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Sustainable Polyurethane Elastomers for Footwear based on CO2 with improved properties

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PUFOOTCO2 (Sustainable Polyurethane Elastomers for Footwear based on CO2 with improved properties)

Reporting period: 2015-07-01 to 2015-12-31

Polyurethanes are among the 6th most widely used polymer but they are a carbon-intensive industry solely dependent on petrochemical feedstock. In this sense, SYNTHELAST S.A. pursues an innovative strategy of enhanced quality and sustainability in our products. Through PUFOOTCO2, sustainable polyurethanes with improved properties were produced through an environmentally sustainable way, not depending on fossil fuels. The extensive experience of more than 40 years of the Technical Department of SYNTHELAST S.A. in the development and optimization of products put together with a continued searching for new raw materials and technologies for multiple markets, such us, construction, footwear, furniture, textile, automotive, etc.

Overall PUFOOTCO2 objectives:

PUFOOTCO2 has two main objectives: obtaining polyurethanes from CO2 as a feedstock, as well as with improved properties, as hydrolysis resistance for footwear applications. Any reduction of petrochemical use in this vast and growing industry will have an immediate and significant impact on petroleum dependence and on CO2 emissions from this industry. In this sense, the main benefits PUFOOTCO2 will provide are:

Technical benefits: CO2-based polyurethanes with improved properties (higher hydrolysis resistance) to produce PU elastomers for the footwear industry, which implies a product with a longer shelf life and meeting the technical requirements.

Environmental benefits: CO2 is free, abundant, and renewable and it can be used as a chemical building block for the production of polymers, thus reducing the dependence on fossil fuels for obtaining polyurethanes, reducing the carbon footprint and contributing in a sustainable way to the decrease in CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.

Economic benefits: CO2 is significantly cheaper than conventional petroleum-based raw materials, so, CO2-based polyurethane manufacturing costs are more favourable compared to conventional polyurethanes.
PUFOOTCO2 activities carried out during Phase I from July 2015 to December 2015 were as follows:

1. Technical Viability Plan, which included:

-Selection of CO2-based polyols, available in market, in order to establish the best suitable properties to be used as reagents to obtain sustainable polyurethanes.
-Obtaining of CO2-based polyurethane elastomers starting from selected CO2-based polyols.
-Validation of PUFOOTCO2 prototypes as footwear elastomers.

2. Commercialization Plan. European markets were analysed in the first place. Key market factors, segmentation, market entry strategy and timeline were defined. Also, a value chain analysis, the most suitable IPR exploitation alternative and the resources required to reach go-to-market stage were carried out. Finally, a business model and market risk analysis were developed.

3. Financial feasibility study in order to establish a product commercialization plan which includes a market strategy, external promotion, sales planning, turnover forecast and return of investment. It is expected to increase our sales targets by 20% until 2020.
Polyurethane is one of the polymeric materials most used in the finished products in our daily lives. Its global production grew by 5,9% during 2015 to reach 21 million tonnes of finished product. There is no doubt about the positive impact that the polyurethane industry has in the European economy throughout its entire chain: chemical producers, customers, suppliers, final producers, etc.

Specifically, the polyurethane elastomers sector contributes to the European economy hugely, just after PU for construction. Currently and in our case, a third of our annual turnover and half of our customers are related to PU elastomers. Through this project we wish to validate this new generation of sustainable polyurethanes on an industrial scale successfully, meeting the technical requirements, with a high hydrolysis resistance and taking advantage of this huge market opportunity. This project represents a double advantage: improvement of properties without a price increase: a higher hydrolysis resistance, which implies a product with a longer shelf life and meeting the technical requirements; as CO2 is significantly cheaper than conventional petroleum-based raw materials, it does not imply a price increase.

In this sense, we plan to introduce PUFOOTCO2 elastomers by the beginning of 2018. Furthermore, our sales targets are intended to increase our current revenue by 20% in 2020. Once consolidated this market, the prospects could increase since PUFOOTCO2 results may be applied in other sectors as a diverse range of products/application fields and some companies have shown their interest in CO2-polyols/polyurethanes, such as: furniture, automotive, building, construction, etc. Thanks to the versatility of the polyurethane our formulations could be used, for example, in children or sport pavements as binder of crushed rubber tyres.