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Biocomposite panels for transportation

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - BIOPANELS (Biocomposite panels for transportation)

Reporting period: 2017-08-01 to 2018-01-31

The mobility sector plays a major role in energy consumption and GHG emissions, in particular the aviation (constantly increasing, in particular regarding the low cost airfare offer).
In aviation, -75% CO2 savings and -90% NOx savings are targeted [1] by 2050. New sustainable and light materials like our biocomposite panels will contribute to reach these objectives.
Indeed, lighter materials will lead to lower fuel consumption, hence less GHG emissions. For example, in an aircraft, 1 tonne of weight saved could lead to a fuel savings of €3 million over the aircraft lifetime.[2]
Moreover, since natural fibres have low footprint impact, the manufacturing of the biocomposite panels will also lead to lower carbon emissions than of those currently on the market.
Another global challenge is raw material prices. Due to geopolitical tensions, experts predict volatility prices of mineral ores (among which iron and aluminium). Carbon fibres are made from PAN (Polyacrilonitrile) a component whose price is dependent on petroleum price. Using materials made from natural fibres which do not contain ores and whose prices are not petroleum-dependant will reduce risk regarding price fluctuation.
It’s a major issue for society. Indeed, GreenHouse Gases caused by human activities are responsible for global warming that modifies deeply eco-systems and threatens biodiversity. These GHG emissions must be controlled and strongly decreased to avoid the threshold of 2 °C for global warming by 2100 as agrred on COP21 in Paris.

The main objective of our innovative project is to produce and commercialize a light and cheap bio-sourced structural composite panel range using natural resources, such as plant-, mineral- or animal fibres with similar advantages of existing panels. Using natural fibres (flax, bamboo, basalt…), our product decreases the global carbon footprint of vehicles, reduces the impact on the environment and improves the image of the products.
Our biocomposite panels address raw material scarcity and the necessity to shift from fossil-fuel based materials to more sustainable biosourced materials. By launching on the market natural fibre-based composite panels, we aim to develop a new market for green composites as an answer to environmental challenges that Europe is facing.

The development of this composite panel will be an answer to:
• Reduce the environmental impact of the aviation sector, reducing the weight of aircrafts and then reducing energy consumption per unit (km or mile). Expected weight saving for these panels are 20% compared to currently commercialized panels. In industries like aeronautic, weight saving is a hot topic and not only for environmental concerns. Indeed, in an aircraft, every kg saved saves around 20 000 euros fuel/year [3]. Weight reduction is therefore an economical stake where our biocomposite panels have an important role to play.
• Reduce the use of non-renewable resources for panels manufacturing. Currently, companies are developing lightweight panels in order to reduce the fuel consumption of aircraft motors. These proposed panels are made with non-renewable resources (carbon, glass fibres, aramid or aluminium) contrary to panels developed by VESO concept.
• Reduce the cost of production: Panels will have variable geometry and will be manufactured by a fast, high quality and highly efficient industrial process. Therefore, they could meet the requirements of several industries in addition to the aeronautical sector. Our panels as well as their manufacturing process are innovative. For the manufacturing, since this cutting-edge technology allows obtaining parts to be produced in only one step, hence reducing time production and increasing productivity.
• Reduce the procurement lead time: The core of the materials will use the same fibres and resin than the outer layers. Indeed in case of conventional sandwich panels, the core is made of aluminium or aramid honeycomb, which is an industrial product with procurement lead time longer than raw materials such as natural fibres and resin.

To conclude to the action, VESO pursues the project to develop industrialization line for the production of biocomposite panels for transportation applications.
Next actions to be done are: increase the capital, consolidate partnerships and strengthen the team by hiring people.

An extensive market study was done in order to identify all potential market applications, what are the development opportunities, to assess what are the products already present on the market. Among all the sectors studied, we identified the transportation industry as the most promising one for us. The market study was also useful to spot our main competitors on different markets and some of biocomposite products in development or already on the market.

IPR study was done to validate VESO’s freedom to operate about the different innovations that the company aims to patent. This study also gave very precise and meaningful data about what is patented in the field of biocomposites and whom. This is very relevant to finalize our patent strategy. As the IP strategy and the commercialization plan are tightly linked, this will give a valuable input to our business related activities. By using keywords such as “Panel”, “Fibre”, “fiber”, “Vegetal”, “plant”, “natural”, “green”, a corpus of 493 patents was found. The corpus was reviewed manually to identify which patent documents could be the most relevant regarding the patentability of future patent application related to biocomposite panel. A list of recommendations to avoid infringement of patents published was made. Several mapping were also made based on the patents found to have a global overview of the IP environment in the field and the general trends of patent filing strategies. These include for instance: distribution over time of the filing of patent applications in the field of bio-composite panels, top 20 patent applicants in this field and their legal status, bio-composite applications vs Fiber types or top 15 applicants vs Top 20 protected markets.

A business study was led to finalize development plan including manufacturing, distribution and supports needed and actions required to support and develop the business. Investments have been revised upward to be on the market in the next 3 years. Other actions concern increase the capital, consolidate partnerships and hire additional personnel in the meantime.

Regarding dissemination, VESO presented BIOPANELS project in front of Airbus and other aeronautic-related companies in Hamburg in January 2018, 29-30 during the event organized by the Executive Agency for Small and Medium Enterprises (EASME).
Biopanels project was a 6 month project funded under the scheme SME Instrument Phase I that just did finish.
The results obtained reinforce VESO company in its willing to develop a first industrializatioin line to produce biosourced panels. This project brought us useful data to see more clearly the opportunities and the treats we’re facing. Therefore, we were able to build a solid development and business plan. From socio-economic point of view, we expect a turnover of 4.2 million euros 3 years after the end of the project and 15 employees (against 3 today).
Veso plans to apply to SME Instrument Phase 2 to pursue the development of this project.