Global interest in eco-innovation in Serbia

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Participants of the startup accelerator Univerzum, launched by Mozzart and the University of Belgrade, produce an organic substitute for styrofoam and effectively reduce pollution.
Their motto is “healthy people in a healthy world”, and their “flagship” product is Biosporin, an environmentally friendly biodegradable organic substitute for styrofoam. It is produced entirely from agricultural waste, in a carbon-negative process. By commercializing one ton of Biosporin that replaces one ton of styrofoam, it effectively reduces pollution by about 9 tons of CO2.
In the field of health preparations, they have IMUNIN products: tea and capsules intended to strengthen the immune system. These preparations are also produced in a green way, using organically grown medicinal mushrooms.
In the field of biomaterials, they are also working on the development of an effective method for the production of chitin and chitosan, for use in the biomedical and pharmaceutical industries. And that’s not the end. Soma Bioworks plans to further develop health products with different functions in the near future.
The sky is the limit for the participants of the Universe, the startup accelerator that Mozzart launched in cooperation with the University of Belgrade. Nikola Stanojevic, a molecular biologist from Belgrade, explains how this small team came up with great ideas and what were the main motives in starting the project.
Our innovation was developed spontaneously, at the crossroads of our vision of “healthy people in a healthy world” and global needs. It all started in 2018. Our first product, the immune booster IMUNIN, is made from organically grown medicinal mushrooms. At one point, we realized that waste from the production of these mushrooms under certain conditions can behave similarly to expanded polysitrene or some types of plastic. At the same time, more and more people started talking about microplastics and the harmfulness of plastics in general, especially disposable ones, for the environment and human health. We saw the potential of the newly discovered material to replace some types of plastic, and realized that it could help reduce plastic pollution. We devised a project, which was then developed by Biosporin through the support of the Innovation Fund. With this innovation, we won the award as “Best Technological Innovation of the Year 2020”. In the meantime, we have continued to sell our innovative health products and started working on the development of some more biomaterials used in biomedicine and pharmacy.
· What are your impressions of the startup accelerator Univerzum, which was jointly organized by the University of Belgrade and the company Mozzart?
Since this iteration of the startup accelerator Universe was the first, the organization proved to be very professional and effective. The lectures were really useful, and held by experts who would not be easy to reach in any other way. The accelerated character of the accelerator is actually very favorable for startups, which otherwise have significantly limited capacities, so it is almost impossible to set aside a drastic amount of time. Winning the accelerator competition means a lot to us, with a special emphasis on the support of Mozzart. We hope that the victory and support will help us break into the market and bring additional visibility. We presented ourselves and won several other national and international competitions and contests. In November, we participated in the GITEX GLOBAL event within EXPO 2020 DUBAI, where we had the opportunity to show our products and create global interest. At the end of January, we are participating with the official delegation of Serbia in the week dedicated to health within EXPO 2020 Dubai, where we will present our health products and innovations.
· How does the production process go?
The essence of our invocation is actually a circular production process, based on biological and biochemical technologies, which allows us to produce health products, medicinal mushroom teas, Biosporin as well as biomaterials used in biomedicine, chitin and chitosan in a minimally polluting way. The input resource for our process is actually just agricultural waste, and the only waste we have is some minimal amount of recyclable plastic. First of all, our process is carbon negative, and in full production it captures CO2 from the atmosphere. We take different products from different parts of the production cycle, but the basis of the production itself is biological, we grow specialized mushroom cultures that we have developed in our laboratory.
· Do you plan to expand your influence on the construction industry market, given that biosporin is an effective substitute for styrofoam?
We are currently working on some research on this topic, but the problem is that the main difference between Biosporin is that it is completely biodegradable under natural conditions. This makes its use as a building material limited, because in essence, degradability is not a characteristic that you need when building a house, for example. It can be used in environmental construction, but it requires additional research and development on the material itself.
· What are your production capacities at the moment and what are your plans for that?
At the moment, our production capacities are insufficient to meet the demands of the market. The problem is that the material itself is new, discovered by our company, so there are no machines and mechanisms for its production. We have to design the necessary equipment ourselves, which is a long and slow process. Currently, production is partially manual. We plan to complete the design of production equipment by the end of 2022, when we will increase production capacity by at least 10 times, N1 reports.

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