2 years after the selection of the project in January 2018 and its official launch in September 2018, FLOWER is almost half way of its duration (end: September 2022). This article gather the actions carried out by the 8 partners Université de Bretagne Sud, INRA Nantes, Universities of Portsmouth and Cambridge, Kaïros, EcoTechnilin, Teillage Vandecandelaère and Howa-Tramico in the last few months.
Scientific and technical activities
Technical activities could start and intensify with the acquisition of the necessary and the recruitment of missing staff. In addition to the administrative and technical staff already working in each partner’s organisation and dedicating a certain amount of time to FLOWER, the partnership is composed 6 full-time people: a project manager, 4 PhD students (2 INRA and 2 UBS) and a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Portsmouth. The main actions either carried out jointly by the partners or individually are the following:
- Selection of flax fibres according to the targeted uses and preforms and finalisation of preforms’ specifications.
- Bibliographical work, setting up of scientific protocols and purchase of specific software for the academic partners.
- Development of prototype lines for the preforms manufacture by the partners Teillage Vandecandelaère and EcoTechnilin.
- First developments of industrial products by end users Kaïros and Howa-Tramico
- Effective start of scientific work at the academic partners (INRA – UBS – U of Portsmouth – U of Cambridge) ; first article published in February 2020.
- Setting up of scientific collaborations on various subjects including the biodegradation of non-wovens (UoCambridge-UBS-Ecotechnilin), the composites vibration resistance (UoPortsmouth, Kaïros, UBS), the study of polymer-fibre interfaces (UBS-Howa-Tramico-INRA) or the mechanical and structural characterisation of flax fibres and fibre bundles (UoPortsmouth-INRA-TV) and the development of specific physico-chemical treatments (INRA-UBS-Ecotechnilin-TV).
- Collaborations between industrials and academics carried on through working days or scientific stays at each other’s premises. The 4 academic partners have already welcomed PhD students or researchers from other teams for stays of 3 to 40 days.
- Scientific collaborations have also been initiated with recognised laboratories in the field of composites and biocomposites: FEMTO Besançon, Synchrotron SOLEIL, ENIT Tarbes, LMGC Montpellier, Fraunhofer-Institut Dresden, IMT Mines Alès.
The first months of FLOWER were mainly dedicated to administrative and financial management tasks. After making some clarifications to the application form, the partners were able to sign the agreements at the end of 2018. The partners received training from the Joint Secretariat to inform them of all the rules of the Interreg VA FMA Programme (October 2018 in Paris). Having the necessary information, the following months were devoted to the preparation of the first payment claims, key steps every 6 months allowing the partners to declare the expenditure incurred on the project and to obtain their co-financing by the Programme.
The first 4 Project Steering Committee Meeting (SCM) also set the rhythm for the management of the project: the first in July 2018 in Lorient (University of South Brittany), the 2nd in Valmartin in November 2018 (Teillage Vandecandelaère), the 3rd in Nantes in April 2019 (INRA) and finally the 4th in October 2019 in Rouen (EcoTechnilin). The next ones this year are planned in April in Portsmouth (University of Portsmouth)* and Brionne in November (Howa-Tramico). These meetings are an opportunity for the partnership to meet every 6 months and review the overall progress of the project on the technical, administrative and communication aspects. At the same time, numerous meetings and conference calls take place between the partners by working groups.
* This one is postponed to September 2020, due to Covid-19 epidemic situation.
During these 24 months, FLOWER partners have endeavoured to communicate on the expected results of the project and its content by participating in numerous events during which they were able to exchange with professionals but also sometimes to present the first achievements and objectives of FLOWER:
- Specific shows: JEC World Paris (March 2019), Cambridge Science Festival (March 2019) Royal Society 2019 Summer Science Exhibition (July 2019), Festival de l’Excellence NOrmande (FENO) (April 2019, Caen)
- Technical/scientific conferences : Journées Nationales des Composites (July 2019, Bordeaux), International Conference on Natural Fibres (July 2019, Porto), Workshop “New trends in composite materials” (September 2019, Girona), 5th Colloquium “Natural Fibres and Polymers” (September 2019, Troyes), Workshop CIRPLAS (Cambridge Creative Circular Plastics Centre) (September 2019, Cambridge), Composite Europe (September 2019, Germany), K Tradefair 2019 (October 2019, Dusseldorf)
In addition, FLOWER organised two events open to targeted project audiences. Firstly, the kick-off event, which took place on 20th September 2018 in Lorient, brought together around 60 people and local students for a day of presentations given by the partners but also by external speakers.
In April 2019, partner INRA was the first of the 4 academics to organise a scientific conference entitled “Plant fibres and biopolymers for biobased materials and composites applications“, in collaboration with the the research group SYMBIOSE. Approximately 80 people from the research community were able to attend various presentations on thematics directly related to those of FLOWER. The next conference is organised on April 2nd* by the partner University of Portsmouth. More information about this conference
* Postponed to September 17th.
The presentation of FLOWER project was also made on the net, through articles published online, the social networks of the project and its website. Press articles and television reports have also been produced and can be found here: Resources webpage
All these actions have enabled the project to respect the project worplan and deadlines; activities will be intensified in the coming months, keeping in mind the final objective of integrating the new semi-finished products into industrial parts by 2022: point-of-sale advertising support, hydrofoil boat and automotive roof pannel.