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Fast, Accurate, Low Cost and Hand Held NIR Technology to Ascertain Wood Origin and Quality during Logistic Operations

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - NIRWOOD (Fast, Accurate, Low Cost and Hand Held NIR Technology to Ascertain Wood Origin and Quality during Logistic Operations)

Reporting period: 2016-06-01 to 2016-08-31

Roundwood production in the EU-28 reached 425 million m3, which makes Europe the largest producer within the G20. In addition, Europe imports annually 4.8 billion € of timber and other wood products from outside the EU. Logistic operations and its traceability assurance are a major point of weakness for the European Woodworking companies which are exposed to quality and origin (more than 19% come from illegal logging) frauds during transport operations that may turn into the loss of 100% of the wooden products transported. The EC approved the EUTR Regulation 995/2010 to combat illegal logging and all European timber companies have the obligation comply with it. However, currently timber origin can only be established with complex laboratory analyses.
GEA clients and the wooden sector more broadly, voiced an urgent need not appropriately covered today: an easy on-field technique to determine the origin (legality), species and quality of wood in order to avoid fakes and penalties derived from illegal wood trade. NIRWOOD is the first commercial system to discriminate wood species as well as to identify on-site, quality and origin of wooden products, based on Near-Infrared Technology (NIR).
NIRWOOD can be used by producers (pre-delivery checks) and customers (reception control) and by authorities in their control function. Our objective is to be the first company to put in the market a simple, accurate (>99% certainty with respect to wood species and >95% with respect to country origin), fast (<5 sec measurement) and low-cost solution to ascertain wood origin and solve illegal trade and quality fakes.
An important step in product evolution to market readiness is the evaluation of technical, commercial and financial viability. Thanks to the award of a Phase 1 grant within H2020 SME Instrument, GEA has taken advantage of this Feasibility Study to prepare a feasible route to market ensuring the most efficient path. In particular, the following objectives have been pursued:
From a technical point of view we have carried out a refinement of the technology objectives such as the confirmation of NIR as the best spectroscopy technique, the evaluation of commercial NIR devices in the market and the definition of optimum features that NIRWOOD requires. We have also set the steps to reach a reliable prediction model and to operate it in a cloud-based application.
From the commercial point of view we made an in-depth market study on EU countries focusing on the regulatory opportunities and the implementation degree of voluntary control systems in companies, evaluated market targets and how to reach them, assessed the freedom to operate of our invention as well as the IP protection options for the products outcoming from the project and discussed about the main partners and stakeholders to develop our commercial strategy and reach successful commercialization. We searched for commercial agreements with key partners as NIR device manufactures and key stakeholders for each geographical area and market segment, necessary for the definition of the business plan.
We also identified technical and commercial risks to overcome and from a financial point of view we developed a Business and Work Plan to take NIRWOOD from TRL 6 to TRL9 via the consolidation of our business model based in a Software as a Service application with different access plans for different users.
This Feasibility Study take us to conclude that GEA should continue with the development of NIRWOOD proposal, but requires to incorporate a new partner to the project, with high expertise in NIR devices and chemometric tools, in order to reach project objectives.
As a result of being granted with this phase 1, there has been several contacts with registered monitoring organizations authorized to supply timber due diligence services targeting them as early adopters.
A further phase 2 will be targeted to
✓ Collect the required samples to cover at least those wood species covered by CITES regulation and those commercial wood classified as high illegal logging risk due to its country of origin
✓ Improve the tool by applying a high-reliable prediction model and optimise the mobile app to an ease and intuitive interface.
✓ Finalise the cloud-based data management tool and implement the commercialization model through different users’ plans.
✓ Field-demonstrate the technical and commercial competitiveness of NIRWOOD products and services.
✓ Strengthening commercial agreements and distribution paths across Europe
These actions will lead us to put in the market a simple, accurate, fast and low-cost solution to ascertain wood species and their origin helping to tackle timber illegal trade and quality fakes, resulting in huge savings for timber transporters for which the retention of a timber container in customs due to a suspicion of illegal timber means high economic costs and in addition it may turn into the loss of 100% of the wooden products transported.