Carlo Centonze

CEO Founder of HeiQ - The Future Of The Textile Industry
Summary

Carlo Centonze is an entrepreneur, textile specialist and CEO of HeiQ, a Swiss-based textile innovator company which was listed on the London Stock Exchange Main Market on December 7 2020. A serial entrepreneur and textile specialist, Carlo went on to co-found the textile innovator company HeiQ along with Dr Murray Height. Since 2004, he has served HeiQ as CEO, developing the firm from a two-employee company to 80+ employees, worldwide reach and a focus on sustainability and innovation.
 

Biography

Carlo Centonze is an entrepreneur, textile specialist and CEO of HeiQ, a Swiss-based textile innovator company.

Carlo studied Biology and Forest Engineering at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology ETH Zurich where he graduated in 2003. Shortly after that, he earned his Executive MBA at the University of St.Gallen in 2007.

After his service as an army pilot, he started his professional career founding Myclimate where he took the role of Head of Marketing between 2002 and 2003. After that first contact with environmental and sustainable organizations, he went on to co-found the ETH Spin-off textile innovator company HeiQ together with Dr Murray Height. As such, since 2004, he has served HeiQ as CEO, developing the firm from a two-employee company to a 100+ employee company as of today with seven offices around the globe.

Carlo was recently interviewed by Natascha Tummeley, from the digital Switzerland magazine where he explained the reasons why he decided to start HeiQ. He said: 

“In the summer of 2004, my friend Murray Height and I went hiking with our then girlfriends in the Swiss mountains. After wearing them for five days the same Polyester T-Shirt our girlfriends kindly requested the ‘gentlemen’ to keep a walking distance of at least 100 meters ahead. We had a musty by-note indeed! That’s when we realized that there was an unsolved problem in the market for producing synthetic textiles that don’t develop malodours when wearing them for a long time. Having experienced this problem first-hand and being two engineers, we quickly came up with a solution by creating a new material and technology that enabled us to functionalize synthetic textiles to stay hygienic and odourless for days when worn! This technology laid the foundation for our company and the success we have today.”

Alongside his role as HeiQ’s CEO, Carlo Centonze has also been proactive with similar projects. He became the board of directors of C8 Investments Ltd. for 3 years between 2012 and 2015.  And more recently, in 2019, he has taken an active role as a Member of the Board of Directors of science industries, a Swiss-based business association of chemistry and pharma life sciences as well as Chairman of The Board of ECSA Emanuele Centonze SA, the largest Swiss-owned company specialized in the distribution of chemicals.

 


Vision

Here are the main takeaways from Carlo Centonze’s interview with Dinis Guarda:

Carlo Centonze’s background 

"I come from an Italian and Swiss background and I have tried to learn the best of both worlds. My family has a heritage in entrepreneurship, although when I was younger I wanted to become a scientist I was too impatient to become one so I decided to move into what my family was best at entrepreneurship. I was very interested in sustainability and climate change, and I have always been. And my first endeavour was about climate change.

A few years later, Murray Height, an MIT graduate and PhD, and I was on a hike. Our then girlfriends sent us a hundred meters ahead because we had very smelly polyester T-shirts. So we thought to ourselves, surely we could use science to solve this problem and improve products that touch the lives of every human being. We talked about the idea of funding a company that uses the best technological developments in one of the most challenging industries, textiles, intertwining the best of technology and sustainability. And so HeiQ was born.

The textile industry is one of the biggest in the world but also one of the worst in terms of pollution, so when we created HeiQ we were after finding and researching innovative materials that were conscious of the ecosystem too. We had the chance to create HeiQ from scratch, our focus was entirely on a scientific approach, which is why it is so important for us to have the right talent. As of now, we have a few dozen PhDs working with us. To bring innovation, we knew we had to be flexible, so that is why we set up the company in a way that would allow us to be as agile as possible. We also created an innovations division, which is critical in our business and a platform where to share information and findings to be able to find the right solutions."

About HeiQ’s solutions. 

"One of our first approaches was to develop textile effects that use very little use of active ingredients and have a long life. We were really conscious of waste and sustainability and many of our solutions are based on these two concepts. From that, we have been strongly focused on developing bio-friendly materials."

“Regarding COVID-19, we have created a bio-based solution, a material that is resilient to viruses like SARS-Cov-2 and other coronavirus and with this material we are now building facemasks and other products. HeiQ Viroblock NPJ03 is an intelligent Swiss textile technology that is added to the fabric during the final stage of the textile manufacturing process. HeiQ Viroblock NPJ03 has been tested according to ISO 18184 as a strong antiviral and ISO 20743 as a strong antibacterial against enveloped viruses and bacteria. It is estimated to have been applied to at least one billion face masks during the current global pandemic. With this innovation, HeiQ won the Swiss Technology Award, crowned an Innovation Leader. HeiQ is the only company that has ever won this award more than once. The first time was in 2010 with Oilguard, a solution aimed at cleaning up oil from the ocean, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster and mitigating the negative impact on marine lives.”

“Another example can be found a few years ago when we were approached by Ikea. They wanted to improve the quality of the air in their customers’ homes. We then developed a textile solution that was able to improve the quality of air indoors. HeiQ Fresh is a comprehensive family of sustainable and highly effective odour control and VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) management technologies that can be tailored for the intended performance and the article’s end use. In 2019, we added a revolutionary air purifying functionality to the HeiQ Fresh range, called HeiQ Fresh AIR to help reduce indoor air pollutants such as the Volatile Organic compounds (VOCs) acetaldehyde, formaldehyde and nitrogen oxide.”

“Another technology we have developed is HeiQ Real Silk, our treatment reproduces the luxurious touch effects of silk: soft, dry, cool and comfortable. It uses real silk fibres secured to the surface of each textile fibre. It is ideal for any apparel and endows any fabric with a touch of luxury and added value. HeiQ Real Silk is ideal for the fashion world and brings a touch of luxury to everyone by enhancing otherwise “common” fabrics (e.g. polyester or cotton) with the characteristics and luxurious feel of silk.”

“At HeiQ we love to share, to help others. The way we approach companies, and other partners always start the same, we share our knowledge and explain the technology behind our solutions and how they can help solve specific problems. I think that if we all are more open to sharing we will build trust and we can solve problems better.”

HeiQ’s IPO

“It is a big step for HeiQ to go public and be listed in London. It is a big challenge for us but it is also an opportunity to broaden our reach worldwide and grow at a faster pace. We believe that through this IPO we will be able to grow our network and solve problems at a faster pace. At last, what we want is to have a bigger impact, which is very important. For example, our air purifying solution can have a big environmental impact as it can turn the curtain into an air purifier and break down 80% of indoor air pollutants, and going public can help us scale and deploy our solutions at a global scale.”


Recognition and Awards
CEO and Co-founder of HeiQ - EY Prestigious Entrepreneur of the year 2021

References
Carlo Centonze
Occupation
CEO Founder of HeiQ - The Future Of The Textile Industry
Social Media
Sat Mar 02 2024
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