Centre for Enzyme Innovation partners with Atlantic rowing team to revolutionise plastic use

The University of Portsmouth’s Centre for Enzyme Innovation (CEI) is partnering with team ‘In Our Element’ who are undertaking The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge to row across the Atlantic.

The Centre aims to raise awareness and funds for its pioneering research programme which could revolutionise plastic use and help reduce the scourge of ocean plastic pollution.

A presentation marking the launch of the rowing team’s fundraising and partnership with the University took place on Wednesday 15 September at the Southampton International Boat Show.

The ‘In Our Element’ team comprises Hollie Luff, Mike Hatch, Elliot Holman and Rachel Lasham, all long-time friends and colleagues at Premier Marinas. They spoke to an audience about their motivation to tackle the world’s toughest rowing challenge and also explained their journey to the 2022 start line, from fundraising to training.

Professor John McGeehan at work in his lab

Our team at the Centre for Enzyme Innovation are also taking our inspiration from the power of Nature, where biology has evolved incredible systems that ensure natural materials are recycled and nothing is wasted.

Platinum sponsors and lead supporters Premier Marinas hosted the event with The CEI’s Director Professor John McGeehan presenting details of his research group’s impressive work to deliver transformative enzyme-enabled solutions for the recycling of plastics and to help solve the global challenge of plastic ocean pollution.

“We are very proud to partner with the ‘In Our Element’ team who are undertaking The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge – an inspirational endeavour where the crew will face the full force and beauty of Nature in the open seas, while raising awareness of the damage that plastic pollution is inflicting on our environment.

“Our team at the Centre for Enzyme Innovation at the University of Portsmouth are also taking our inspiration from the power of Nature, where biology has evolved incredible systems that ensure natural materials are recycled and nothing is wasted. We are developing enzymes that can break down man-made plastic materials, returning them back to their original building blocks and providing the potential for infinite plastics recycling. I wish the crew every success and I am extremely grateful to all those who give their support to the ‘In Our Element’ team and our ongoing research in plastic-digesting enzymes.”

Skipper Hollie Luff said: “We are thrilled to be partnering with The University of Portsmouth and extending this personal challenge to support a much larger cause. David Attenborough and his documentary film ‘A Life On Our Planet’ emphasised the seriousness of plastic pollution in our oceans and it has inspired the entire team. It’s a daunting physical challenge but we are determined and feel incredibly energised knowing we are raising awareness and funds for innovative research which could provide a major breakthrough in this area.”

Pete Bradshaw, CEO at Premier Marinas, said: “We’re delighted to be the principal sponsor for team ‘In Our Element’. Given the team are all colleagues their challenge is extremely personal for the whole Company and we’re excited to follow their progress over the next year. Premier is already a leader in many aspects of environmentally sensitive marina management. Helping play a part to support the innovative work being undertaken at The University of Portsmouth is also incredibly rewarding.”

The ‘In Our Element’ team’s challenge will start in early December 2022 from San Sebastian in La Gomera, Canary Islands, with the intrepid team of four rowing a distance of 3,000 miles to English Harbour, Antigua in an estimated 45 to 50 days.

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