Sectors covered: Technology innovation in footwear and leather
Innovation priority: Smart, high-performance materials
Start: September 2021
ELIIT funding: €70 000
In recent years, there has been a significant increase in public awareness of animal welfare and sustainability goals, especially about the use of traditional leather in textile applications. Aside from animal welfare issues, some of the processes used to make traditional leather, such as chrome tanning, can pose serious threats to human health and the environment.
In this context, vegan materials have become increasingly popular as an alternative to animal-based leather products. Several plastic-based or plant-based vegan materials have been developed. Still, these have several limitations, as plastic-based materials need to be more sustainable and can create environmental concerns.
In addition, the possibilities for manufacturing plant-based materials are often restricted due to the limited amounts of waste that can be used as raw material.
What’s the goal?
The microbial biotechnology SME Darwin and Hijos de Oscar Botella Sempere S.L. (HOSBO), an SME in the textile, clothing, leather and footwear (TCLF) sector, have come together to develop a novel vegan material based on bacterial cellulose.
As part of the VEGANMAT project, we have improved this novel material's physical and mechanical characteristics, obtaining a final version of the product that responds to the needs of the TCLF sector. Furthermore, we have developed a standard unit and protocol for the industrial production and downstream treatment of this material.
Techno-economic and environmental assessments have revealed that the production process is feasible and that the environmental impacts are much lower than those of traditional leather. Finally, we have created 3 minimum viable products (MVPs) using VEGANMAT.
The main challenges during the project were
1. obtaining a bacterial cellulose-based material with an adequate appearance and mechanical properties for the TCLF industry
2. scaling up production to achieve a robust and reliable industrial process
How has ELIIT helped?
The support provided by ELIIT has been key for this project’s development. Firstly, financial aid has enabled us to accelerate the development of the product. Secondly, the support provided by the pool of mentors has encouraged us to work on different areas of the project (i.e., marketing, communication, commercialisation, IP management, and others) and reach key agreements between the partners regarding the future of VEGANMAT.
In the long term, ELIIT support will help Darwin to recoup its investment in developing this technology and to include the TCLF sector in its portfolio of microbial applications. Meanwhile, HOSBO will include a vegan alternative to leather in its catalogue. This will allow it to satisfy the needs of a greater number of clients, as well as increase job opportunities and improve its overall financial performance.
Meet the partners
SME: Hijos de Oscar Botella Sempere S.L.
Technical provider: Darwin Bioprospecting Excellence S.L.