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BGF’s Pioneers of Progress: Accsys Technologies

Innovative material engineering is behind Accsys’s sustainable and high-performance wood replica

Location: London

BGF investment: £12.9m

In a Kentucky theme park sits a replica of Noah’s Ark that – measuring over ten storeys high – holds the record of being the largest free-standing wooden building in the world.

The secret behind the construction of this marvel of material engineering is a chemical process called acetylation. Paul Clegg is CEO of Accsys, the company responsible for the wood used in the replica; he describes the process as “a way to modify the wood to make it impervious to the negative effects of water. Therefore it will not shrink, swell or rot when it gets wet.”

Reinventing a classic

Accsys uses the process to produce a high-performance solid wood called Accoya®, and wood chips called Tricoya® which are used in the manufacture of wood-based panels such as MDF. Both products are used for civil engineering, decking, windows, doors and as we’ve seen in Kentucky, for much more ambitious projects.

“We own all of our own IP and we are the only company in the world using this process on a commercial scale for solid wood,” says Paul. This valuable innovation has helped the business to grow a global customer base, selling both directly and indirectly to thousands of companies around the world.

“The majority of our sales are to the construction industry for the use of our products as building materials for windows, doors, decking and cladding as well as for civil engineering projects such as bridges. But, from time to time, we work with architects who make iconic, fantastic projects using our modified wood and Noah’s Ark is just one example.”

Building a sustainable future

These structures are as sustainable as they are startling. Accoya® is the only building material that has been awarded Cradle to CradleTM (C2C) overall Gold Standard certification, and Platinum Standard certification for material health – the highest score made available by C2C and Google’s Healthy Materials Program tool, Portico. It received the accolade after demonstrating it contains zero chemicals that could be dangerous to the environment and human health.

“The world is grappling with how it decreases its dependence on fossil- based materials that are bad for
the environment, for example PVC windows and compact laminates,” he says. “At Accsys we offer a product that doesn’t just outperform but outlasts man-made materials – and does so in a non-harmful way.”

A chip off the old block

BGF’s financial investment was crucial in the formation of the Tricoya® Consortium, bringing the second of Accsys’ trademark products to life, he says: “In the same way that MDF is created using wood chips, we’ve developed Tricoya® acetylated wood chips, so our licensees and partners can make an acetylated version of MDF. Panels made with Tricoya® have the same water and rot-resistant properties as Accoya® creating a more flexible and useful MDF equivalent. We were able to start building the world’s first Tricoya® wood chip acetylation plant in Hull thanks to BGF’s backing.”

Accsys was one of BGF’s first publicly quoted company investments and Paul says the team has proven to be a great partner. “Their expert knowledge and understanding of risk has been invaluable.”

“People buy our product because it is a high-performance material that does its job brilliantly, but we can see a change coming and as attitudes towards sustainability evolve we’re in a strong position to provide choice in an industry where traditionally there has been very little.”

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