ttopstart co-developed the EIC Transition proposal and provided business strategy support

Katalin Barta received EIC Transition funding of €2,5 million for PURESURF. She and her team will investigate and develop bio-based surfactants from renewable waste streams and set-up a spin-off company that will accelerate the transformation to a circular economy. ttopstart has co-developed the EIC Transition proposal and helped conduct market research.

About the PureSurf project

Professor Katalin Barta Weissert is a leading academic expert in the field of green chemistry, catalysis and renewable resources at the Institute of Chemistry at the University of Graz. ttopstart has worked with Katalin Barta to co-develop multiple grant proposals, among which the recent EIC Transition proposal and helped conduct market research to answer valuable commercial questions.

Switching to sustainable surfactants

PureSurf aims to introduce novel green surfactants from renewables, and specifically underutilized waste- or side product streams. Surfactants are omnipresent in numerous industrial sectors, ranging from cleaning and personal care products to agrochemicals and pharmaceuticals. Notably, 17 million tons hit the market each year. However, the rising cost and unsustainable nature of petrochemicals, and concerns about environmental pollution has urged the industry to re-think its current manufacturing practices which still heavily rely on fossil raw materials. PureSurf will develop a sustainable manufacturing platform to gain access to novel surfactants from renewables, thereby providing a clean and green alternative.

Roadmap towards innovation success

The idea that led to the spin-off company PURESURF originated from the European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant CatASus:

In the CatASus project, Katalin Barta and her team have investigated the development of novel catalytic pathways to obtain bio-based platform chemicals from lignocellulose and its main constituents, including lignin; and their downstream conversion to valuable amines. The question was immediately raised, in which application domains will such amines find true added value. Surfactants emerged as one possible alternative.

Katalin Barta: “While working on my awarded ERC Starting Grant 2015 ‘CatASus’ at the University of Groningen, I was directly approached by a representative of ttopstart who told me about the possibility to develop a PoC application. Honestly, I was so focused on the basic research aspects, that the idea to go for possible exploitation did not even occur to me. In retrospect, I am very glad that we decided to go this path together with ttopstart, which turned out to be very rewarding. After an initial and friendly introduction meeting, we swiftly planned our PoC activities. I received a lot of support, useful tips and suggestions, which resulted in the successful PoC application, PURE”.


To determine the potential of manufacturing bio-based platform chemicals and products, among them, surfactants, the team applied for the ERC Proof of Concept (PoC) grant. The ERC PoC is a lump sum of €150,000 that is only open to principal investigators in one of the main ERC research frontier grants and can be used to explore the commercial feasibility of research discoveries made during an ERC main grant.

Katalin Barta: “Within the PoC project we were able to demonstrate that lignin-based monomers are valuable starting materials for the development of novel surfactants. Their highly functionalized nature enables an easy addition of a plethora of potential polar head- and apolar tail groups. Further, our platform can valorize European based feedstocks, reducing the import dependency of South-East-Asian derived coconut and palm kernel oil. We have developed a small library of emerging structures and investigated their physical- chemical properties. We were positively surprised, how well our concepts were received by players throughout the value chain of surfactants, ranging from feedstock suppliers, manufacturers to customer product formulators”.

Next steps: scaling up and testing biosurfactant applications through the EIC Transition

With funding secured through the EIC Transition, PURESURF is now able to validate its successful results from the ERC PoC project and establish a small-scale production unit, start a spin-off company and become investor-ready to raise the necessary funds to enter the market and scale-up. Subsequently, PURESURF aims to apply with ttopstart for an EIC Accelerator grant in 2023/2024.

Dr. Markus Hochegger (Analysis & Valorization PURESURF):
“Within the EIC Transition grant we first want to produce our surfactants in kilogram scale, to validate our value proposition in customer formulations and create our first minimum viable product based on the feedback. With this in hand, we foresee no mayor hurdles to secure follow-up funding for further scale-up, based on the industrial interest received. With the help of ttopstart, we were already able to identify a niche for market entry and explore suitable business models for our planned spin-off. We gained valuable insight into possible strategies, how to address the needs of the surfactant market.”

Business strategy support

ttopstart is happy to contribute to the development of PURESURF through grant application and business strategy support. We look forward to more exciting collaborations with the team and to accelerating the implementation of biobased surfactants.

About ttopstart’s Business Leadership team

ttopstart’s Business Leadership team supports entrepreneurial researchers and companies in bringing their inventions to the market. The PureSurf case is a good example of how we establish deep partnerships with our clients over a period of time and together achieve critical milestones to accelerate the introduction of impactful innovations (see Figure 1). That includes preparing research grants (e.g. ERC program), business-oriented grants (e.g. ERC Proof of Concept and EIC Transition) to raise non-dilutive funding, but also includes business strategy services (e.g. market research and business case development) to reach investor-readiness.

Want to learn more about our ERC PoC, EIC Transition and Business Leadership services?

Please fill out the contact form below or send an email to info@ttopstart.com with your request and schedule a meeting with one of our consultants.

“With the EIC Transition ttopstart has been a valuable sparring partner to challenge our ideas, to develop a clear narrative, which is understandable and logical for the specialist, but also for the generalist reader. Finally, needless to say, it is important to start the planning and writing process well in time, at least 6 months before submission!”


Get in touch with us

Our business leadership team is happy to hear about your challenges. Do you have a question about co-developing a proposal or do you look for business strategy support? Fill out the form below and we will get in touch with you!