Frontier IP Group PLC (LON:FIPP) Chief Executive Officer Neil Crabb caught up with DirectorsTalk for an exclusive interview to discuss Tarsis Technology’s collaboration with a world-leading crop protection company.
Q1: We’ve seen your latest announcement, can you tell us more about Tarsis Technology, what it is and exactly what was announced?
A1: It’s a spin-out from the University of Cambridge, it’s developing an advanced materials technology to enable the delivery of active ingredients in a more precise and controlled way.
The spin-out in fact we own 18% of, and the deal that was announced is a collaboration with one of the world’s leading manufacturers of crop protection products where it will use Tarsis materials to research the potential to deliver existing pesticides and fungicides in a more precise and controlled way. If that proof of concept is shown, then we would hope that would lead to a full commercial agreement and that they might actually introduce the products directly to the market.
Q2: So, what Tarsis’ materials technology?
A2: So, it’s got a patent-pending process for essentially locking ingredients into a category of particles known as metal organic frameworks and these metal organic frameworks are some of the most porous material that are known. Essentially, they have a large number of holes within them where you’ve got polymer lignin’s joined by metals and you can put an active ingredient such as a pesticide into those holes.
The Tarsis team have some access to a large library of those materials, the best understanding in the world of the materials that are available, but there’s another piece that needs to be solved here which the Tarsis team have addressed. Once you’ve got the active ingredient inside the metal-organic framework, you need to be able to trap it so it doesn’t just leak out and they are doing that. Essentially, you can get the active in there and once it’s in there they lock in place and they control the release or how it responds to some kind of trigger so that you can only get it to be active when you want it to be active and in a controlled fashion. So, there’s lots of markets there, people want to be able to take an active and control its function and when it performs its role rather than just having it generally around environmentally.
Q3: What is the role of Frontier IP with Tarsis Technology?
A3: Our role is essentially to not as a core development of the science of course, because that’s driven by the academic team, but to handle the negotiations with commercial partners. So, in this case, to work in getting the collaboration agreement in place and then the backend supply agreements to make sure that the project can actually be delivered. That’s essentially a large part of what we do as a business is that we take interesting science and then make it capable of being translated across to industry partners.
If you look elsewhere in our portfolio, you would find that we’ve got companies like Nandi Proteins which is developing proteins to allow reduction of sugar, fat and additives in processed food and again, we’ve got a scientific team driving the development of the technology but equally, we would be handling the interface with industry to get industry players working on it.
We’ve got a company called Alusid where the team there have a novel idea for how you can combine glass and ceramics to produce a recycled but high-quality building product and again, we’ve worked with supply chain and channels to market to enable scale-up.
There are also a couple of other firms recently that have been added to the portfolio. So, we’ve had Cambridge Material Testing Solutions, which is developing methods to measure material stresses and strains more swiftly and that has a lot of applications in industries such as nuclear, aerospace and gas. We’ve then got a company called PoreXpert, which we’ve had for a while, who’s software is already being used to look at how, for example, you look at graphite in nuclear reactors but we’re looking at other applications and other industries that can be applied in.
So, across the board, Frontier IP’s role is to take interesting technology but then find out how we can get that engaged with industry partners and that’s the piece where essentially Frontier IP steps in and within that we’ve done that in each case for a significant stake in the portfolio company that’s exploiting the technology.