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Closing the Loop: Alumni Startup Develops New Polymers from Waste

In 2018, University of Tennessee alumni Tony Bova and Jeff Beegle received a $225,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for their startup. Mobius, then Grow Bioplastics, develops lignin-biomass-based biodegradable plastics for agricultural applications. Bova and Beegle, both Bredesen Center graduates, worked with the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Haslam College of Business to bridge the gap between the lab and industry.  

As of July 2021, Mobius has successfully developed new polymers made with more than 50 percent organic waste content, specifically lignin; a waste product generated by paper and biofuel industries in quantities greater than 100 million tons per year. Many of these polymers were made of more than 95 percent waste material.

Mobius has now entered Phase II of the SBIR grant and this October received a $300,000 match award from Launch Tennessee, an organization that collaborates with a number of industry partners to provide funding opportunities to Tennessee-based startups.  

 Since its launch, Mobius has joined the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment. The Global Commitment has a vision of a circular economy for plastic, in which items stay in the economy and out of the environment. It has more than 500 signatories, representing 20 percent of plastic packaging globally, including The Coca-Cola Company, L’Oreal, and Apple.  

Bova and Beegle credit their time at UT, and the research community and collaborative opportunities available for the successful creation of their business.