White Space Analysis 2021 The Next-gen Materials Industry


The Material Innovation Initiative (MII) introduced and analysed the emerging next-gen material industry in their State of the Industry Report (June 2021). With that expertise, MII goes deeper in this report to identify the white space opportunities in next-gen materials for companies, scientists, and investors. The Mills Fabrica, an investor and ecosystem builder in sustainable food and fashion, brings its learnings and insights as an early mover in these white spaces.

Our goal is to show this nascent industry underserved technological efforts that will make a big impact, these white spaces do not focus on a single product or market, but instead highlight opportunities that will produce a ripple effect across the entire next-gen materials industry and beyond.

Sydney Gladman, Ph.D.
Chief Science Officer, MII

We are delighted to join hands with The Material Innovation Initiative to discuss the untapped potential of the next-gen materials. As consumers’ awareness of sustainability continues to increase, it’s the right time to keep the traction by introducing these material innovations to the wider community.

Angus Tsang
Research and Investment, The Mills Fabrica

Stephanie (Co-founder of MII) and I have seen this sort of industry-wide change happen before, and today’s materials industry looks very familiar to us.

Nicole Rawling
Key Insights

For this analysis, MII and The Mills Fabrica define white spaces as areas with significant opportunities for focused R&D and the creation of new technologies and companies to fulfil unmet needs across the next-gen ecosystem.

The most significant white spaces are in materials other than leather. Approximately two-thirds of current players are producing next-gen leather. This leaves silk, wool, down, fur, and exotic skins with limited innovation efforts so far, providing many profitable opportunities, especially in fur and silk.

Other white spaces identified include:

  • Sustainable feedstock and additives (White Spaces 2,3,4)

  • Versatile end-of-life strategies (White Space 5)

  • Implementing bottom-up materials design in R&D (White Space 6)

  • Hot spots in biotech process challenges (White Space 7)


According to the United Nations, industrial animal farming is a leading cause of many of the most pressing problems of our time. These include climate change, biodiversity loss, environmental degradation, air and water pollution, excessive waste, public health risks, and animal cruelty. Given that at least two-thirds of a brand’s sustainability impact can be tied to its choice of raw materials, brands will need alternatives to current animal materials to meet sustainability goals.

This white space report provides a roadmap for innovators and investors – as well as brands, startups, scientists, and engineers – looking to do well by doing good. If you’re interested to learn more, click the button below to download the full report.