Integrated Innovation Process 5.5 – Management of new ideas and subjects for a successful future of the center
The internal innovation process at the center (Integrated Innovation Process 5.5) was launched in 2015 with the aim of developing innovative ideas. Since the start of the process, a total number of 138 ideas have been submitted by all areas of the center. A classic three step gate-stage-process guides the progress of new ideas, subjects and concepts that might be relevant for future research and the thematic strategy of Wood K plus.
All employees of the center have the possibility to participate in the innovation process by submitting innovative ideas in order to receive feedback on their submissions from the so-called steering committee. An idea can be submitted at any time to the team Market Analysis and Innovation Research by using the template „FO Innovation Management“. The first step allows to collect as many ideas as possible, which will be advanced in the following „stages“, thus increasing the information with each further submission. A gate meeting is held two to four times a year where the steering committee decides on the further development of the ideas. “GO“ means that the idea should be developed in the next stage, „REVISE“ that an adaptation of the idea is necessary and the idea will be re-evaluated in the same gate. In case of „STOP“, either the future potential was not recognized and the development of the idea should be stopped or a recommendation for further development with company partners beyond the innovation process is given. The most important criteria for a successful submission are the strategic potential, the relevance for the center, the technological novelty of the idea as well as the potential for cooperation’s with companies, applications, etc. If an interesting idea has been submitted and the project has been defined accordingly in stage 1, a short presentation of the idea should be prepared in stage 2. In gate 3, the idea will be presented to the steering committee in order to inspire them for the idea. If the steering committee is also convinced by the idea in gate 3, there is a release for experimental work. In the following 12 months, the technical feasibility of the idea should be demonstrated at laboratory scale. Many ideas leave the innovation process already before reaching stage 3, as they provide the basis for a project proposal, a project offer or they are directly implemented (e.g. in the course of a master’s thesis, by partners or internally).
Four of those successful projects that have gone through the innovation process to the final stage can be presented here:
Dry impregnation with powder resins
Christoph Jocham from the team „Wood and Paper Surface Technologies“ in St. Veit an der Glan submitted the idea of impregnating wood-based materials with powder coatings already in the first call for ideas in July 2015. Powder coatings can be used for horizontal application on a substrate (technical paper or veneer) that can be gelled or pre-crosslinked. The stackable ‚dry impregnates‘ can be pressed to a product (e.g. compact board, coated particleboard) by the final user (wood-based materials industry). The surface properties obtained, exceed those of current coated wood-based materials, compact boards, etc. (formaldehyde-free, VOC-free coating/binder, UV stability, light fastness, weathering, etc.). Pilot tests were carried out to demonstrate the principle for various applications. Thermoset-powdercoated wood-based materials (veneered chipboard, particle- and plywood-board) as well as composites (plywood board and compact board) could be successfully produced. Furthermore, the principle can be applied to the coating of packaging papers by using thermoplastic powders (biodegradable PHA, bio-based PA, etc.). Particular aspects of the ‚dry impregnation‘ idea are already implemented in ongoing research projects, such as “EcoPowder” or “Dryprepregs”. Additionally, work is underway to further develop the idea in combination with bio-based or sustainable resins and additives for future projects.
Inventory of resources from secondary raw materials – how much, at what quality and price?
A joint idea of Herfried Lammer from the team “Wood and Paper Surface Technologies”, Lea Ranacher and Franziska Hesser, both from the team “Market Analysis and Innovation Research”, was submitted in March 2017. The idea of an internal resource inventory deals with residuals, by-products and waste materials that accumulate along the value chain of renewable raw materials (NAWAROs), which are frequently the subject of our research projects. In context of a circular economy, these resources can serve as relevant raw materials. An essential question in this consideration is the quantity of material that is available for further processing. For this purpose, a research guideline was developed within the project “resource inventory”, which allows to identify and access relevant statistics (e.g. Grüner Bericht) easily. Additionally, the results of previous desk research can be added, making the information available to all employees of the center. Since the benefit of the resource inventory increases with each individual input, all Wood K plus employees are encouraged to contribute to the database.
Bio-based isocyanate free urethane from vegetable oil
Arunjunai raj Mahendran from the team “Wood and Paper Surface Technologies” in St. Veit an der Glan submitted the idea of isocyanate free urethane in September 2016. The aim of the project is to produce bio-based isocyanate free urethane from vegetable oil for eco-friendly composite or coating application. The epoxidized vegetable oil will be converted to cyclic carbonate using CO2 in the presence of a catalyst. The synthesized carbonated vegetable oil will be reacted either with aliphatic or aromatic amine in the presence of a curing catalyst to obtain urethane linkage. The final properties of the cured network will be characterized and optimized for the end application. The initial trials were carried out at the laboratory by using epoxidized linseed oil in the presence of high purity carbon dioxide. The result shows, that a successful conversion of epoxidized vegetable oil to cyclic carbonate was achieved using catalyst tetrabutyl ammonium bromide. The structural characterization using FTIR confirms the formation of cyclic carbonate group. The rate of conversion is relatively low, but the reaction can be performed under atmospheric pressure (without any pressurized vessel). To overcome the slow conversion of oxirane to cyclic carbonate, it is planned to develop new heterogeneous bimetal catalyst along with a research institute in India. The advantage is that it has higher activity, easy separability, reusability and contains low amount of metal loading. The idea was already submitted as research proposal in the „Beyond Europe“ call 2017 along with one industrial partner (“Hirschmann”) and two scientific partners (Karl-Franzens-University Graz, Austria and Madurai Kamaraj University Tamilnadu, India). The project proposal was evaluated positively but it was declared as wait listed project. The research idea could provide a benefit to the center because the isocyanates are used in wood coatings as well as binder in wooden boards. The innovative idea could eliminate the use of volatile organic compounds and toxic isocyanate in the coating or binder formulation, which enables a sustainable development for the industry.
Recycling of leaf waste
In November 2018, Gottfried Aufischer from the team "Wood Chemistry and Biotechnology", submitted an idea together with his colleague Kateryna Wöss, which deals with the utilization of leaf waste. The idea is based on the hypothesis that leaves contain valuable polyphenols which can be utilized to produce materials with high added value. The polyphenols can be extracted from the raw material, what allows to utilize the carbohydrates from the remaining foliage residuals biotechnologically. Microbial extraction of biogas, lactic acid and biopolymers can be considered for this purpose. Preliminary results from the pilot tests demonstrates that only small amounts of polyphenols were detected in the extract of leaf waste. This may indicate a degradation of the valuable substances in the foliage. Further trials should clarify, whether this degradation can be prevented by a gentle extraction method, in order to enable the utilization of these valuable polyphenols from leaves in products with high added value.
We would like to invite all Wood K plus employees to submit their ideas to the innovation process. The steering committee is looking forward to receive many more interesting submissions. We keep our fingers crossed that further trials and project proposals on the submitted ideas will succeed and arouse big interest. Details on the innovation process can be found in the process description “PB Management of New Ideas and Topics” (IIP 5.5.).
Submissions for the innovation process are always welcome to: firstname.lastname@example.org