Environment

Innovation prize boost for bacteria-based eco start-ups

23/02/2016
Innovation prize boost for bacteria-based eco start-ups

A French start-up that plans to use natural bioluminescence in street lighting and shop-front displays has scooped an eco-innovation prize from the city of Paris Innovation Grand Prix. The award, which was handed out at a ceremony in Paris in December 2015, earned the small company, Glowee, a prize of €12,000 and the chance to participate in an incubator for start-ups.

Glowee is working to cut electricity consumption by developing illumination based on bacteria into which a bioluminescent gene has been inserted. The company takes inspiration from sea creatures, many of which are bioluminescent to some degree – for example, algae, jellyfish and squid. When placed in a suitable environment, the glowing bacteria created by Glowee multiply and can therefore, in principle, be scaled up into large lighting displays.

The light produced by the bacteria is similar to that from a nightlight. It would not be a replacement for domestic or commercial lighting, but Glowee sees many potential applications, such as in street lighting, advertising and signage, underground lighting or lighting for events. In France, a particular application for bioluminescence could be night-time shop-front lighting because, in 2013, France passed a decree banning the artificial lighting of shop windows at night, as an electricity-saving measure.

Glowee is at a very early stage of development. It unveiled its first bioluminescent installation in December 2015. However, hopes are high for the company – it has already received a number of awards and was appointed by the French Economy Ministry as an ambassador for French tech to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change conference in Paris in December 2015.

At the Paris Innovation Grand Prix, Glowee was selected from a shortlist of five eco-innovation projects (eco-innovation is one of seven categories in which awards are given out at the Paris Innovation Grand Prix). Among the other shortlisted finalists in the eco-innovation category was another initiative using bacteria: Pili, which is working to produce bacteria-based dyes to replace chemical-based dyes in the textile industry.

So far, Pili has developed a palette of half a dozen colours from bacteria. Replacement of petrochemical-based dyes and inks that contain toxic substances such as lead could dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and would reduce toxic chemicals in waste. Ultimately, Pili believes, “dirty dyes are gonna die!”

Further information:

Glowee: http://www.glowee.fr/

Pili: http://www.pili.bio/

Paris Innovation Grand Prix: http://www.innovation-paris.com