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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

Hide Biotech

5 May 2021 – Hide Biotech develops sustainable and high-quality biomaterials for the fashion industry and provides a technology platform for creating highly customisable materials for other sectors. Last year, their co-founder and CEO, Yudi Ding, joined our Innovators for sustainable fashion Accelerator. In this interview, Yudi tells us more about Hide’s collagen-based leather alternative and shares his best advice for aspiring sustainability start-ups.

Give us the elevator pitch for Hide Biotech.

Hide Biotech Ltd is building a sustainable biomaterial from extracted marine collagen. As leather is 90% collagen, this material replicates the authentic feel of leather and significantly reduce water consumption, carbon footprint, land use and waste generated in the manufacturing process. We also achieve 100% traceability of our supply chain.

How does your business stand out in the fashion industry?

Compared to plant-based alternatives, we use the same protein – collagen – to build our material as we understand some of the amazing properties of real leather come from this protein. Plant fibres are fundamentally different from collagen and we (and our partners) believe that collagen is a much more robust building block to work on. Compared to collagen-based innovators, our approach is in orders of magnitude more scalable and cost-effective thanks to extraction technology. This would make us very competitive in terms of unit economics. I believe we have taken a much more pragmatic approach in our value proposition to fast-track our material development.

Tell us the top lessons you learned on CISL’s Accelerator.

The programme covered a lot of useful topics. One of our key insights was understanding that the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are really a blueprint to help us refine our sustainability-led value proposition. This helped us to better articulate the social and environmental impact of the business. Besides, understanding the client’s need and engaging with them early on can help bring clarity in the R&D process. 

What’s your ideal outcome for Hide Biotech?

Our vision is to become the go-to brand for anyone who wants to use sustainable leather-like materials. At our current phase, we continue to focus on R&D and sample development. We are also engaging with our partners and industry experts to help accelerate the go-to-market process. If the testing results come out positive and we can achieve the desired finishing, we plan to start a pre-commercialisation trial with our selected fashion partners by mid-2022.

What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful sustainability business?

Based on our client interviews and engagement, I would say that sustainability businesses need to clearly define which metrics and targets they can achieve – and how to measure the success. A thorough understanding of the supply chain and the environmental impact associated with it is also essential. Finally, material quality is something that new start-up businesses should not compromise on!

If you hadn’t started Hide Biotech, what would you be doing?

I have been contacted by one of the major competitors to see if I have any interest to join their company. If I hadn’t started Hide Biotech, perhaps I would have been intrigued to explore that offer!

To find out more about how we can help your organisation scale up in a way that positively impacts society and the environment, head here.


About the author

Yudi Ding

Yudi Ding is co-founder and CTO of Hide Biotech. He received his BA (Hons) in Natural Sciences from Fudan University (Shanghai) in 2014. Selected by the French Embassy in China, he was a France Excellence Scholar and obtained his MA in Chemical Engineering at l’École Polytechnique in Paris. Yudi received his PhD under the supervision of Prof. Chris Hunter FRS at the Department of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge during which he developed a nano-machinery method for an artificial cell signalling system and co-authored four research articles. Before completing his PhD, he worked for Johnson & Johnson in manufacturing management and in the advanced research unit at L’Oréal.


Guest articles on the blog do not necessarily represent the views of, or endorsement by, the Institute or the wider University of Cambridge.


Zoe Kalus, Head of Media  

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