Environmentally sustainable compounds for hair conditioners

Croda has launched a challenge on KTN’s Innovation Exchange to identify solutions that could lead to the next generation in hair conditioners. Industry or academia problem solvers will be given a commercial opportunity and receive support from Croda, KTN and the wider Innovate UK network.

Opportunity Details


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Successful solution providers (industry or academia) to this challenge will be given a commercial opportunity to deliver their solution and receive support from Croda, KTN and the wider Innovate UK network.

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Croda is a global speciality chemical manufacturer headquartered in the UK who provide high performance ingredients and technologies to some of the world’s largest brands. With commitments to be climate, land and people positive by 2030 they aim to be a sustainable supplier of innovative ingredients which will provide solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges

As a manufacturer of key products for the personal care market Croda currently produce a series of quaternary ammonium salts for use in hair conditioners. In the past 12 months, of the total number of products launched into the hair care market (22,266), 14,901 (66.9%) contained a quaternary ammonium compound, and of those 14,901 products, 3,671 (24.6%) contained Behentrimonium Chloride, a common quaternary ammonium compound used for hair conditioning, and just one of many products sold by Croda.

The quaternary cation acts as an ‘anchor’ which binds to the keratin protein of hair fibres this combines with a long alkyl chain, typically >C18, which provides hydrophobicity and friction reduction. Given their sustainability commitments Croda are looking for new technologies that are biodegradable, non-aquatoxic, are naturally derived and provide comparable hair conditioning performance to the current technology. Current technologies are generally hydrophobic materials which reduced the amount of hair friction, act as surfactants and resist rinsing.

Environmental fate is of high importance to Croda, ways to make these products less hazardous to the environment are required, or alternatively, different mechanisms to achieve the same anchoring effect to hair fibres preventing the environmental issues, but also without any negative health impacts when used in Personal Care applications. Environmental sustainability is equally important, so ingredients used in our raw materials should be from natural origins and sustainable sources.

Whilst not limiting the technologies from solution providers, it is expected that solutions may utilise the current method of application and friction reduction mechanism however solutions may offer alternative methods of application or novel friction reduction mechanisms. Solutions may be a chemical or a platform of chemicals for use in different products or offering a range of similar or related effects.

Rewards and benefits

Successful applicants will be given an opportunity to pitch to the Challenger. The package may also include:

  • A potential business collaboration with Croda
  • Support in the development of synthesis
  • Funding for a studentship
  • Technical support
  • Support from KTN
  • Investor introductions (if investment is required)

Solution Requirements

Health and Safety Considerations

Proposed solutions should align with:

  • The EU cosmetics regulation
  • Avoid allergens i.e. wheat proteins
  • Consider residual components that may impact environmental fate health or safety of the end consumer.

Product Requirements

Proposed solutions should:

  • Be comparable to existing chemistry performance
  • Not contain or be derived from animal products
  • Not be aquatoxic
  • Be bio-degradable via accepted OECD test methods

Deployment Timescale

  • Proof of concept in 2021 (6 – 12 months)
  • Pilot scale to full scale-up 2021 – 2025 (3 – 5 years)

Cost requirement and market opportunity

  • The current global demand for hair conditioner is 1.4bn litres per year
  • Croda have been active in this market for many years with an excellent reputation and have access to the customer base

Eligibility and assessment criteria

Entrants to this competition could be:

  • Established businesses
  • Startups, SMEs or individual entrepreneurs
  • Academic researchers
  • Consortia of two or more businesses or researchers
  • Priority will be given to UK based solutions

Applications will be assessed on:

  • Relevance to the topic
  • Innovative nature of the solution
  • Feasibility/ economic viability
  • Development potential
  • Maturity of solution
  • Ability to rapidly trial and implement solution
  • Price/quality ratio
  • Suitability for the UK, European Market and Global Market

IP and Potential Commercial Route

  • Existing background IP associated with a potential solution will remain with Solution Provider(s). Where any new IP generation is envisaged, it will be subject to the mutual IP agreement of the Solution Provider(s) and Innovation Challenger.
  • Any commercial deployment of transferred solution or newly developed solution, through licensing, joint venture, partnership or direct investment, will be subject to the commercial agreement between the Solution Provider(s) and Innovation Challenger.
  • Where necessary, a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) may be signed to uphold confidentiality in the engagement between the Solution Provider(s) and Innovation Challenger.
  • Innovate UK and KTN do not take any share of IP ownership or enter into commercial venture through this programme.

Competition Dates

  • Launch of the Competition: 16th October
  • Deadline for applications: 11th December
  • Selection and notification of finalists: 21st December
  • Pitch day to Croda: 11th January (please hold this date in diaries should you be successful)
Sheena Hindocha

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Sheena Hindocha

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Innovation Exchange

Innovation Exchange

Innovate UK Innovation Exchange is a cross-sector programme supporting innovation transfer by matching industry challenges to innovative companies from other sectors. It does this by putting large businesses with technical needs in contact with companies who have the right innovative solutions, for faster development of novel solutions.


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