Xylene, a startup based in Reutlingen, Germany, has been named winner of the 2019 Galileo Copernicus Synergy Challenge of the Galileo Masters – a story of resilience, flexibility and optimism.
Xylene was conceptualised as a supply chain traceability system, which allows importers and producers to trace their products from the source to the consumer with the help of immutable records through the blockchain. As an initial case market had to be found, the timber industry was identified as a major beneficiary of such a solution. It is often unknown that today around 30% of traded timber is still from illegal sources. Many cases are detected of tropical timber being found in charcoal sold in supermarkets. Lastly, consumer awareness, fuelled by demographic changes seen through demonstrations such as Fridays for Future, adverse climate events such as a rise in temperatures, and unsustainable and illegal activities of high-profile companies such as Volkswagen, has made purchasing decisions increasingly sensitive to products with a proven sustainable and especially legal origin. This includes characteristics such as conflict-free, sustainable and ethically sourced products with a low carbon footprint.
The Xylene team began gathering partners that can support the achievement of such a solution. While they found a first proof-of-concept partner with whom they started a collaboration in Paraguay to understand the timber purchasing dynamics and see operative facilities, they also managed to gain an understanding of what technologies apart from blockchain can significantly benefit the system. For this, Giuseppe’s experience in the aerospace industry was pivotal. In order to trace products with the help of blockchain, authenticity had to be guaranteed.
Connecting to Space to create Value
Xylene’s approach matured to incorporate Galileo for geo-location for following the products along their journey. Galileo is capable of much greater accuracy compared to GPS, as well as combining this with Copernicus Earth observation to validate locations and cross-check the output from a specific region. Through this space connection, Xylene was able to enter the European Space Agency (ESA) network and be supported through the ESA Business Incubation Centre (BIC) of Hessen & Baden-Württemberg and relocate to Reutlingen.
Many benefits arose through connecting space technology and blockchain. Navigating products through complex supply chains can be a challenge. That’s why Xylene makes it easier to gain insight into required supplier documentation for establishing businesses and documenting deliveries for process audits, along with allowing easier compliance report generation and submission to governmental agencies and auditing institutions.
How can customers be convinced of responsible products? By visualising the supply chain, Xylene enhances the internal understanding of provenance and delivery status, while gaining insight into potentially critical risks. Communicating this story directly with customers and consumers will create added value and a competitive advantage.
Putting an end to businesses being compared to rogue companies with irresponsible sourcing, Xylene allows companies to set themselves apart and provide trustworthy information capable of proving due diligence efforts.
Xylene is helping Consumers
Xylene was beginning to take shape. Firstly, this innovative approach maps the supply chain to gain an overview of where suppliers are located and where material is sourced from and allows for decisions based on risk assessment. Secondly, physical products are labelled and tracked along the supply chain from the source to the consumer. Information is connected to the product. It is passed between stakeholders using blockchain and its authenticity is validated through satellite data and Internet-of-Things (IoT)-devices. Finally, being able to connect the journey of a product to the point of sale gives added value to the final product. The consumer will also be able to connect with the origin of the product, support sustainable projects, balance their carbon footprint and/or recycle the raw materials present in their product at the end of its life.
With these benefits, Xylene began working on case studies with companies in the timber industry. It was not before long that it became apparent that other industries with similar legal frameworks, certifications and standards were in the need of enhanced transparency. Xylene evolved towards transparent supply chains for regulated raw materials. This includes timber but also mined minerals for battery, electronics and jewellery production, as well as food and chemicals.
Using Galileo and Copernicus in particular, Xylene brings a new technology to this field that enables visibility in an unprecedented way. It was a great honour for the team to receive the 2019 Galileo Masters award for the Galileo Copernicus Synergy Challenge at the EU Space Week in Helsinki, Finland.
This started a journey. After receiving the award, the team was admitted into the Copernicus Accelerator and Galileo Incubation (formerly E-GNSS Accelerator) for 2020, receiving a high level of support and mentoring to further develop the application of these two space technologies within the system.
Building on this, Xylene has the vision to create a transparency solution that allows companies to ensure responsible sourcing across several industries working with regulated raw materials and allowing consumers to engage with their products. At the beginning of 2020, Xylene signed the first contract with a paying customer in the coffee industry tracing beans from Eastern Africa to Germany and allowing consumers to gain insight into the journey and sustainability of the product. Xylene is planning to complete additional customised pilot projects to create a standardised system that can be scaled to applicable industries. Hence, the team is currently selecting further partners and prospective customers suitable to join the group of early adopters.
The team consists of two founders who have complementing backgrounds. Christopher has a background in business administration and a master’s degree in supply chain management. His experience includes consulting and supply chain positions in industry. With his experience, he leads the business development and further brings his knowledge to product development.
Giuseppe has a double master’s in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering. He has managed multiple software design projects at multinational organisations in aerospace and the automotive industry. His knowledge defines the path of Xylene’s product development.
The most recent addition to the team is Florian Model. He studied design in Germany and Scotland. His in-depth professional experience in user-experience, interface design and system architecture complement the team to further accurately fine-tune and accelerate the development of Xylene.
Together they have explored the possibilities and challenges in timber, gemstones, coffee and conflict minerals for the past year and bring together the skill set needed for developing a functioning business.
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