Arsenal midfielder Mathieu Flamini has revealed he is behind a trailblazing company that could revolutionise the £20billion energy industry.
Flamini, 31, has been developing his company GF Biochemicals for several years and already employs around 80 people at a plant in Caserta, Italy - in total around 400 people make a living from his and partner Pasquale Granata's project.
The French midfielder has this week announced that his firm, after millions spent and years of research, can mass produce Levulinic Acid, a replacement for oil.
The acid could potentially be used as a bio fuel or to make pharmaceuticals, plastics, cosmetics and even food preservatives.
Flamini has funded the project since 2008, but has kept it quiet until now.
"GF stands for Granata-Flamini," he told the Sun on Sunday. "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.”
“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.
“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.”
Flamini continued: “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.
“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: “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, who has played just five matches for Arsenal this season, said he continued to doubt after pouring in millions of his personal fortune.
“I was not thinking about losing millions," he added.
“When I started I knew it would happen but of course there are times when you doubt.
“Not even my family knew anything about it. My parents did not know about it until about a year ago. First, they were worried, but now they are proud.
“My Milan team-mates probably found out in our launch this week and my Arsenal teammates will probably find out reading this.I don’t think Arsene Wenger knows, I never spoke to him about it.
“I wanted it to be all in place first, up and running and announce it when I was ready. We’ve come here after seven years of work. We achieved something that has never been done before.
“Of that I am the most proud.”
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