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Stuff NZ: Ikea invests in Auckland plastics deep tech firm Nilo

Stuff NZ: Ikea invests in Auckland plastics deep tech firm Nilo

9 June 2023

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Ikea has acquired a 12.5% stake in an Auckland company that turns plastic waste into roading and resins used in the creation of flooring and furniture.

Six-year-old start-up Nilo and a subsidiary of the Swedish furniture giant have entered into a development and access agreement that will see Inter Ikea able to use Nilo’s patented plastic waste-derived adhesive in the production of wood-based boards.

Nilo converts waste plastics into commercial resins that replace harmful chemicals like formaldehyde, still commonly used for engineered timber.

Andrew McIntosh of Ikea Innovation Ventures has joined Nilo’s board of directors to help accelerate the technology, as part of the buy-in arrangement.

Nilo’s team of chemists and engineers were motivated to create technology that repurposed plastic waste after finding just 9% of the 350 million tonnes of plastic waste generated every year is recycled.

“Nilo’s approach to the creation of this adhesive shows real potential, and we are hopeful the collaboration will be mutually beneficial,” McIntosh said.

“Ikea is committed to our strategy of being people and planet positive. The investment in Nilo shows our commitment to working with innovative startups that can support and help accelerate the Ikea material innovation agenda.”

Ikea last week held a groundbreaking ceremony in Auckland to mark the start of construction on its first New Zealand store in Sylvia Park. The 34,000m² store is set to open at the end of 2025.

Nilo won financial backing from Sir Stephen Tindall’s K1W1 fund and Icehouse Ventures Sustainable Technology Fund two years ago.

At the time Icehouse commented on how Nilo was making an impact by transforming waste streams into wealth.

Plastic waste.jpg

Waste plastic like this can be turned into resins and roading by Nilo.

The business was founded by internet marketing entrepreneur Tim Williams, who currently serves as managing director, and is led by chief executive Glen Willoughby, an adviser to the Nasa Jet Propulsion Laboratory and “virtual CIO” for San Francisco-based Singularity Labs.

The company’s original investor was an indigenous tech company which invited First Nation Canadian and Māori investors on board, including a collective of more than 50 Māori whānau.

McIntosh said the performance and physical qualities of Nilo’s technology showed promise. “We want to support Nilo and help develop the adhesive with a mutual ambition to get it into scaled trials. From our position as a shareholder we can support the path forward and look forward to working closely with the management and board.”

Nilo chief executive Glen Willoughby said Ikea’s investment in Nilo was “a fabulous moment”.

“Our team has worked tirelessly on this, and to have our technology recognised by one of the world’s leading firms with deep expertise in the wood-based board market provides huge validation of what Nilo has created. The knowledge and expertise Inter Ikea will bring will help Nilo progress our technology immensely.”