From a Concept to a Reality

If one has not been involved with “applied” science directly, they may not realize the degree to which our places of higher learning, actually impact the commercial world as manufactured products. Recently, I was given the pleasure of reconnecting with a business acquaintance, Julee Herdt, that we had lost touch with for a decade. She is an Architect and Professor of Architecture at the University of Colorado in Boulder. A decade ago, she was the architecture faculty lead in back-to-back wins for the U of CO in the prestigious US Dept of Energy Solar Decathlon competition.

Julee Herdt

Julee Herdt

I was happy to learn that she is on the verge of setting up a factory, to commercialize her “concept” for a 100% waste cellulose building panel known as BioSIPs (Bio for “living” and SIPs for “structural insulated panels”). Using waste fibers combined with natural, salvage and repurposed materials, she has created a sustainable building material. Herdt worked with the USDA Forest Products Lab to apply their research and technology in order to develop her BioSIPs board, taking low-grade “waste” – like paper, agricultural and a variety of wood wastes – and engineering that into panels with a consistent and predictable strength.

2010 BioSIPs  prototype research shed

2010 BioSIPs
prototype research shed

In 2005, Herdt’s BioSIPS board provided the structural insulated wall, floor and roof panels to create an affordable and energy-efficient solar-powered house that earned CU it’s second Solar Decathlon win. By 2011, Herdt had received a State of CO grant that allowed her to complete an entire building (including interior structures and furniture), diverting 3-1/2 tons of waste fibers as BioSIPs board. By 2013, Herdt’s BioSIPS inventions were honored by the US Green Building Council as “Colorado’s Green Product” of the year.

Yemm & Hart has often been approached by individuals who have been inspired by our post-consumer recycled materials. We have attracted a wide range of attention from artists to serious interior designers and architects with our visually stimulating products. Time and again, we have experienced individuals with interesting ideas but not the least idea of how to take a concept and create a marketable product. That is where our long experience as innovative entrepreneurs has given us the understanding to do just that – take a concept, create and actually manufacture a product – plus know how to market that product and create sales. The concept behind Origins was a slab of particle board. In other words, replacing that traditional product with something made of waste materials. Or how about finding a second life for those little corks that you pop out of your wine bottle ?

Yemm & Hart  Wine Cork Tile

Yemm & Hart
Wine Cork Tile

Recently, an entity participating in our wine cork recycling effort, wanted us to guarantee that we could take their collected wine corks and deliver to them a product made ONLY from THEIR corks. We had to explain manufacturing realities to them. We wrote back – it would be the same as “providing a load of PET soda pop bottles to a major carpet manufacturer and asking them to track the resin from the bottles to the carpet. They just could not do it unless it was rail cars of resin going in and truckloads of carpet going out. It would still be difficult to determine when the target resin started and stopped”. Ideas are abundant but the know-how to turn ideas into products requires a broader understanding, experience and skill. And a degree of “luck” as well. Timing, economics, variations in market perceptions, demands and supply, are all factors that can derail even the best developed business plans based on true experience.

Gatoresin product_logo

Collaborations between institutions of higher learning and the commercial world can be beneficial for everyone. Recently, the Florida Institute for Commercialization of Public Research (a non-profit) identified more than 100 commercial projects that can benefit from technology developed at Florida’s state universities and private research institutions. US Bioplastics is receiving some funding for Gatoresin (created from feedstock waste, paper production by-products and other plant based wastes). The new material is bio-renewable, water-degradable plastic designed for use in highly disposable applications. The technology for this process is licensed by the firm from the University of Florida. The company expects its new product to be “a viable alternative to a large segment of oil-based, non-degradable plastics” according to the Institute’s CEO, Jamie Grooms, in his announcement for this funding.

~ Information Resources

“Furniture of the Future” by Vicki Hildner, University Communications for the University of Colorado – http://www.ucdenver.edu/about/newsroom/spotlight/students/Pages/Julee-Herdt-and-students-create-future-with-sustainable-building-material.aspx

“BioSIPs Research Structure” by Nicholas McMunn, AIA – http://archinect.com/URBinProphet/project/biosips-research-structure

“BioSIPs Executive Summary” – http://www.innovationcenteroftherockies.com/CUBioSIPs.html

“Origins Introduction” by Yemm & Hart Ltd – http://www.yemmhart.com/materials/origins/originsintroduction.html

“About Recycled Cork” by Yemm & Hart Ltd – http://www.yemmhart.com/materials/winecorktile/wct_aboutrecycled.html

“US Bioplastics receives funding to bring Gatoresin to the market” by Frank Esposito posted July 24, 2014 in Plastics News – http://www.plasticsnews.com/article/20140724/NEWS/140729956/us-bioplastics-receives-funding-to-bring-gatoresin-to-the-market

“About Gatoresin” – http://usbioplastics.com/about-gatoresin

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Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer

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2 Comments on “From a Concept to a Reality”

  1. olivierlehe says:

    How companies can nurture innovation and motivate their talents to bring innovations forward?

    Each company is destined to get the results it gets. What I mean by this is that poor organization, lack of solid and sustainable innovation culture lead to poor results, and more than before, to a company’s trouble or death.
    Smart business leaders shape the culture of their company to drive innovation. Success and constant positive results come from the implementation and execution of strategies, business models, structure, processes, technologies and incentive systems that encourage innovation.
    If you would like to read more about learning innovation, you can access to my blog on: http://worldofinnovations.net/2014/08/11/7-ways-to-create-a-culture-of-innovation/

    • debyemm says:

      Certainly, to some extent you are absolutely correct. However, I would say that even when a company seems to be doing everything “by the book” as you describe it, that may not be enough in the current economic climate. Many factors contribute to success or failure. Entrepreneurs excel at being creative and innovative but sometimes do lack management skills. Large companies can become moribund within rigid structures.

      You stated – “Each company is destined to get the results it gets.” Hmmm, destiny ? That sounds a lot like “luck”. Innovation isn’t enough. Know how is important. Market knowledge is critical.

      Certainly, I will visit your blog to see what is there. Thank you for commenting.


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