Arsenal midfielder Mathieu Flamini has been keeping an amazing secret from his friends, family and teammates for the past seven years that could revolutionise the energy industry, according to The Sun.
The 31-year-old, along with a friend, has started a pioneering company that employs around 80 people in the plant of his company GF Biochemicals in Caserta (via Sun).
And around another 400 workers make a living thanks to the former France international and his business partner Pasquale Granata.
Flamini announced earlier this week that GF has became the first company in the world that has the capability to mass produce Levulinic Acid, which can apparently replace oil in all its forms.
The achievement has cost him millions of pounds and has taken years of research, trials and scientific breakthroughs.
“At the start we wanted the name of the company to be Green Futures.
“For seven years I haven’t mentioned it to anyone. When I moved to Milan in 2008 I met Pasquale, who became a close friend and we always had in mind to do something together.
“I was always close to nature and concerned about environmental issues, climate change and global warming.
“He was on the same wavelength. We were looking how we could make a contribution to the problem.
“After a while we found out about Levulinic Acid.
“It’s a molecule identified by the US Department of Energy as one of the 12 molecules with the potential to replace petrol in all its forms.”
Flamini added: “Researchers told us LA is the future and by doing research in that field we could come up with a great discovery and success.
“We financed the research by the Milan Polytechnic,” he said in an interview with The Sun.
“After several months we came up with the technology of how to produce LA on an industrial scale, meaning cheaply and cost-effectively. We patented it.”
But it was not plain sailing from then on. The ex-France international added: “Once you have a process you move from the lab to the plant.
“But you must adapt the technology to the plant and that becomes hard work. We found a plant and equipped it.
“We thought it was going to be like a car — you put the key in and the engine starts. It was not like that.
“We started with trials. Switch on the plant, switch it off all that at big cost, analyse the data, what’s working, what’s not, adapt, improve or change.
“It was constant evolution for years.
“Today we have several patents on LA. They give a real advantage.
“We are the first company — and the only one in the world — to produce LA on an industrial scale.
“We started production this summer. It comes from wood waste or corn waste etc.”
He added: “Yes, I invested a lot of money in this. It was a big risk. But to be successful you take risks. It was a challenge.
“We employ around 80 people in the plant and we give work in total to about 400 people. Which at a time of crisis in Italy makes me even prouder.
“There is the plant in Caserta in Italy, we have a lab there, an office in Milan with another in Holland, and we’re planning to open an office in the US soon.”
Proudly, he continued: “We have researchers, chemists and other scientists, from France, Italy, Russia, Holland, Germany and Egypt.
“And we work closely with the famous University of Pisa — one of the most prestigious universities in Italy.
“The head of the chemistry department is one of Italy’s top scientists in LA research. She is Professor Anna Maria Raspoli Galletti and we are so grateful to her.
“We are pioneers. We are opening a new market. And it’s a market potentially worth £20bn.
“Many people tried and failed to find a way to produce LA on a break-even basis.
“Obviously, when you start something like that and you spend so much money, and where there is risk there is stress.
“To me, it was an escape. A football career is made of ups and downs.
“It cleared my mind and helped me to think about something different. And it was something intellectually challenging too.”
Flamini laughed: “Pasquale and I still ask — why us? So many people have tried and failed before so why did we succeed?
“But it’s about believing. I read up on chemistry. I am not a chemist, I started my law studies at Marseille University until I had to give up because of my football career.
“But I know a lot about LA and the process of course.”
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