Monday, October 2, 2023

Jaguar Land Rover Backs Vegan Leather Startup and Eyes Massive EV Gigafactory


As the auto industry continues to transition toward a carbon-neutral future, Jaguar Land Rover ups its commitment by investing in next-generation vegan leather and a potential battery gigafactory, signaling a substantial commitment to a greener future.

Biomaterials startup Uncaged Innovations recently raised $2 million in a Pre-Seed fundraising round led by InMotion Ventures, Jaguar Land Rover’s (JLR) investment branch, with participation from VegInvest, Stray Dog Capital, Alwyn Capital, Hack Capital, and GlassWalls Syndicate. Earlier this year, JLR also demonstrated its financial support for Carmoola and Envisics.

The fresh funding will facilitate the rollout of Uncaged Innovation’s advanced vegan leather, a high-performance, eco-friendly alternative to conventional animal-based products. The startup offers a luxurious, durable product without sacrificing its sustainability promise.

‘Responsible leather alternatives’

The collaboration with InMotion Ventures and JLR is a significant move forward in transforming the leather industry, according to Stephanie Downs, CEO and Co-Founder of Uncaged Innovations. “We’re thrilled to work with InMotion Ventures and JLR to reimagine leather in the automotive industry,” she said in a statement.

“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.”

buying an electric car
Image courtesy Jaguar

Rossella Cardone, JLR’s Director and Head of Sustainability, says there is a need to invest in innovative, eco-friendly materials as a core part of JLR’s sustainable strategy.
“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,” she said. “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.”

Uncaged Innovations, established in 2020 by Stephanie Downs, is leading the charge in the alternative leather market. Despite current alternatives being predominantly plastic-based, the startup has developed a formulation library for creating biomimetic leather substitutes using composite plant-based proteins and polypeptides. This provides an eco-friendly solution that aligns with consumer aesthetics and values while addressing concerns around animal cruelty and environmental impact.

U.K. EV gigafactory

Meanwhile, Jaguar Land Rover is said to be on the cusp of finalizing an agreement with the U.K. Government to erect a massive electric vehicle battery factory at Gravity Business Park near Bridgwater. The auto giant will serve as the “anchor customer” for this significant development.

Courtesy Jaguar Land Rover

Hailed as potentially the most consequential car deal in the UK since the 1980s, the agreement is crucial to the country. The proposed gigafactory is set on a sprawling 616-acre “smart campus” near Puriton, in proximity to the M5 motorway. The factory could potentially become the U.K.’s largest standalone building and could generate approximately 40,000 new jobs.

Reports suggest that a fierce competition between the U.K. and Spain led to a substantial subsidy offer from the Spanish government. While the UK government hasn’t confirmed the rumored £500m in state subsidies, it did concede that the potential agreement involves significant cash grants, energy subsidies, and research funding.

Paul David Munnelly, Director at Munnelly Group, celebrated the gigafactory announcement.

“The announcement of the JLR Gigafactory in Somerset is a huge win for both the auto industry and U.K. construction,” he said. “Not only would the factory potentially be the largest single building within the UK but the creation of both direct and indirect jobs would boost employment in the area. From a wider perspective, the development of the Gigafactory would very much support the U.K.’s transition to electric vehicles which is in line with the country’s commitment to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.”

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