Cambridge Enterprise has joined in an £18 million Series B investment round for University of Cambridge spin-out company Colorifix. The round, led by H&M Group via investment arm H&M CO:LAB, includes existing investor, Sagana, as well as new investors Bombyx Growth Fund, PDS Ventures, Regeneration.VC and SynBioVen.

By replacing industrial chemistry with biology at every step of the textile dyeing and fixing processes, Colorifix has earned a place at the forefront of the industry’s transition to a more sustainable era.

Colorifix was co-founded by Jim Ajoika, in the Department of Pathology, and Orr Yarkoni, formerly a postdoc in Jim’s lab and now the company’s CEO. Jim’s background building tools for molecular genome analysis led him to develop a biosensor for assessing arsenic contamination of drinking water. While testing the sensor in Nepal, the two learned about the enormously destructive impact of dyeing processes on water. Together they realised that instead of just monitoring contamination, they could devise a solution: a sustainable way to dye textiles using synthetic biology.

Colorifix, which was founded in 2016, is now entering industrial scale-up following its first customer implementation at RDD (Valérius Group) in Portugal, where last year product was launched with H&M and Pangaia.

The Series B funding will support a trebling in team size as Colorifix prepares to expand further into Europe and Asia. The company will implement its technology into the supply chains of several leading players in the global fashion industry.

The majority of Colorifix’s staff are currently spread between its headquarters at Norwich Research Park, where Colorifix has labs and offices, and a demonstrator site in Cambridge, where the full technology process is showcased. It also has a London presence at The Mills Fabrica, also an investor. Colorifix is in the process of setting up a subsidiary in Portugal, where it is opening an office.

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We are delighted that H&M CO:LAB has led this round. They have been extremely supportive from the start and have shown that they are the right partners to help us deliver on our growth plan. We are equally thankful that we have such an excellent overall group of strategic and thematic investors that bring deep domain expertise and strong international networks across our key areas of focus and countries of operation.

Chris Hunter, Chief Operating Officer, Colorifix

We’re thrilled to continue to grow our relationship with Colorifix and its fantastic team. To support them during their next phase of growth in scaling their innovative, game-changing technology not only speaks directly to H&M Group’s sustainability work, but more importantly has the potential to positively impact the wider industry.

Pascal Brun, Head of Sustainability for H&M; Director, Colorifix