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Rowan Minkley (Chip[s] Board)

Rowan Minkley won a Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future Award in July 2018 for his business, Chip[s] Board
Medium Density Fibrewood, or MDF, is a commonly used engineered wood product made by combining wood fibres with wax and a resin binder, and forming panels by applying high temperature and pressure.
The problem with MDF is that the binders and resins used often contain formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen and is non-biodegradable. It can cause short-term health effects — like watery eyes and respiratory irritation — as it permanently emits gas into the air.
Chip[s] Board, a biomaterial innovation start-up from London, is working towards creating an environmentally friendly and sustainable alternative to MDF, using potatoes. It takes industrial potato waste and refines it into a 100% biodegradable alternative to MDF, in a carbon negative production process.
Chip[s] Board’s process is the embodiment of the circular economy. Instead of using virgin timber or plastics, they use existing potato waste and refine it into other materials, saving energy during the production process. 30% of the by-product from the regular MDF production process goes straight to landfill and plastics are often not recycled, whereas Chip[s] Board’s product can be ground up and put straight back into the production process to be used again. The end user also doesn’t have any carbon footprint as they can recycle their product.
In the long term, Chip[s] Board’s ambition is to overhaul the construction and architecture industries, also making products for festival sets, shop fittings and furniture companies, for example. In the short term, it is concentrating on the fashion industry, making fixings and furnishings for accessories and small products. Most of the furnishings in fashion accessories and clothes are still plastic even if the rest of the product is environmentally friendly.
Chip[s] Board have been funded so far by a combination of friends and family and other grant funding including the Central Research Lab Programme, University grants and the Santander entrepreneur award. In July 2018, the company was awarded £5,000 as the winners of the Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future Award and have used the funding to pay for some of the patent, which is pending.
Rowan Minkley, founder of the start-up, emphasised the importance of a support network when starting up a business: “Build up your support network as quickly as you can. Support from mentors, advisors and even friends really helps because you can’t do everything yourself. You need to share ideas and pool solutions to issues.”
You can follow Chip[s] Board on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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