Commercial Innovation Unit

Providing unique expertise for the evaluation of the uses of plants and fungi as well as the authentication of botanical and fungal extracts used commercially.

Hand holding eucalyptus leaves next to pestle and mortar

The Commercial Innovation Unit (CIU) is a dedicated unit of scientists using their expertise to explore the uses and chemistry of plants and fungi for their commercial potential as well as the identification of plants in commercial products.

We work with worldwide research institutes, industries and regulators to scientifically authenticate and identify the quality of plant and fungal material entering the trade.  

What we do

Research & Development (R&D)

Research into new and traditional use of plants and fungi and their chemical ingredients.

  • New leads: antibacterial (health and preservatives), anti-cancer, uses in cosmetics, fragrances, functional and novel foods, food supplements, drinks, dyes and pest control  
  • Chemophenetics: sustainable sourcing of compounds in nature; finding sources of known compounds of plants and fungi; use of novel methods to identify related and potentially more active compounds
  • Bespoke reports: specific uses of plants and fungi;  information to support block chain and sustainable supply chains

Authentication

Identification and Authentication of plant-derived materials used in the trade and for research

  • Extracts and whole plants used in herbal products, dyes, cosmetics, pot pourri, timbers and food supplements by morphological, chemical and DNA bar coding techniques 
  • Authentication Tick Mark
  • Forensic enquiries (Identification of herbs in drug-herb interaction) - Coroners, general hospital cases, animal poisoning, adulterated food and technical enquiries

Innovation

Identification of plants and fungi with potential uses and product development

  • Development of new products (NPD): Herbal Essences, naturally by Kew, Botanics, Taylor’s tea, Rosemary Water. Identification of plants to end products including sustainable sourcing
  • Evaluate sustainable supply chains: medicinal plants, including plants and fungi used in traditional medical systems such as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic Medicine. 
  • Method development: new sources of plants and compounds for product development

Resources available 

Our research utilises a range of analytical instruments including high and low-resolution LC-MS (Thermo, Velos Pro & Orbitrap Fusion), GC-MS, HPLC (semi-preparative and analytical), IR and NMR (400 MHz, Bruker). Including computational metabolomics tools (i.e. molecular networking to support the identification of target compounds.

Clients and partners of the CIU have access to the world renowned plant and fungal collections at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, specialist expertise in natural product as well as expert knowledge on the distribution of plants, their systematic relationships, their conservation status and sustainable supply. 

Our collection includes access to:

  • The incredibly diverse Living Collection, which has more than 50,000 specimens  
  • The Herbarium, which holds more than 8 million vouchers of plants and fungi (of which 1.3 million fungi are held in the Fungarium)  
  • The 2.4 billion seeds held at Millennium Seed Bank 

We work in line with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), particularly in relation to the Nagoya Protocol and Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Who we are

Director of Commercial Innovation Unit

Professor Monique Simmonds OBE

Natural Product Chemists

Esther Grosskopf
Dr Federico Padilla
Dr Nicholas Sadgrove
Dr Rui Fang

Interns

Abigail Rosselli
Alison Green
Piya Rajendra

Project Managers

Anabel Evans
Elizabeth Howard
 

Get in touch

We can work with you to develop innovative and high-quality plant/fungal-based products.

Contact us to discuss your needs and requirements: ciu@kew.org

  • People in a lab

    Small Molecule Analysis Laboratory

    This laboratory is equipped to analyse and identify the secondary metabolites produced by plants and fungi.

  • Global partnerships and collaborations

    Partnering with us helps companies and organisations deliver science-based plant conservation worldwide.