Biotech firm creates jobs at new Wirral plant focused on eco-friendly cleaning agents

Cllr Jeff Green and Holiferm's Jeff Lock, Ben Dolman

More than 20 jobs have been created by University of Manchester biotech spin-out, Holiferm.

The business, based at Sci-Tech Daresbury, has opened a new commercial plant in Wallasey, which will employ 40 staff, more than half of which will be newly recruited roles. Further new jobs will be created as the site scales up.

The new 90,000 sq ft site will help Holiferm take its work in developing environmentally friendly biosurfactants for use in detergents and toiletries to the next level, enabling it to produce 1,100 tonnes of biosurfactants annually for its growing client list of multinationals including Ingretech and Azelis, and independents such as MixCleanGreen.

Surfactants are a key ingredient in the manufacture of detergents and personal care products, but current mainstream goods primarily use petrochemical and tropical oil-based surfactants, which cause significant harm to the environment.

While environmentally-friendly products in this sector do exist, they use a costly yeast-based batch fermentation process. Holiferm has developed an approach which allows this yeast-based approach to be carried out as a semi-continuous process, allowing the delivery of green products to the mass market at a competitive price point.

During the construction process more than 500 jobs were supported as the plant took shape, with the majority going to people from the Wirral and the Liverpool City Region. The project was delivered by a team including Addison, Kelcrest and Omnis.

From 2024, the plant will also produce rhamnolipids and MELs, with Holiferm looking to increase the capacity of the plant to at least 3,000 tonnes. Holiferm is also set to launch new biosurfactant products and is working in collaboration with BASF on the next two molecules in its pipeline.

The plant was officially opened by Mayor of Wirral, Jeff Green.

Richard Lock, managing director of Holiferm, said: “We’re anticipating our customers will have a bigger need for our services as it becomes increasingly important for products to be more sustainable and produced in greener ways and important for end users, too.

“The process we’re designing allows us to produce biosurfactants with less energy and less CO2 and in a much more sustainable way, as we can produce in a continuous manufacturing process rather than a batch process. We’re trying to redefine what chemical manufacturing means. There’s a great misconception that it must entail huge power stations and industrial plants, but we use a process that is completely green.”

He added: “The opening of this plant represents the culmination of a key chapter in the Holiferm story – along the way we’ve created jobs and developed innovations to protect the environment. We’re excited for what happens next.”

John Leake, business growth director at Sci-Tech Daresbury, said: “Holiferm is one of the many innovative materials companies based on campus who are developing groundbreaking technologies that have the potential to significantly improve the world around us. It is a proud moment for all of us that, following the successful pilot plant at Sci-Tech Daresbury, the company has now scaled up to this fabulous new facility – exporting knowledge and skills nurtured on our campus in a way that brings a real economic benefit to the North West.”

Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said: “We’re fortunate to be home to some of the country’s leading bioscience innovators who are blazing a trail in finding new and better ways of doing things.

“I want our area to harness our existing industry strengths and build new ones in order to create well-paid, secure jobs and training opportunities for local people and attract greater investment into our economy.

“I believe we have the capacity, the capability, and the creativity to position ourselves at the forefront of UK innovation. By attracting companies like Holiferm we are well on the way to doing that.”

Holiferm’s presence at Sci-Tech Daresbury and the new manufacturing plant in Wallasey was supported by a £400,000 grant from the Inward Investment Facilitation Fund (I2F2) set up as part of Mayor Rotheram’s £75m Business Growth Package.

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