Image by Jesse Gardner

A Collaborative R & D Project

Bio-based Synthetic Leather Alternative
for the Automotive Industry

Project Overview

 

This R & D Project is a Collaboration between Farmaissance Innovation, City University of Hong Kong and The Hong Kong Research Institute for Textiles and Apparel, and supported by the HKSAR Innovation Technology Fund.

 

The Project is focussed on the Automotive industry with the  goal of producing a biobased leather alternative to meet the exacting standards required by the Industry for upholstery products.

 

The push for environmental change in transport and the move to EV’s and renewable fuels supports the use of alternative, sustainable upholstery products in transport related Industries such as cars, trucks, buses, trains and aircraft and is complementary to decarbonisation objectives and UN Sustainable Development Goals.

This represents a move away from fossil based and animal sourced materials and textiles and creates a pathway for company net zero transitions and Government policy and legislation on climate change initiatives.

 

"True Circularity comes from reimagining and conceptualising raw materials and products from the very beginning".

 

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Project Summary

Wheat Field

Top four  
CORNERSTONES

01

Increasing interest in renewable, biodegradable resources that exhibit excellent mechanical properties

02

Compliance with environmental regulations

03

Addressing ethical concerns

04

Utilising biomimetics to transfer design principles found in nature to technical applications

Key Challenges

Key Objective

This Project proposes the development of a hybrid biobased synthetic leather alternative from a base material biofabricated with an input of corn and grains processed by micro-organisms. The aim is to duplicate the advantageous properties of current renewable leather substitutes, such as breathability, aesthetics and comfort but eliminate issues around mounting ethical and environmental concerns - carbon sinks, biodegradability and toxic chemicals.

The principal challenges identified for the development of the hybrid material relate to low biomass yield and product scalability. Most processing currently includes unsustainable materials (30 - 45% biomass content) of product and have poorer physical properties that traditional synthetic leather.

Our Analysis

By concentrating on process, product and cost competitiveness our team is confident of developing a unique new material that will provide a breakthrough innovation in leather substitutes. This Project focusses upon the automotive industry however the CityU professors and the scientists have noted that the research (knowledge) derived from this Project will also be applicable to fashion, home and decorative textiles and upholstery generally.

For the purposes of this Project we are categorising biobased leather materials as “alternative” leather as compared to “real” leather and “artificial” leather, eg. vinyl. Real and artificial leathers are benchmarks for us in terms of assessing the viability and hence competitive advantage of our product.

We have a single processing technology but many product derivatives that are designed to suit various different applications.

No new technologies can yet really claim superiority to nature’s materials, particularly real leather. Centuries of expertise and industrial and artisanal input means that real leather has developed what has been identified as a having the touch of a “noble material” and certain economic benefits reflective of many, many years of adapted industrial engineering. They offer the natural needs and wants of users and consumers with respect to aesthetics, comfort, durability, and price.

High performing manmade artificial materials, based on cheap and polluting fossil fuels, have also raised our expectations of material innovation to encompass properties beyond those offered by nature; super stretch, colour saturation and fastness, performance finishes, extreme durability and so forth.

The challenge for innovators is in understanding deeply what the customer is looking for today and then how to move towards that, acknowledging that the first generation of innovated products will not necessarily be the best; each iteration will bring improvements. The challenge for brands is how to work with innovators on that journey, finding ways to support development so that technical gaps can be closed (or compromises found) in the short term in order to achieve greater success in the long term.

Our Uniqueness

100%

100% Free of toxic or restricted chemicals

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Purple Smoke

Zero

Zero soil pollution & Zero water waste

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Hands in the Soil

High Bio

High end-product bio-content and high biodegradability

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Farmer Holding Corn

High Standard

Complete compliance with automotive standards for car seat application, not just aesthetics.

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New Car Seats
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Funding & Intellectual Property (IP)

 

This R & D Project is categorised as a Partnership Research Programme (PRP) to be undertaken by Farmaissance Innovation, and City University of Hong Kong, and managed administratively by The Hong Kong Research  Institute of Textiles & Apparel. Funding of the Project is jointly between Farmaissance Innovation and the HKSAR Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF).

 

On completion, the Intellectual Property (Technology Patent) will 100% vest in Farmaissance Innovation Holdings Limited.

 
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Our Partners