Industry 4.0: launch of Novacart@IIT, a joint laboratory for biodegradable packaging
Collaboration between research and industry can result in highly innovative projects. An example of this is Novacart@IIT: a joint lab for the treatment of pure cellulose, with applications in the food industry, recently launched by Novacart, the Italian packaging multinational led by entrepreneur Andrea Anghileri, and the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT).
The laboratory, devoted to research and development activities, is aimed at implementing a new technology that can replace the polyurethane film ‒ widely used for food packaging ‒ with a highly biocompatible paper material. In particular, the research and development activities will be carried out both at Novacart’s main plant, near Lecco, and in dedicated spaces at the Smart Materials Lab of IIT in Genoa, synergistically integrating industrial production with laboratory experimentation.
The ultimate aim of the project is the development of paper containers suitable for the cooking and packaging of food, made according to criteria of eco-compatibility, which can replace the current packaging made of polyurethane materials. The total planned investment is more than 1 million euro over 5 years, including a contribution in kind and funds to be used to hire 2 new researchers that will work on the implementation of the technology in the field. The first application of the innovative technology will be baking moulds.
The project follows a first collaboration of the duration of 24 months, which resulted in the development of a promising technology for the replacement of the polyurethane film ‒ a non-eco-friendly material, essential to protect paper trays from the fat of foods ‒ with a biodegradable coating having the same functional characteristics.
Cooperation activities have started, in particular, between Novacart and the Smart Materials group of the IIT, led by researcher Athanassia Athanassiou, able to develop completely biocompatible and biodegradable materials, made “smart” through the use of nanotechnology. In this sector, the Italian Institute of Technology can rely on advanced tools for the synthesis of micro- and nano-structured composite materials, a chemistry laboratory and instrumentation for the microscopy and characterization, both mechanical and thermal, of the new cutting-edge materials.