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London Tech Week

Jaguar Land Rover Ventures invests in $2M round of plant-based leather startup, Uncaged Innovations

Uncaged Innovations Founder
Photo credits: Uncaged Innovations

New York-based biomaterials startup, Uncaged Innovations, has successfully raised $2 million in a pre-seed funding round. The investment comes from InMotion Ventures, the investment arm of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), along with other notable investors including VegInvest, Stray Dog Capital, Alwyn Capital, Hack Capital, and GlassWalls Syndicate. JLR has also backed the investments of Carmoola and Envisics this year. 

The latest funding will enable Uncaged Innovations to launch its next-generation vegan leather, a high-performance and sustainable alternative to traditional animal-derived products. The company aims to deliver luxurious texture and durability without compromising on its commitment to sustainability.

Stephanie Downs, CEO and Co-Founder of Uncaged Innovations, expressed enthusiasm about partnering with InMotion Ventures and JLR to revolutionise the leather industry. We’re thrilled to work with InMotion Ventures and JLR to reimagine leather in the automotive industry,” said Stephanie Downs, CEO and Co-Founder of UNCAGED. “We’re proud to have leveraged just one percent of the funds raised by previous innovators to go from concept to full-scale production, giving us a competitive edge over our competitors.”

InMotion Ventures’ Managing Director, Mike Smeed, shared his excitement in supporting Uncaged Innovations and their vision for the future of biomaterials. “We are excited to support UNCAGED Innovations and its vision for the future of biomaterials,” said Mike Smeed, Managing Director of InMotion Ventures. “The company’s commitment to material innovation supports our focus on investing in purpose-driven companies driving positive change across the industry.”

JLR’s Director and Head of Sustainability, Rossella Cardone, expressed pride in collaborating with Uncaged Innovations to explore responsible leather alternatives. Cardone commented, “We’re proud to be collaborating with Uncaged to explore responsible leather alternatives as we look forward to a sustainability-rich modern luxury vision for our future vehicles. This is in-line with our strategy on the sustainability and provenance of the materials we use. We must embrace new material possibilities, new processes, and new technology and invest in sustainable material innovation.”

Reimages traditional leather production 

The current market for alternative leathers heavily relies on plastic-based materials due to the lack of viable biodegradable options. This limitation stems from the challenge of replicating the biomedical properties found in authentic animal leather. However, as consumer concerns about plastic waste grow, there is a rising demand for eco-friendly alternatives that align with both values and aesthetics.

Founded in 2020 by Stephanie Downs and Xiaokun Wang, Uncaged Innovations has developed a formulation library for creating biomimetic leather alternatives using composite plant-based proteins and polypeptides. The company addresses the issues of animal cruelty and environmental impact associated with traditional leather production. Uncaged Innovations aims to promote cruelty-free and sustainable alternatives to traditional leather, such as synthetic or plant-based options.

With a mission to offer consumers and industries a viable choice free from animal products and the negative environmental effects of conventional leather production, Uncaged Innovations aims to improve the industry by providing biomimetic substitutes for animal hides. Their bioleather replicates the fibril structure of collagen, delivering the performance expected from animal-derived leather.

It is worth noting that Uncaged Innovations has been honoured with the prestigious National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant. This grant will further support the company’s research and development efforts in advancing its unique technology.

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