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Portuguese project turns industrial waste into innovative products

  • 31 August 2020

Established in northern Portugal, the Fibrenamics Green platform supports initiatives which use digital technologies to develop new ways of recovering industrial waste and creating innovative products from it. To this end, it has promoted the growth of a network based on the sharing of knowledge between some 100 universities and companies working in various fields.

The Fibrenamics Green network involves more than 100 research and business entities connected by the motto 'from waste to market through knowledge'. At the root of this network was the creation of partnerships to establish the different value chains associated with the developed products, from the production of waste to its marketing, transformation and processing. This ecosystem created a perfect blend of engineering and design.

Raúl Fangueiro, Professor and Senior Researcher, Waste Recovery Centre, University of Minho

Fibrenamics Green began by showcasing innovative technologies to prospective partners. It developed models to demonstrate the recovery of fibrous residues from textiles and footwear, mineral residues from mining, plastic waste from the automotive and footwear sectors, and wood waste from furniture.

The platform then assembled a group of design professionals and engineers to create six marketable products. Potential markets for the products were explored and their functionality, sustainability and cost were demonstrated.

To disseminate results, interaction between groups associated with the platform took place throughout the project.

A regional flagship

A key aim of the work was to make Fibrenamics Green a flagship innovation initiative for Portugal’s North region. The platform is part of the region’s smart specialisation strategy and uses existing scientific and technological infrastructure to stimulate new business and help create a circular economy.

Another aim was to promote waste-based technologies developed at the University of Minho, where the platform is based. Ideas formulated at the university served as the basis for the four demonstration models.

The most practical, sustainable and innovative ideas were converted into the six products earmarked for commercialisation. Marketing plans for each product included exhibition presentations and compilation of digital material for publication online.

Furthermore, Fibrenamics Green raised the profile of – and better integrated – waste-based innovation stakeholders. A website was set up to strengthen links between stakeholders and gather all the information generated by the project.

Nationwide impact

Although Fibrenamics Green focused primarily on the North region, its establishment of value chains covering everything from waste recovery to marketing necessitated the involvement of firms across Portugal. The impact was thus nationwide in scale.

Having brought about important achievements in the textile, construction and demolition waste sectors, the concept continues to foster development of innovative products. Two spin-offs have emerged which have created new jobs. Projects based on the same model have been launched in the Azores.

Another result is the setting up of think-tank. Composed of around 100 members of the Fibrenamics Green target group, it provides a forum for reflection in the post-project phase.

Activities to publicise the work among the public included five workshops, demonstration sessions with companies, business associations, schools and universities for a total of 600 people and distribution of newsletters. The project participated in national and international fairs. Two patents and six scientific papers have been published, all of which are freely accessible.

Recognition of Fibrenamics Green’s success came in the form of an honourable mention at the 2018 European Enterprise Promotion Awards, in the category ‘Supporting the development of green markets and resource efficiency’.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “Fibrenamics Green” is EUR 552 857, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 469 928 through the “Norte” Operational Programme for the 2014-2020 programming period. The investment falls under the priority “Research, development and innovation”.