Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

H2020

SafeWood Report Summary

Project ID: 718188

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SafeWood (Novel bio-inspired environmentally-friendly process for producing durable and dimensionally-stable wood)

Reporting period: 2016-03-01 to 2016-08-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Wood is a natural, renewable, reusable and recyclable material, thus having enormous potential
to contribute positively to the EU’s 2050 goals, by enabling a high standard of living from lower
levels of energy and resource consumption. Wood is the main source of financial revenue from
forests, which cover over 40% of the EU’s land area and provide around three million jobs.
Although globally forest area continues to decrease, currently in the EU, only 60–70% of the
annual increment is being cut, whilst providing around 430 million cubic metres per annum of
timber resources. Consequently, European softwood is a sustainable resource, in contrast to
imported tropical hardwoods.

To ensure a long and useful life in many end-use situations, timber—especially softwoods
– needs protection from the hazards of fungal decay and weathering. The current approach to
wood preservation is based on the principle of toxicity. Wood impregnation with biocides (containing
creosote, arsenic, zinc, copper, chromium, etc.) prevents biological degradation, but
the European directive on the use of biocides place severe restrictions nowadays on the active
substances that can be used in wood preservation, above all arsenic, and their fields of application.
Wood treated with such preservatives is classified as hazardous waste. Furthermore,
current treatments don’t have positive contributions to other critical properties of wood, such
as dimensional stability or water absorption.

Recent research demonstrates that antifungal components and hydrophobic extractives produced
by trees themselves can be effectively used as environmentally-friendly wood preservatives.
Such extracts are readily available as a by-product of the paper industry. Our SAFEWOOD
bio-inspired approach is based on wood preservation as trees do it, the novel preservation
process, in effect, converting sapwood to have characteristics of durable heartwood.

Within this SME Instrument Phase 1 project, a feasibility study has been undertaken to evaluate
and analyse the potential of the innovation. This has been based on extensive investigation
to support the process of decision making and define the business plan for reaching the targeted
goals.

The overall conclusion from this study is that it is highly worthwhile to bring SAFEWOOD
to market. The next step in this process will be to submit an SME Instrument programme
Phase 2 application, which will be based on the positive results of the feasibility analysis and
business plan resulting from this study.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The work of this SME Instrument Phase 1 project has involved eight tasks, the results being
briefly summarised as follows.

Task 1 of the study involved development of a detailed businessmodel (BM) for exploitation
of the SAFEWOOD results based on the approach proposed by Osterwalder. This approach
encompasses work of previous authors by identifying nine basic model building blocks that,
considered together, can adequately describe the main characteristics of a business model.
These identify
• Key partners,
• Key activities,
• The Value Proposition,
• Customer Relationships,
• Customer Segments,
• Key Resources,
• Channels,
• Cost Structure, and
• Revenue Streams.

From this starting point, a SWOT analysis was then undertaken to identify
• Strengths (characteristics of the business or project that give it an advantage over others),
• Weaknesses (characteristics that place the business or project at a disadvantage relative
to others),
• Opportunities (elements that the business or project can exploit to its advantage), and
• Threats (elements in the environment that could cause trouble for the business or project).

Within Task 2 of this study, the market opportunities and user requirements for safe and
environmentally-friendly wood preservatives have been evaluated in detail, based on literature
and patent searches, personal interviews and questionnaires involving a broad range of
stakeholders. These have involve both end-users of protected wood and companies operating
sawmills and/ or existing wood impregnation plants.

Using the identified user requirements from Task 2 as an input, the work of Task 3 of the
study has developed requirements and specifications for wood preservatives based on natural
wood extractives and the associated impregnation process. The feasibility of implementation
of each aspect has been considered in relation to the associated effort and cost to adapt results
of previous work and develop the overall up-scaled commercialised solution. This work has
included practical tests to determine the potential for further optimising process parameters
and tall oil usage. These activities have resulted in definition of the detailed programme of
work and estimated budget for the Phase 2 project.

Task 4 had the objective of identifying key partners for further development and commercialisation
of SAFEWOOD. In the course of the study, a large number of organisations have
been consulted, both in relation to the market study of Task 2 and with the objective of identifying
the most appropriate partners for collaboration in the Phase 2 project as the system is
up-scaled and brought to market. These organisations, encompass both large and small companies,
academic and other research organisations and trade associations.

