Naturbeads, a science tech company launched by academics from the University of Bath to develop a sustainable alternative to harmful plastic beads, has won a top prize at this year’s BathLive Business Awards.

Also a finalist at this year’s event, for two awards, was University of Bath spinout company EnsiliTech, led by Chemist Dr Asel Sartbaeva.

BathLive Business awards celebrate positive accomplishments, can-do initiatives and optimistic business projects in Bath. The 2022 event, which took place at the Bath Pavilion on Thursday evening and is now in its 10th year, recognises both business success and individual talent.

Naturbeads, which was founded by researchers from Bath’s Centre for Sustainable and Circular Technologies (CSCT) and Department of Chemical Engineering, along with an alumna of the School of Management, won the BathLive Environmental & Sustainability Award for its work creating a range of biodegradable products that can be used in cosmetics, paints, coatings, additives for the oil and gas industry, packaging and composites.

Currently, plastic microbeads manufactured using fossil fuels are impossible to remove from the environment and are capable of making their way into almost any part of the natural world, including the animals and the plants we eat. Using microbeads made from biodegradable cellulose, Naturbeads will ensure fewer harmful plastics infiltrate the environment. The company's team is currently working to lower costs and to scale up production of its sustainable microbeads.

Naturbeads cofounder and researcher from the Department of Chemical Engineering at Bath, Professor Davide Mattia, said: “We’re thrilled to have received this award as a Bath-based business coming out of University research. This award recognises the hard work of our company team and the continued support from the University to the company.

“More than 250,000 tons of microplastic beads enter the world’s oceans every year, but with our technology, we hope to replace them with biodegradable materials that do not harm the environment.”

Professor Jonathan Knight, vice-president for Enterprise at Bath, said: “I'm delighted to see Naturbeads recognised at the BathLive Business Awards. Here at the University, we've seen our spinout companies go from strength to strength over recent years, providing innovative solutions to a range of societal challenges.

"Naturbeads has demonstrated clear and sustainable alternatives to the global problem of plastic microbeads which are so invasive to our environment. Their enterprise will make a significant contribution to the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan to eliminate avoidable plastic waste.

"I must also acknowledge EnsiliTech, which was shortlisted as a finalist in two categories – for the Innovation Award and Start-Up Business of the Year Award. Currently, millions of children worldwide are missing out on life-saving inoculations due to the degradation of vaccines that are unable to be stored at low temperatures. Making vaccines safe and stable, as EnsiliTech is doing, will go a long way to help prevent this.”

Two other prizes at this year’s awards ceremony were scooped by University of Bath graduates David Kelly and Adam Pope. The two were named joint winners in the Business Person of the Year category for their work with Storm Consultancy, a company they founded in 2009. Storm also won the Business of the Year award.

Storm has evolved into a leading South West digital technology agency that works with startups, scale ups and innovative corporations to design, develop and bring their ideas to life on the web. Earlier this year, the Bath graduates also won in the Innovation category of the nationally acclaimed Queen’s Award for Enterprise.

BathLive Business Awards are organised by Reach plc, BathLive and BusinessLive. The event’s main sponsor is Truespeed.

Both Naturbeads and EnsiliTech have received support from the Research and Innovation Services (RIS) at the University of Bath to commercialise their research and spin out.