Biotech start-up Huue has secured $14.6m in funding to launch what it claims is the world’s first clean and scalable indigo dye.

The Series A funding was led by Material Impact with participation from HSBC Asset Management’s Climate Tech VC and all existing investors – SOSV, iGlobe and Nobel prize winner and CRISPR Technology inventor Jennifer Doudna and Professor Jamie Cate.

Corinna Chen, partner at Material Impact, will join Huue’s board of directors. Huue’s recent financing will be used to accelerate the commercial scale-up and product offering of the company’s sustainable indigo dye for fashion industry partners seeking a sustainable alternative for denim, and other potential applications in food and cosmetics. It bring total funding to $17.6mm to date.

“The world can’t wait for sustainable solutions, and consumers are starting to hold their favourite brands accountable for using eco-friendly materials in their products,” said Michelle Zhu, CEO of Huue. “At Huue, we’ve developed a way to tap into biology’s artistry to create clean colour solutions – without the environmental impact and harmful chemicals.”

Huue’s new funding comes at a moment when demand for sustainability in the fashion industry is at an all-time high. While many brands seek to deliver more environmentally-friendly fibres and fabrics, there have always been challenges in how to sustainably produce dyes. Textile dyeing is the second-largest polluter of water globally, and for the last century, dyes have been made from petroleum and with harsh chemicals like cyanide and formaldehyde in the case of indigo.

Using a proprietary bio-based process, Huue produces indigo that’s just as effective for denim as conventional solutions — without the environmental impact and harmful chemicals. Huue’s enzymatically produced dye mimics how colours are produced in nature, and is the only bio-based technology that is sustainable while also slotting into the existing denim manufacturing process as a one-to-one solution.

Huue’s first focus is the indigo for denim, the most common apparel item in the world, but the potential of Huue’s technology and dye solutions extend beyond indigo and the fashion industry – with potential future applications for food & beverage, and personal care companies.

“At Material Impact, we seek out deep tech innovation that has the capacity to solve meaningful world problems,” added Corinna Chen, partner at Material Impact. “Huue’s breakthrough approach to bio-based dye manufacturing is a true gamechanger for industries under mounting pressure to minimize their environmental footprint.”

Last year, Huue partnered with Ginkgo Bioworks to develop a new cell programme.