More than two years after the official launch of FLOWER project, it is actually at more than the half of its four-year duration (September 2022). The article present a summary of the latest works carried out in last months months by the 8 partners Université de Bretagne Sud, INRAe Nantes, Université de Portsmouth and Cambridge, Kairos, EcoTechnilin, Teillage Vandecandelère et Howa-Tramico. The results obtained in each activities are very encouraging and bring the partners closer to the targeted developments, namely new lightweight flax performs and their integration into industrial demonstrators. Thus, significant progress was done both in technical activities and in project management and communication.
TECHNICAL AND SCIENTIFIC ACTIONS
Despite a slight delay because of the actual health crisis, many significant advances have to be noted since the project launch. Scientific and technical activities could intensify thanks to the recruitment of additional staff. The FLOWER team now count about 30 people among the various partners. Together, they got to reach the following achievements:
- The setup of industrial lines was completed by the partners EcoTechnilin and Teillage Vandecandelère to produce respectively new non-woven and biaxial preforms.
- The industrial and academic partners all collaborated to optimize the new preforms and obtained satisfying results that led to the validation of the preforms at the beginning of 2021.
- In parallel, significant progress is to be noted for the development of industrial demonstrators and their specifications with the industrial partners concerned: Kaïros for the point of purchase (non-woven PLA-flax) and the foil sailing boat (biaxial), and Howa-Tramico for the automotive headliner (non-woven 100% flax).
- The academic partners continued the work started since the beginning of the project on biochemical, morphological, and mechanical characterizations of flax fibres used in the flower framework. Collaborative research activities has been reinforced between the various academic partners in order to benefit from the strong complementarities existing between the 4 laboratories.
- In addition, scientific collaborations have been conducted with non-project partners to encourage sharing of experience, this is particularly the case with the FEMTO Institute (Besançon, France), the ENI of Tarbes (France), the University of Camerino (Italy), the Ecole des Mines d’Alès (France), the University of the Littoral (Dunkerque, France), the University of Bremen (Germany), the Academy of Sciences of Kazan (Russia) or the University of Montpellier (France).
- This work has led to an important activity of publishing scientific results in recognized international journals. Publications already online can be found on the « Publications » page and many articles are currently being written. Currently, 11 publications have already been accepted in international journals since the beginning of the project.
- The 4 theses started at the end of 2018 (2 at INRAe and 2 at UBS) are coming to an end, with students currently completing their experimentations and start writing the manuscript. The defenses of their work are expected by the end of 2021.
Communication and transfer of project results
After the first edition organized by the partner INRAe in April 2019, University of Portsmouth was the next partner to organize the second FLOWER conference which took place virtually on September 17th 2020. This event entitled “Advanced Biobased Materials and Composites for Engineering Applications” gathered about 80 participants and was an opportunity to meet the academic actors in the biocomposites sector.
Lastly, it was the partner University of South Brittany that organized the 3rd conference, it took place on 22nd and 23rd April 2021 online again. It brought together about 140 registered participants, including more than 90 people simultaneously. The main topic of this one was « Biobased Composites in Marine Environment”. A detailed report of this event can be found in the dedicated article here.
The fourth and final conference will be organized by the last academic partner, the University of Cambridge, and will take place in December 2021. It will particularly deal with biocomposite materials in the transport and construction sectors. More information will be communicated soon, stay tuned !
FLOWER partners have also participated in many events since the beginning of the project in order to promote the results obtained to the scientific and industrial communities, the latest being :
- ICNF 2021 – 5th International Conference on Natural Fibres (17-19 May 2021, online) with the organization of a session dedicated to the FLOWER project gathering 6 presentations of the partners, in addition to participation in other sessions.
ESBBC 6-8 July 2021: FLOWER get associated with with 3 other European projects for the joint organization of the 1st edition of “European Summer School on Bio Based Composites” which will take place at the beginning of July. Several partners are involved in the scientific and Organizing committees of this event that targets for young researchers in the field of biocomposites. More information to be found on our article and on the website of the event.
- Bilateral Seminar with the BIOCOMPAL project : The results of the project were shared with another INTERREG France Wallonia Vlaanderen project, dealing with the same issues as FLOWER (materials based on natural fibres for the composites industry) through of a seminar organized on 22/02/2021.
The communication of FLOWER’s results and objectives has also been carried out in scientific articles but also in the media : POP plates in the Breton newspaper Telegram and interview in The Good Goods magazine have been published in recent months, they are to be consulted in the “Publications” section of the website.
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To ensure the widest adoption of the results as possible obtained at the end of the project, a dissemination and exploitation strategy was implemented, particularly among the industrial partners. Regarding the new innovative preforms produced by EcoTechnilin and Teillage Vandecandelère as well as for the POP support developed by Kairos, market studies have been launched to evaluate and optimize the dissemination of these new products.
Finally, the business support organisations associated with the project since the application have been solicited in the organization of the April conference and several collaborative actions have been set up and will be strengthened in the coming months.
In parallel of the progress on the technical activities, the coordination and management of the project were carried out scrupulously by all the partners, supported by the lead partner University of South Brittany.
Regarding administrative and financial aspects, payment claims processes are still in place every 6 months, which allows the partners to claim the expenditure incurred and receive ERDF co-financing by the INTERREG France (Channel) England Programme.
The project steering committee meetings (SCM) organized every 6 months have had to take place remotely since mid-2020 due to the epidemic crisis.
The partnership was not able to visit the PP University of Portsmouth, Howa-Tramico and Kairos as planned. They hope to be able to reschedule these trips after the summer, which are usually an opportunity to visit the premises and equipment of each partners,.
To address the lack of interactions and physical meetings in recent months, partners have sought to maintain the link by organizing videoconference and phone meetings on a more regular basis, by working groups.
All these actions allowed the project to respect as much as possible the provisional schedule. Activities are intensifying more and more, by keeping the objective of integrating the new innovative flax preforms into industrial parts by 2022: point-of-sale advertising medium, hydrofoil sailing boat and automotive headliner,