COARSE wool research will be the focus of a $21m partnership between Zealand’s Wool Industry Research Ltd and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
The WIRL board met for the first time earlier this month with MBIE’s National Manager Biological Industries, Dr Max Kennedy, to discuss research required to generate transformational opportunities for the coarse wool market.
WIRL said the focus of the $21m research investment will be to look at new ways to use wool as a source of high value keratin. The partnership programme will also work with traditional manufacturing industries to develop new technical textiles.
WIRL board chairman, Graham Brown, said the partnership is a really exciting and essential initiative for the wool industry.
“This partnership is recognition by MBIE of further potential in the high value, new use areas that we, at WIRL, have already developed in previous research investments, such as the ground breaking research into using wool based protein sources.”
“A seven year partnership programme will now give our research consortium time to focus on finding new high value uses for crossbred wool,” he said.
“This will in turn lift farmgate prices and of course contribute to export earnings.”
The total programme cost of $21m will be spread over the next seven years, at $3m per year. WRONZ and the wool industry will be funding 60 percent and MBIE 40pc of the partnership.
Wool industry members are 100pc behind the new partnership, WIRL said.
“Everyone in the industry is aware of the decline in wool – what was once a major contributor to our economy, crossbred wool has been in a slow decline for years and struggles to maintain parity in its traditional interior textiles based markets,” Mr Brown said.
“Prior to seeking co-funding from MBIE, WRONZ obtained unanimous endorsement from wool industry members for the application and also for the need to find new high value/volume uses for New Zealand coarse wool.”
The research will consist of three areas:
- A basic research programme will underpin the partnership through developing new knowledge about the natural structure and formation of wool fibre.
- Discovery of effective ways to deconstruct the fibre and reconstitute it in a range of functional forms.
- Optimising the performance and utilisation of the new materials in a range of forms and applications.
Wool Industry Research Limited (WIRL) is a fully owned subsidiary of Wool Research Organisation of NZ Inc. (WRONZ), which underwrites the industry funding component of the new partnership.