Within Task 5 of the study, identified revenue streams, together with associated projected
costs have been integrated. This process has enabled financial ratios and investment indicators
to be quantified. The results have been used as an input to Tasks 7 and 8 to define the
comprehensive business plan including feasibility analysis.

Based on consideration of alternative protection mechanisms in Task 6 of the study, a strategy
has been developed for protection of the SAFEWOOD Intellectual Property (IP), including
that expected to result from the Phase 2 project.

Integration of the preceding tasks within tasks 7 and 8 of the study has resulted in a feasibility
report detailing the methodology used, the evaluation criteria, the study findings and recommendations.
The market, technical, business, and economic and financial model viabilities
have each been critically appraised in the study process.

The developed detailed business plan encompasses all aspects of the business planning
process declaring vision and strategy alongside sub-plans covering Intellectual Property (IP)
management, marketing, finance, operations and risk assessment, i.e., effectively providing a
summary of

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

Progress beyond the state of the art

It should be appreciated that this is a feasibility study, not an R&D project. Consequently,
the current study, in itself, did not have the primary objective of advancing the state of the art.
Nevertheless, aspects of the work have related to advancement of the state of the art.

Within Task 3, tests have been undertaken to investigate the effect of various parameters of
the SAFEWOOD process. In particular, sequencing of temperature and pressure for the overall
process has been investigated. These tests indicated that, before starting the pressure stage, it
is best that wood is heated so that at least part of its inner parts heat to a temperature of at
least 100°C. It has been established that applying heat in this way greatly facilitates penetration
of the preservative within the wood because, as the temperature rises, the viscosity of the tall
oil-based preservative decreases.

Another important aspect of the process is that wood is also heated by means of vapour
during the vacuum stage after the pressure impregnation. In this way, it has been found that it
is possible to decrease the amount of wood preservative remaining on the surface layer of wood
after the pressure stage, facilitating washing the surface of wood clean and avoiding staining
before subsequent use of the wood. Furthermore, a 12% saving in tall oil usage is achieved.

The overall process cycle time is 23 hours. Although this is acceptable, it is considered that
it can be reduced to around 18 hours with further optimisation of the process in the Phase 2 project.

As a further technical development, it is proposed that the programme of work for the
Stage 2 project will include development of an advanced system for monitoring and control of
the impregnation process. The approach will be based on chromatic signal processing. This
involves application of novel signal processing techniques that have been successfully used in
various industrial monitoring and control applications. The novelty of the approach involves
determining the stage of completion of a complex process by interpreting measurements obtained
from a limited number of sensors providing parameters indicative of the process. In the
case of the SAFEWOOD process, sensors can include, for example, load cells that indicate the
weight gain of wood during impregnation by the tall oil.

Although the approach is already well proven, having been successfully used in a diverse
range of industrial control applications, it will be the first time that it has been applied in a
timber impregnation process. Consequently, it is considered that this aspect will also result
in intellectual property that will be the subject of an additional patent. The innovation, i.e.,
the proposed patent, can be generalised to relate to monitoring and control of processes for
impregnation of wood with any type of preservative.

Socio-economic impacts

Insignia offers wood processors the opportunity to produce and supply a viable, environmentally-
compatible, safe and sustainable alternative to tropical hardwoods and to compete with
wood impregnated with hazardous chemicals. For manufacturers of wood products, SAFEWOOD
enables the production of a diverse range of added value, high quality, reliable, dimensionally
stable and durable end-products for outdoor use — it is a product that enables
differentiation from the rest of the market.

The overall European market for impregnated wood is estimated as being 6.5 million m3 per annum,
of which around half corresponds to that used in the targeted sectors. In collaboration
with licensees in each country represented, Insignia expects to capture at least 3.5% of
this market (114,000m3) within 5 years following the launch of SAFEWOOD, rising to 7.0%
(226,000m3) after a further 3 years.

Benefits of SAFEWOOD compared to existing approaches for wood protection include:
• The process is environmentally-friendly, not involving use of biocides.
• The proc

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