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Matter: Innovating to combat microplastic pollution

2nd July 2024

John Talbot, Audit Partner, and Pippa James, Tax Manager at Bishop Fleming, recently discussed Matter’s innovative approach to combating microplastic pollution with Jess Middlemiss, CTO.  

Matter has been shortlisted for four categories at the SPARKies 2024 awards – “Most Innovative Use of Tech”, “Totally Killing It”, “Good Award”, and the “People’s Choice” Award.

Matter Logo

Jess, please tell us a bit about Matter and your mission.

Matter is a clean tech, venture capital-backed scale-up with a team of around 40 dedicated professionals. Our mission is to live in a world without microplastic pollution. We are pioneering ways to prevent microplastics from entering the natural environment, focusing on capturing and filtering them from water systems. Our innovative approach includes creating user-friendly, regenerative filter systems equipped with sensors to make them easy to operate with minimal labour.

How did Matter start, and what are your main areas of focus?

Matter was born out of a deep concern for ocean health, but we soon realised the issue is more nuanced. We initially focused on capturing microplastics at their source, starting with domestic laundry. Our product, the 'Gulp' retrofit filter, can be easily integrated with washing machines to capture microplastics. We are now expanding our efforts to industrial scales, mainly targeting the textile industry, which sheds a significant amount of microplastics during production. We can achieve much more significant environmental benefits by intervening at this stage.

Matter Company Image

What is unique about your technology?

Our unique selling proposition is our regenerative filter system, which is sensor-enabled to regenerate itself. This makes it highly user-friendly, reducing the need for manual intervention. By capturing microplastics before they enter the environment, we can also explore ways to reuse the captured material, turning a waste product into a valuable resource. Our focus is on making our technology not just effective but also accessible and easy for users to adopt.

What challenges has Matter faced in its journey?

Start-up life is never easy. Our biggest challenge was securing our first funding round, crucial for scaling our operations. We were fortunate to attract high-profile investors who are also passionate about ocean health. However, we faced obstacles with industrialisation, such as refining our manufacturing processes and scaling up production. Bringing our first product, the 'Gulp,' to market has been complex. We launched a successful Kickstarter campaign a few years ago and are working hard to start sales in early 2025, with production ramping up this year.

Matter Company Image

How have your investors supported Matter's growth?

Our investor base is predominantly focused on environmental and clean tech investments. Their invaluable expertise has provided us with tools and techniques to manage and scale the business sustainably. They have also offered extensive support through their networks, introducing us to potential partners and users of our technology. These connections have opened doors to trialling our tech and exploring new markets. The support from our investors has been a key factor in our growth and development.

What motivates you personally in your role?

I'm driven by the impact our work can have on the environment. Knowing that we are contributing to a bigger purpose and making a climate-positive impact is incredibly motivating. Additionally, the culture and camaraderie within our team are crucial. We have a supportive environment where everyone can be authentic and work together towards our shared mission. The sense of community and shared purpose at Matter keeps me energised and committed to our goals.

Can you tell us more about Matter's team and company culture?

At Matter, we value diversity of thought and experience. Our recruitment process focuses on finding people who align with our mission and can bring skills we still need to gain. We have a lot of ex-Dyson engineers and professionals from companies like Babcock and Rolls-Royce. We believe in nurturing a culture of trust, equity, and shared purpose and prioritise personalised development for our team members. Our core value, "we go together," reflects our commitment to inclusivity and collaboration. We also emphasise transparency and open communication within the team, encouraging a supportive and dynamic work environment.

Matter Company Image

What advice would you give to other start-ups?

I suggest embracing honesty about your journey and being transparent with your team. Find people who can give trustworthy advice, be bold and seek specialist solution providers. Building a robust support network is essential, as is fostering a culture where everyone is pushing in the same direction. Additionally, hiring for the skills you don't have and bringing in diverse perspectives to avoid echo chambers is important. Being open about the challenges and risks of start-up life ensures that everyone is prepared and committed to the mission.

What are your plans for the future?

Our immediate goal is to market the 'Gulp' and scale up our industrial applications. We are also continually looking for innovative ways to reuse the captured microplastics. In the long term, we plan to expand our technology to other industries and continue making a significant impact on reducing microplastic pollution globally. We are exploring partnerships and collaborations to help us achieve these goals and enhance our technological capabilities. Our vision is to create a sustainable future where microplastics are no longer a threat to our environment.

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