Italian Leather Research Institute, the ongoing researchItalian Leather Research Institute, the ongoing research

Mar 12, 2018
Posted in: , Sustainability

The Italian Leather Research Institute, founded in 1885, provides research, standardisation, training, laboratory analysis and technical-scientific advice to the tanning industry and its supply chain. Under the guidance of President Paolo Gurisatti and the General Manager, Edoardo Imperiale, an important relaunch plan was recently presented to strengthen the role of the institute as an authoritative national research centre for innovation and technological transfer. In fact, the institute’s main goal remains to “consolidate the international leadership of Italian tanneries in terms of quality, technological development and sustainability”.

Increasingly closer to the real needs of companies, the research centre governed by the Chambers of Commerce of Naples, Pisa and Vicenza, is also entitled to carry our several research activities in progress to support the tanning industry. “The current lines of research focus on three areas: Process Technologies, Environmental & Sustainability and Product Technologies for Italian leather,” as Biagio Naviglio, Head of Research and Development reminded us. There are numerous research activities underway. It is impossible to name them all, but here are a few examples: chemical and physical properties of metal-free leather, innovation in waste management, assessment and biodegradability of differently tanned leather, recovery of waste also in terms of energy, monitoring of substances of concern in chemical products.

We also asked Dr Naviglio to talk about the technical specifications imposed by fashion companies on their suppliers. “Indeed, the subject is very much felt by tanneries. The problem can be overcome by having these documents prepared/revised by experts in the field. It is not only impossible (too stringent) to obtain the required values required, but sometimes they ask for parameters that have nothing to do with the tanning sector”.

Tanneries often complain about the discrepancies in the results between tests carried out by different laboratories. Is it possible to standardise the analytical methods?

“Most analytical methods for leather (e.g. chromium VI, free formaldehyde, pentachlorophenol, etc.) are standardised by methods and therefore should be applied by everyone. In any case, it would be useful to participate in inter-laboratory circuits to verify the concordance of the results. On the other hand, there are not very many official/validated analytical methods to verify quantitatively the presence of environmental contaminants in chemical products. Therefore, a committee of experts should be set up to develop standardised test methods”.


A research and innovation programme

In terms of Industry 4.0, the Research Institute has launched RaIDto4.0 (Research and Innovation Driving for Leather and Fashion Industry). It is a programme for research, innovation and technological development based on the integration between the tanning industry and new digital technologies. As part of the opportunities offered by Industry 4.0, the programme foresees the management of incubators, accelerators and FabLab (laboratories where new digital technologies can be experimented); and further studies, research and design activities; networking between the supply and demand of technological innovation and new innovative financial tools.

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