund managed by 360 Capital Partners, a leading European venture capital company.

The project is about an innovative and eco-sustainable treatment of different biomass deriving from agri-food processing normally considered and managed as waste, in order to recover high added value products, such as cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin, chitin, silica. The project is fully part of the circular economy, also recognized by Legambiente with the special mention in the Innovazione Amica dell’ambiente 2019 Award.

The pre-seed grant will allow to validate the proof of concept by tackling the scale up from the laboratory to the pilot plant. This will allow to study technical feasibility and economic sustainability on an industrial scale.