This small Bavarian start-up developed the technology for Adidas’ biodegradable shoe

Amsilk from the town of Planegg produces a kind of artificial spider silk – and works with Adidas. Now the startup is looking for bigger factories.

Every year millions of tonnes of old sporting goods are discarded: a gigantic mountain garbage. Whether worn-out sneakers, old jogging shirts or threadbare shorts, most of the discarded sporting wear consists of synthetic fibres that pollute the environment.

Amsilk, a biotech company from Planegg near Munich may soon change all this radically. The company has found a way to produce a kind of artificial spider silk on a grand scale. The fibre named “Biosteel” is, according to company data, as strong as natural silk and lighter than polyester, which is still used in almost all sports shoes today.

This new sustainable material from Oberbayern has not escaped the attention of Adidas. Recently, the two companies have begun working together and Amsilk supplies Adidas with the elastic fibres from which the sports company manufactures a completely biodegradable shoe. Adidas has already presented a prototype of the ultimate sneaker in New York.

“Adidas was the right partner for us at the right time,” says Amsilk founder Thomas Scheibel.

The new deal with Adidas means that Amsilk can now boost production of spider silk in a controlled manner, according to the 48-year-old.

And, of course, we’re happy to have found a global partner with Adidas.”

Amsilk now employs about 30 people. Scheibel teaches as a professor for biotechnology at the University of Bayreuth. Amsilk is a kind of spin-off based on his research.

“At the Technical University of Munich, I used to build a technology platform that involved several patents. At some point, we thought we had to commercialise this,”

In 2008 they founded Amsilk with several investors. After that everything moved quickly. In 2014, Amsilk brought a new managing director, Jens Klein, formerly employed at the chemicals group Evonik. The majority of the company is held by Hexal founders Andreas and Thomas Strüngmann, who have made billions with the sale of the generics company.

“The first patents on artificial spider silk are from the year 2003,” recalls Scheibel.

Only in 2013 was “Biosteel” presented to the public, and product development took another three years. Amsilk supplies medical technology manufacturers and companies from the cosmetics sector who offer their customers a silk film for the skin and protection from environmental influences.

What Adidas wants to achieve with the Amsilk partnership is clear: an image as an environmental pioneer in a highly competitive market. Amsilk also has ambitious plans for the future. Recently, Amsilk’s boss, Klein, announced that he would conquer the mass market. Football players are also expected to become customers. For production, the company is currently looking for larger factories.

Photo credit: Material used in the preparation of this article has been drawn from Business Insider.


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