Request for Proposal
Status: RFP is Closed

Triggered Biodegradability of Polymer Coatings

Request Number
Due Date
Jun 1
Program Manager


Licensing, product acquisition, contract research, proof of concept leading to scale-up to manufacturing, joint development, supplier agreement.

Opportunity to participate in a portion of a $2 billion annual market


Phase 1 – Proof of concept in 6-12 months

Phase 2 – Product development in 12-24 months


Phase 1 – Proof of concept funding commensurate with proposed activity

Phase 2 – Funding as necessary, depending on solution

RFP was closed on
Jun 2018

RFP Title


Triggered Biodegradability of Polymer Coatings
RFP Description

NineSigma, on behalf of a global fertilizer manufacturer, invites proposals for technologies to enable triggered biodegradability of polymers.


NineSigma’s client produces time-release fertilizers in which a polymer coating protects active ingredients, during product handling and storage, and then permits controlled release of active ingredients when the product is dispersed on the ground and is exposed to the environment. Release can take place over a few weeks to 12 months. When all the active ingredient is released, there remains a polymer shell. 

Changes in the Regulations in the European Union require that, after 2022, any polymer coatings used on fertilizer must be biodegradable. So, after the polymer performs its functions first as a protectant and then as a time-release control, it must then biodegrade. The draft requirements for biodegradation are a minimum of 90% conversion to CO2 within 24 months.

Anticipated Project Phases or Project Plan

Phase 1 – Proof of concept

  • Lab-scale demonstration

Phase 2 – Product development

  • Product optimization
  • Extensive product testing

Criteria for Moving from Phase 1 to Phase 2

Client will consider for advancement an approach that meets performance criteria with acceptable economics and pathway to commercialization.

Key Success Criteria

The successful technology will:

  • Permit three functions of the polymer:
    • Allow the polymer to be stable for months to years (while polymer coated fertilizer is being transported and in storage)
    • After applying fertilizer to the ground, allow the polymer to persist after exposure to the environment for a period of weeks to months
    • Allow the polymer to begin biodegradation after the desired period of persistence
      • Polymer must biodegrade to ≥ 90% CO2 within 24 months
  • Preferably be suitable for incorporation into polymers or prepolymers while in a liquid state
  • Preferably use bio-based ingredients
  • Be cost effective at commercial scale
    • The client will determine cost-effectiveness for technically-feasible candidates
Possible Approaches

Possible approaches might include, but are not limited to:

  • Triggering biodegradation due to a change in ion concentration, chemical concentration, microbial action or pH change
  • Triggering biodegradation due to mechanical changes as the active ingredient is released
  • A chemical, or biochemical, ‘clock’
Approaches not of Interest

The following approaches are not of interest:

  • Photo-triggered degradation – the coated fertilizer may not be exposed to sunlight after application
  • Simple biodegradable polymers – without a trigger, these start to degrade on contact with soil, leading to rapid and uncontrolled release of the active ingredients
Items to be Submitted

Your response should address the following:

  • Non-confidential description of proposed technology and working principle
  • Availability of technical data including storage stability, biodegradation kinetics and any literature or data indicating the trigger mechanism
  • Technical maturity of the approach (concept, reduced to practice, prototype, ready to implement, commercialized)
  • Potential pathway to commercial scale including timing, estimated budget, and capacity for manufacture
  • Position on intellectual property including patent references
  • Desired relationship with sponsor
  • Team description and related experience


Appropriate responses to this Request

Responses from companies (small to large), consultants, entrepreneurs, or inventors are welcome.  For example:


You represent a company or university that has demonstrated a proof of concept.

You represent a company or university that has reduced method to practice at lab scale.

You represent a company or university that has developed a method for use at pilot scale.

You represent a company or university that has demonstrated a method ready for implementation at industrial scale.

You represent a technology transfer agency that represents an inventor or technology holder who can demonstrate an approach to address the request.

You represent a university research department that has a bench-scale demonstration ready to adapt.

You represent a university research department that has an undeveloped pathway with a high probability of success.

Award Amount
Preferred Collaboration Types
Area of Interest