ORLEN VC invests in a raw material worth more than gold

ORLEN plans to implement an innovative technology that will enable cheaper, faster and more environmentally friendly production of intermediates used in the manufacture of cars, medicines, plastics or fuel additives, among other products. This is end effect of another investment made by the venture capital fund established by PKN ORLEN in an innovative Polish company, Apeiron Synthesis. In addition to PKN ORLEN, Aper Ventures and Adamed joined the round as part of which innovative businesses raise funding.

– Our focus is on modern technologies and in this way we effectively bolster our competitiveness in an increasingly demanding market. We have established and are dynamically developing Poland’s largest venture capital fund, which represents genuine added value to our core business. We see great potential in Apeiron Synthesis’ innovative technology solutions, which are already successfully competing in a market worth USD 30bn. We are open to further innovative ideas, in various business areas, that will support the delivery of our strategy and the building of a strong and modern business group, – says Daniel Obajtek, President of the Management Board of PKN ORLEN.

Apeiron Synthesis is successfully commercialising the technology of olefin metathesis (a chemical process used in industry), developed by scientists from France and the U.S. and awarded the Nobel Prize in 2005. The company specialises in the development and commercial implementation on a global scale of novel ruthenium catalysts used in the olefin metathesis reaction. The technology is an extremely efficient method of synthesis that enables more efficient, cheaper and environmentally friendly production of advanced chemical compounds. Unlike this method, many chemical reactions require special conditions (such as high temperature and pressure) or generate large amounts of waste.

“As the founders of Apeiron Synthesis, we began our journey at the Institute of Organic Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences under the guidance of Professor Karol Grela, a world-renowned expert in olefin metathesis. With the support from Wrocław Technology Park, the Foundation for Polish Science, Polish Agency for Enterprise Development (PARP) and National Centre for Research and Development (NCRD), have been able to ramp up the production scale and attract the attention of Polish and international business. Today, with the backing provided by deep tech VC funds, Apeiron Synthesis is at the forefront of the industry,” says Michal Bieniek, CEO of Apeiron Synthesis.

There are currently four companies in the global market of metathesis catalysts, in addition to Apeiron Synthesis. This group comprises specialised companies focusing primarily on olefin metathesis (XiMo, Zannan Scitech, Apeiron Synthesis), as well as the multinational chemical company Umicore, for which metathesis is one of many business areas. In Poland, Apeiron is the only company offering olefin metathesis catalysts for industrial applications.

A kilogram of the powder produced by Apeiron Synthesis is worth even EUR 70,000. Research by one pharmaceutical company has shown that the synthesis of a biologically active compound, which previously required 20 steps, can be reduced to 16 steps using metathesis. This will translate into a 20% cut in production costs and bring annual savings of EUR 20m, with sales revenues of EUR 600m.

“We have been following the activities of the Apeiron team for years, so were confident that they were effectively solving a problem facing even top players in many key industries. Their product makes it possible to obtain complex synthetic compounds in an economical and environmentally friendly way, and the demand for the product is rising sharply around the world. We are especially pleased to partner with trade investors ORLEN VC and Adamed. The next several years will see us pursue the project together with a strong and experienced group of investors, which we hope will culminate in one of the most interesting exits on the Polish market in this industry,” says Piotr Sławski, managing partner of Aper Ventures, a fund specialising in deep tech investments.

ORLEN VC invests in technology companies from Europe and Israel that are at the growth stage and work on cutting-edge products or services in such areas as energy transition and new industry. The fund’s portfolio currently includes three other companies in addition to Aperion Synthesis: ICSec, a provider of cybersecurity solutions for the industrial sector, Eologix, which has developed a system for monitoring and improving the performance of wind turbines, and Invert Robotics, a manufacturer of patented industrial inspection robots. ORLEN VC has also invested its capital in other funds – Emerald Technology Ventures based in Switzerland and Environmental Technologies Fund based in the UK.

Poland’s largest corporate venture capital fund, established in mid-2021, will invest some EUR 100m over 10 years in technology companies offering innovative solutions. The result will be a dynamic acceleration of PKN ORLEN’s transition, driven by commercialisation of advanced technologies and deployment of new business models. ORLEN VC’s investments allow PKN ORLEN to directly and indirectly enter into new promising business partnerships that boost its international position and to develop them in collaboration with the best teams.

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