In 2018, biologist Margie was looking to leave Portugal for a new job focused on sustainability. After watching a video about Norwich-based start-up Colorifix, she was speechless. She applied to join the team, despite knowing nothing about the place it was based, and got the job. Nearly four years later, the business is thriving – and she can’t get enough of life in her new home, especially the market.
Fixing fashion’s big problem
Typically, fabrics are dyed with petrochemicals that come from fossil fuels. At Colorifix, we’re using a revolutionary biological approach to do the same thing by growing pigment-producing bacteria in a sustainable way, with water and sugar, and using these natural pigments to dye fabrics. There are no chemicals involved, so nothing toxic goes into the environment.
I was employee number nine and now we have nearly 60 people – the growth rate has been amazing. Now my job is analysing anything we produce, like how much sugar our bacteria consume, the pigments, and what we’re applying to the fabrics. And I make sure we’re complying with sustainability standards.
The future’s colourful
We have a significant list of clients, including H&M. We recently received £18.5 million to help us move from an R&D stage to a commercial stage. In the future, we’re going to sell a biotech package, basically like a recipe, including the organisms that we developed and the conditions you need to use. At the end of the process, a company will end up with fabric dyed in the colour they want.
The Norwich Research Park is starting to attract a lot of people in the sciences and different companies, especially with the development of the Quadram Institute, the John Innes Centre, and the Earlham Institute. The park runs events so people can get to know each other, which is great for collaboration and professional relationships.
A warm welcome
I didn’t know much about Norwich before I came. It was being promoted as the happiest city in the UK at the time – coincidentally so was the city I lived in in Portugal. Portuguese people love to eat – we have a strong culinary tradition. And we read Norwich was good for independent food businesses. I was excited about the coast too. And it was still close to London and other big cities.
When we moved here, that first feeling was very positive. I felt like I belonged. Now I know other cities in the UK, I wouldn’t move. I love the vibe and the people. And in terms of history, Norwich is famous for welcoming people from other countries. It’s much more open to differences.