“I believe that EC and the Member States should really work with the aim of promoting such innovative and sustainable products, sustaining the market entry phase, especially in those market segments characterized by low margins and hard competition (such as building and textile sectors).” To say it – in this interview with Il Bioeconomista – is Stefano Babbini, co-founder and CEO of Mogu, an Italy-based SME which is exploring the potential of mycelium-based technologies in several application sectors. He talks with us about the company’s main business, the bioeconomy at European level and the BBI JU demo project Grace, where the Italian company is applying its technology to the hemp and miscanthus value chains.
Interview by Mario Bonaccorso
What is Mogu’s main business?
Mogu is a innovative company based in Inarzo (North Italy) that focuses on the use of mycelium-based technologies to develop a family of sustainable materials, following the principles of the Circular Economy. This materials, composed by mycelium – a bio-polymer constituting the root-structure of mushrooms – and by-products of agro-industrial value chains, are produced through a natural process. Mogu’s materials are suitable for applications in diverse markets, with a special focus on housing materials for green-building and bio-design (resilient flooring, acoustic insulation panels, decorative elements, furniture components, etc.), but also on the fashion and food industry.
What does the circular bioeconomy represent for your company?
Since its foundation, Mogu has been operating following the principles of the Circular Economy, and in particular leveraging the biological upcycling of organic residues, coming from established industries (agro-industry, textile, timber sector, etc.). Since the very beginning our Company has been interacting with several stakeholders, offering their sidestream and co-products, with the purpose of increasing the value of their value chains. In few cases, such collaborations have been successful, and today Mogu is really employing those under-estimated residues, bringing more value to our stakeholders.
You are a partner of the BBI JU demo project Grace. What is the goal of this project and what is your role?
In the Grace project our role is to apply our technology and our principles to the hemp and the miscanthus value chains. In particular, with our Demo Case we intend to demonstrate that the mycelium can be a suitable binder for such fibers, with the aim of developing and finally producing sustainable composite materials suitable for the manufacturing of innovative products for the interior design market. In particular, we are targeting acoustic and decorative solutions, which can be beautiful, as well as performative.
What are the policies to be implemented in Europe to favor the development of the bioeconomy?
Being involved in few EU Horizon projects focus on the circular bioeconomy, I’m glad to say that for the point of view of the development support the EC is really active and concrete. Of course, such developments have to be brought to the market, and supported during the entry phase, considering that innovative products (both for the B2B and B2C) use to be more expensive in the first years, because many industrial factors, and they have to face a different perception of the users which could represent a real initial barrier. Indeed, here we are still observing a gap between the standard products and the innovative ones.
I believe that EC and the Member States should really work with the aim of promoting such innovative and sustainable products, sustaining the market entry phase, especially in those market segments characterized by low margins and hard competition (such as building and textile sectors).
The support could follow different directions, employing different tools, with an expected impact mostly on the economics and communication.
As far as you’re concerned, what impact will covid19 have on sustainable development policies?
The main concern is that the European Commission and the Member States will postpone the target related to the sustainability goals, in favor of other shorter-term needs, especially talking about economical resources. Somehow, it already happened looking at the Horizon calls for proposals in 2020. The hope is that extra resources will be allocated for the short-term targets, not limiting what already planned in a longer prospective.