Academics representing another regional centre of excellence, Rouen University, with extensive expertise in biochemistry and characterisation of flax materials, will join the Le Havre team where relevant to the project.
Prior to the project preparation phase, which commenced in December 2007, the French SME and the French universities had successfully collaborated on characterisation of flax fibre and of flax materials, whilst the British SME and university had started assessing environmental impact and evaluating carbon footprint of using packaging materials imported from outside Europe.
Each partner has a recognised world class expertise in its area, which is described as follows:
University of Brighton – biomedical materials (School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences), patient care (Faculty of Health), food produce and food packaging(School of Service Management), technical design and engineering (School of Environment and Technology) and agriculture (Plumpton College).
University of Le Havre – material science, synthesis and characterisation of composite materials.
University of Rouen – Polymer chemistry; membrane synthesis; permeation and sorption phenomena; surface modification of fibres, polymer and biopolymer chemistry.
CNRS – plant biochemistry, composition of natural fibres, physical chemistry of polysaccharides.
LBN – engineering and manufacturing of woven and non-woven products from flax fibre.
The consortium partners have complementary expertise and skills as well as advanced machinery and facilities required for successful implementation of this inter- and multi-disciplinary project, which spans from manufacturing of natural fibres and packaging materials to materials chemistry, engineering and characterisation, biomaterials, food processing, biomedicine and environmental impact assessment.
Both English and French universities have a proven track record of collaboration with local industry and participation in Interreg and other EU-funded projects. The SME participating in the project has extensive links with local, national and international suppliers and end-users of their products, which include large companies, non-profit organisations, SMEs and individuals. Since its foundation in 1949 LBN has been among the leading French manufacturers of flax fibres. This is an achievement in its own right taking into account that France is the leading country in manufacturing flax fibre of the highest quality in the world. It accounts for 75% of the total European output. This is obviously of relevance to the economic development of France (Channel) – England Cross-Border Co-operation Programme area as most of Europe’s flax is grown in Northern France, with the Seine-Maritime district having the largest territory used for flax growth. LBN has an extensive network of collaboration with local farmers, who would hugely benefit from an increased value of their produce, which is one of the goals of the project. The company has adopted a strategy for developing high-tech flax fibre-based materials and composites which are expected to be in great demand for applications as diverse as aviation, car and packaging industries. Exploring and realising enormous potential of flax as a material would strengthen LBN’s position in the national and European market.
CEO of LBN, Mr M Depestele is administrator and member of the board of the C.E.L.C. Confédération Européenne du Lin et du Chanvre (European Confederation for Flax and Hemp). He plays major role in the ‘interprofession’, being :
- Vice president of USRTL
- Member of the board of CIPALIN
- Administrator of LIN DEVELOPPEMENT
- Administrator of MASTERS OF LINEN
Dissemination activities of the consortium will involve these organisations.
In the UK, the consortium will actively involve DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), SEEDA (South East of England Development Agency) and the National Non-Food Crops Centre to disseminate the results of the project. Taking into account extensive links of the University of Brighton with local industry, its Business Services Department will organise events for local profit and non-profit organisations to familiarise them with the project results and findings.
Complementary expertise of the participating universities in materials and biomaterials provides solid foundation for creating novel composite materials and composite based packaging which will be added to the portfolio of products manufactured by the participating SME. Biomaterials, such as flax wool, will be characterised and assessed for wound treatment by the academic partners. It is expected that flax wool will outperform commonly used cotton wool in such an application. Through its extensive links with local health care providers the University of Brighton will be able to promote these materials to the local hospitals. Research into the food value of flax, particularly, use of highly unsaturated fats in healthy diet, would increase the value of this material benefiting its local producers.
Cross-border collaboration is crucial for the success of this project, as none of the partners could perform this work on their own. Combining and transferring their knowledge, expertise and skills has a synergistic effect allowing the partners to build capacity enabling them to achieve objectives of this proposal.
This project has also substantial environmental implications relevant to Priority 4, most importantly, by reducing carbon footprint of packaging and replacing non-degradable materials by biodegradable locally produced materials. This has equally important value for both regions and communities concerned with the negative environmental impact of package waste. In fact, using packaging materials with an environmentally friendly logo may attract more customers and increase income of businesses involved.
The project promotes cross-border research and development collaboration and ultimately cross-border trade, facilitates transfer of knowledge between the two regions, strengthens regional research centres of excellence, increases value of the locally produced flax products and creates competitive advantage for local SMEs in the European market.