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French Company to Scale Biobased Indigo with $15.8M

Pili announced this week $15.8 million in Series A funding that will help it produce the first tons of high-performance biobased indigo

The French bio-tech company aims to replace petro-based indigo with its biobased alternative, “drastically reducing oil dependence,” and more than halving its CO2 emissions. Compared to classic petrochemical dyes, Pili states that its microorganisms produce the same amount of dye without petrol or chemicals, and need just one-fifth of the usual water amount while growing at room temperature.

“Decarbonizing the color industry is challenging as it relies on cheap fossil-based resources. With more than 30 million euros [$32 million] invested since its creation, Pili is building up the necessary capacity to revolutionize color production globally and do without oil as the main raw material,” said Jérémie Blache, Pili CEO. 

Founded in 2015, the company develops and produces biobased dyes and pigments to help the color industry reduce its environmental footprint. Through hybrid technology that combines green chemistry and industrial fermentation in a process similar to brewing beer, Pili offers an ecological and competitive alternative to petrochemical dyes and pigments. 

“The development of a new biotechnological process has paved the way for our first ton-scale production of aromatic intermediates,” said Guillaume Boissonnat-Wu, Pili scientific and industrial director. “Our microorganisms can produce, through a fast and efficient process, a high purity low-carbon compound, which can be converted into dyes and pigments.”

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Founders Guillaume Boissonnat, Marie-Sarah Adenis and Jérémie Blache / Photo: Thierry Augereau

The company has already secured several million euros of pre-orders of biobased dyes and pigments in the textile, ink, and paints sectors. Its focus is now on delivering product to its first customers and setting up a production unit. The unit will complement the industrial pilot that has been operational since last year.

Bank Bpifrance led the round through the fund Ecotechnologies 2. New investors include Famille C Participations and a privately owned Italian company. This is in addition to existing investors, the PSL Innovation Fund of Elaia Partners, SOSV and the German business angel network

“The advanced technology proposed by Pili particularly attracted us. The production of bio-based indigo is an innovation that meets the regulatory challenges of decarbonizing a highly polluting textile industry,” said Laure Michel, Bpifrance investment director.