Olikrom, a new player in the fight against counterfeiting

This startup produces intelligent pigments that change color when subjected to particular thermal or physical conditions. A technology aimed to detecting including counterfeit products. Manufacturers of goods likely to be copied may be interested in this technology from CNRS research.

The startup Olikrom has just inaugurated a factory near Pessac (33). © Olikrom

The startup Olikrom has just inaugurated a factory near Pessac (33). © Olikrom

With the development of e-commerce, counterfeiting is exploding. For example, in 2017, more than 3 million medicines and health products were seized by Customs. 75% came from orders placed on the Internet. If counterfeiting takes a toll on the pharmaceutical industry, it affects other sectors, starting with the luxury sector, but also food, construction and so on. This phenomenon is also accentuated with the democratization of 3D printers. Thanks to these printing machines, any object can be reproduced identically. The naked eye will no longer be enough to detect counterfeiting.

Innovation from the CNRS
Hence the interest of the smart pigments concocted by Olikrom. This startup, which counts fourteen people including eight in R&D, was created in 2014 by its president Jean-François Létard, formerly research director at the Institute of Condensed Matter Chemistry in Bordeaux, which is part of the CNRS. This is where the research began on smart pigments able to raise the alert by changing color when subjected to different parameters such as shock, temperature rise or drop, the presence of certain gases, etc.

Opening of the first production site
Industrialists can then secure their products by integrating these pigments of organic or inorganic origin into the material. All sectors are likely to be interested in this innovation, which has moved to the industrial production stage. Olikrom has just opened next to Pessac (33) its first production unit, with a capacity of hundred of kilos for the production of special inks and more than one ton for paints. “To finance our developments, we have just raised 4.5 million euros from Starquest, Bpifrance and the New Aquitaine region,” said the president of Olikrom.

Pigments dedicated to road safety
Among the sixty or so customers of the startup, not everyone is mobilized on counterfeiting issues. Safran or Airbus use these pigments to secure the aging of their devices structures. For its part, Eiffage has just inaugurated two kilometers of luminescent cycle track. The paint used is currently being evaluated. If the results are positive, especially in terms of friction resistance, it will help reduce road risks by indicating dangerous spots on roads without lighting.