It is Tuesday 28 August 2018. A beautiful day in Hennef, and not just because of the weather. Today, the final decision arrives from Brussels – Creapaper is awarded the Seal of Excellence and thus belongs to around just 2% of European companies to receive funding from Brussels for their technological developments.
The application process has been a long journey. Twice, the Creapaper team fell just short of securing an invitation to present their idea to an eight-member jury in Brussels in their quest to clinch one of the coveted grants. But finally, it was third time lucky. Uwe D’Agnone, developer of the grass paper technology, is joined by two of his colleagues as they make their way to Brussels, where they have just fifteen minutes to convince the jury. After the presentation, they have no idea of whether or not it went well. No feedback from the jury, no smiles, no nods of agreement. Questions are asked with a straight face before a sober farewell without any handshake – and then the next company is already at the door. A formal, tightly scheduled process in which emotions have no place. Not at all the world of Creapaper. But three weeks later, good news arrives from Brussels. Even if they didn’t give anything away, the jury was obviously impressed by the concept of grass paper. With an excellent evaluation from the Belgian capital, a grant of approximately 1.9 million euros is awarded. A complete blessing for the young technological company from Hennef. ‘This means we can take our grass paper technology to the next level!’ exclaims D’Agnone. The team now has two years to get to grips with the project, which has been internally named ‘Grass paper 2.0’.
Today, a paper mill can use the raw material made from dried grass in Creapaper’s patented process to produce paper and cardboard with any desired grammage on an industrial scale. This is an ecological sensation, which also demonstrates savings of approx. 75% CO2 emissions during raw material production compared to virgin fibres from wood. Nevertheless, the international scaling of the Creapaper business model is currently very much dependent on weather conditions – farmers only have a few days a year to harvest hay. If Creapaper was able to process cut grass instead of having to wait for dried hay, raw material could be obtained for the paper industry on a significantly higher number of days. And this is precisely where the ‘Grass paper 2.0’ project comes in – with the help of funding from Brussels, Creapaper will move part of the raw material production out of the factory and into the field, making it ‘mobile’. The next 24 months will be spent working on this solution together with industrial partners and academic collaboration with the Universities of Bonn and Trier. ‘This will take our idea to the next level of industrialisation!’ says D’Agnone.
One thing is certain – we’re set to hear a lot more about grass paper!