European Commission Invests €2.5 Million in Ukrainian Startup Releaf Paper

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Official Results of EIC Accelerator 2022 Program Announced by European Commission – Supporting Startups and Innovative SMEs for Economic Growth

The winner of this year’s program is Releaf Paper, a greentech startup founded in 2021 by Ukrainian innovators: biotechnologist Valentin Frechka (21 years) and businessman Oleksandr Sobolenko (37 years).

Releaf Papera founders Oleksandr Sobolenko and Valentyn Frechka
Releaf Papera founders Oleksandr Sobolenko and Valentyn Frechka

The team submitted to the commission a project of a pilot production line of cellulose from the fibers of fallen leaves, which will produce raw materials using a unique technology developed and patented by the company.

The total cost of the submitted project is €3.5 million, of which the European Commission will finance €2.5 million in the form of a grant. In addition, the total amount of funding may exceed €10 million, as the European Commission fund has also agreed to invest in further scaling the project.

According to the approved development plan, Releaf Paper will use investment funds to establish two more production lines in different countries within the next five years.

The technology developed by Frechka allows the processing of leaves and other green waste into cellulose, which is the basis for creating paper and some types of packaging. This material is a direct replacement for primary cellulose, which is obtained from wood, but at the same time it has several advantages.

Releaf paper
Releaf paper transformation

First, leaf paper is fully recyclable and has a biodegradation period of only 60 days. Secondly, carbon dioxide emissions when using such raw materials are 78% lower. And third, Releaf Paper contributes to forest conservation by saving 17 trees for every ton of its paper produced.

The startup launched test production in Ukraine in 2021, using the services of other factories. In September of the same year, pilot sales of several Releaf products began: wrapping paper and paper bags.

Among the very first clients of the startup are L’Oreal, Samsung, Weleda, Schneider Electric. In the second half of 2022, the company began exporting its products to EU countries, despite the logistical and financial difficulties caused by the full-scale Russian invasion. However, Releaf Paper was in dire need of its own production.

Each year thousands of startups and representatives of small and medium-sized businesses from all EU countries apply for funding from the EIC Accelerator. Statistically, about 1-1.5% achieve success.

In addition to the Releaf team, consultants from CIVITTA, a leading management consulting company in Central and Eastern Europe with headquarters in Estonia, also joined the project team. This became an important success factor.

The selection process lasted over 7 months and included 2 rounds of validation and a final interview with five experts representing Western European VCs. As a result, Releaf Paper beat out more than 6,500 competing companies and received the coveted funding.

We can finally start building our own pilot production line.

comments startup co-founder Oleksandr Sobolenko.

The first grant part of the project will start in April 2023 and is designed for 2 years. Currently, the founders are choosing a location for future production and are starting to expand the team. The next two production lines, in which investments from the European Commission will amount to at least €8 million, will probably be located in Germany and Poland. However, Sobolenko and Frechka will decide after creating their first production.

We are closer than ever to the goal of starting a series of our own production line of the new generation, where the paper of the future, Releaf paper, will be created.

When at the end of this year everyone is talking about reducing carbon footprint, deforestation and stopping environmental catastrophe, we are taking real steps to revolutionize the paper industry.

says Valentyn Frechka