On 06-08 of September 2023 took place in Stuttgart the “Bioeconomy: New material technologies and industrial raw materials” event – which is one of the ClusterXChange implemented by HempClub project to better connect Europe’s industrial ecosystem. The exchange was focused on the industrial application of hemp biomass, especially hemp fibre, and was ideally located in the Stuttgart area because of the extraordinary combination of a high density of industrial companies in Baden-Württemberg due to OEMs, and the political push in Baden-Württemberg to revive natural fibres (flax, hemp) as an industrial raw material (Baden-Württemberg State Strategy for a Sustainable Bioeconomy by the Ministry of Food, Rural Areas and Consumer Protection).
On the first day, the visitors stayed with the AFBW – Alliance Fibre-Based Materials, one of the best-performing networks in Europe and an important source of inspiration in the market for fibre-based materials. They presented the cluster and showed its network projects, such as the NaturalFIBER BW project which wants to support regional biodiversity and to expand regional value chains and structures in the field of natural fibers. It followed two presentations by „naturalFIBERBW“ project partners: Signature Projects with the research project “Tastino”, hemp-based protein substitute in the food sector, and the Standortagentur Tirol with “Alpenhanf 360°”, hemp-based value chains in the Alpine Region. This morning served as an intensive exchange between the participants and the hosts on the topic of regional hemp-based value chains, their potential, and hurdles. An intensive exchange of know-how took place. In the afternoon the participants were hosted by Arena 2036 for a presentation and a tour of the Research Campus. During this time, the visitors had the pleasure of listening to the Mercedes-Benz sustainability strategy, exchanging on the topic of renewable raw materials. Moreover, we followed the presentation of various alpine hemp projects, and we exchanged ideas with the Institute of Aircraft Design of the University of Stuttgart IFB about the opportunities for natural fibre reinforced plastics and natural fibre textiles in aircraft construction and Industry. One aim was to present the state of the art of hemp semi-finished products and to compare it with the state of the art of flax to bring hemp into play as an alternative to flax for OEMs. This can lead to new applications and possible cooperation and business relationships with the CxC participants.
The second day started with a visit to the production hall of the Cluster of Excellence “Integrative Planning and Construction for Architecture” IntCDC in Waiblingen. Among others, the livMatS project was presented there. This prototype production involves the networking of the digital process chain with renewable raw materials, explicitly flax fibre roving wound by CNC-controlled robots. On the one hand, this presentation gave an understanding of the “Excellence Cluster” funding instrument and, on the other hand, the possibility to discuss the topic of “digital process chain in connection with renewable raw materials – from the field to the component”. The next item on the programme was the DITF – German Institutes of Textile and Fiber Research one of the leading research institutes for fibres and textiles which is currently working hard to advance the research focus “High tech fibre – from petroleum-based to renewable raw materials” and to develop appropriate solutions for the industry. The visitors got an insight into various approaches and efforts and discussed future joint research projects. In the afternoon, the participants visited the Lenningen Campus the University of the Media HdM – Department of Packaging Technology and its Spinn-off fibers365. The HdM presented their fibre moulding plant – including the innovation of long-fiber-reinforced strong paper suitable for deep drawing. Fibers365 provided us with their approach to relieving the burden of wood-based energy and material production through renewable raw materials from annual plants – especially agricultural waste. In addition to the transfer of know-how, the meeting also made it possible to establish new business relationships.
On the last day, we visited BaFa neu GmbH, a long-standing player in the commercial hemp industry in Germany, and Topp Textil GmbH, a manufacturer of technical textiles and supplier to OEMs. In addition to a tour of the company, including the production facility, there was a live link to a start-up of Topp Textil in Hungary. The exciting thing about this meeting was the presentation on the topic that in countries like Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Hungary, and the Czech Republic there is still much more relevant infrastructure for the processing of natural fibres than in Western European countries (except France). Based on the project and the solution approach of Topp Textil, these potentials of cross-border projects with an EAST-WEST axis could be shown and discussed.
Due to the broad programme, we were able to contribute to understanding the full industrial potential of the potential of hemp in various applications. In addition to the expected exchange outcomes – finding new project partners and exploring the network – the participants had a lot of time to have a lot of B2B dialogs.
We want to thank all the participants from eight different European countries who were present at this ClusterXchange and the companies that hosted us during the tour.