A project to develop biodegradable plastic films based on extracts from the thistle plant (scientific name Cynara cardunculus) earned awards to researchers from the Centro de Biotecnologia Agrícola e Agroalimentar do Alentejo (CEBAL) for a European innovation program.

The “CynaraMulch” project, by two researchers from the center, wants to develop biodegradable plastic films based on thistle extracts, as an alternative to plastics widely used by the agricultural sector.

The business idea won third place in the EIT Jumpstarter 2021 contest, in the raw materials category, in addition to winning the EIT Jumpstarter, they also won the X-KIC Prize, for the most multisectoral business idea.

With both awards, CEBAL's team of researchers, made up of Fátima Duarte and Teresa Brás, raised €10,000 in support.

“The awards value the dedication and knowledge that the team “has been creating in the research group over the last 10 years and reinforce the goal of internationalizing this line of research”, said Fátima Duarte.

“We can be hand in hand with CEBAL's first start-up, the first of many, I hope”, added the researcher.

“Plastics are used massively in agriculture due to the benefits they present in terms of productivity and fruit quality, as well as greater efficiency in the use of water, but they are also a source of microplastics, with great impact on water and soil,” highlighted the biotechnology center.

The solution found by the two CEBAL researchers is innovative in terms of the integrated use of thistle, with the development of new applications for this plant, and aims to reach farmers who aspire to contribute to agricultural and environmental sustainability.

The EIT Jumpstarter, an innovation support program of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), promoted since 2007, is a “program for accelerating innovative ideas with business potential”, explained CEBAL.

The European initiative aims to find, promote and support innovation activities developed by researchers, companies and start-ups in the sectors of health, food, raw materials, energy, manufacturing and urban mobility.

The program's strategic objective is to create sustainable impact in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, driving innovation and entrepreneurship in these regions.