Born from the Brainport-Waterloo collaboration: SLE Enterprises, a start-up in scalable liquid encapsulation

4 Oct 2021

Encapsulation of any target cargo normally requires a polymer material containing microplastics to wrap the cargo. SLE's technology doesn’t require any such material.

The ecosystems around Waterloo University (Canada) and Brainport Eindhoven (the Netherlands) have been connected for some years now, with the main goal to learn from each other’s applications around breakthrough technologies. As a new step in this interregional collaboration, a start-up was founded in Eindhoven, based on technology from Waterloo.

SLE Enterprises BV is built upon the breakthrough technology of scalable liquid encapsulation (SLE). Typically for encapsulation of any target cargo, you need a polymer material containing microplastics to wrap the cargo and create an encapsulation. SLE’s technology doesn’t require any such material – it uses liquid-liquid encapsulation to wrap the target cargoes. SLE is looking into several industries to work with: food, beverages & confectioneries; nutraceuticals; pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics.

Professor Sushanta Mitra has been working with WatCo, the University of Waterloo’s Commercialization Office, to bring this novel encapsulation technology to the market. “We saw an opportunity in the EU market as our technology removes the need for microplastics. SLE Enterprises’ technology enables a customer to continue to use a high-value product necessary for commercial success but without plastics. We have been working with Brainport for some time, and therefore setting up the start-up in Eindhoven was a natural choice.” SLE Enterprise will be working from the Alpha building at the Eindhoven University of Technology Campus.

EU market needs
Scalable Liquid Encapsulation is a technology that fits the EU market needs, professor Mitra explains. “The EU is big to push removal of microplastics in products. And Eindhoven has an excellent deep-tech start-up ecosystem with excellent OEM manufacturers to build our encapsulation machines.” For him and his team, these were the main reasons to settle down in the Brainport region. “Brainport Development has partnered with us to see how they can assist some of the unique technologies at the University of Waterloo to meet the EU market demands. Brainport has provided excellent assistance in getting office space for SLE Enterprises, connecting with the right stakeholders to scale up the technology, and forming the Dutch BV.”

Entrepreneurship and innovation are in the University of Waterloo’s DNA, says professor Mitra. “We have a unique IP policy – ‘creator-own intellectual property’. This allows professors like me to develop technology and translate it to create a for-profit corporation beyond the laboratory. It is exciting to see how my research work can be translated to value-added products and services – it is indeed satisfying. I will still continue my research, and hopefully, more innovation will come out of my Micro & Nanoscale Transport Laboratory.”

SLE Enterprises is the first Dutch start-up that has been created, for which WatCo has a stake in the company. “It was a learning experience for us, and we hope that it would provide opportunities for other University of Waterloo start-ups to look at the Dutch innovation ecosystem to enable access to the EU market and beyond”, says Scott Inwood, Director of Commercialization at WatCo.

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