ELIIT project: DARWIN and HOSBO join forces to develop VEGANMAT, a bacterial-cellulose based material that simulates leather

The ELIIT project supports SMEs in textile, clothing, leather and footwear (TCLF) to improve their competitiveness and, at the same time, help them integrate new technologies into innovative or high added vallued products, processes or services.

Recently, the  proposal between Darwin Bioprospecting Excellence S.L. and Hijos De Oscar Botella Sempere S.L. to develop a new vegan fabric from bacterial cellulose, has been accepted in the context of the ELIIT project. This project will last 1 year and is funded by the European Commission with a total amount of € 70,000.

A response to a changing market

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in awareness of animal welfare, an active search for a sustainable lifestyle and concern for human health. All these factors have resulted in changes in certain markets, such as the use of traditional leather. Today, vegan leather-like fabric is prevailing over more traditional textiles, gaining popularity as an alternative to animal-derived products.

Vegan leather can be produced from a wide variety of materials, such as plastics or plant waste. However, these materials have some limitations, such as their low biodegradability (plastics) or the low availability of raw materials (plant waste). Bacterial cellulose appears as an alternative that manages to exceed these limits: it is biodegradable, it has a low carbon footprint, production can be easily amplified and it is not seasonal. In addition, its physical and mechanical properties are very similar to traditional leather.

The main objective of this project is to establish a baseline for the production of vegan leather with bacterial cellulose. Specifically, it seeks to establish a standard fermentation unit and a specific protocol to optimize the industrial process for manufacturing bacterial cellulose. In addition, the profitability and environmental impact of the process will be evaluated. The obtained  celullose will also be used to create and analyze three MVPs (Minumum Viable Products).

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