AIMPLAS closed 2021 with €17.6 million in revenue, a 20% increase compared to the previous year. Broken down by activity, 72% of this income was obtained from 255 R&D projects, of which 30% were international and generated €55.5 million in direct aid for companies; 21% came from 5,667 technological services provided by the technology centre; and 5% was generated by 184 training activities. The remaining 2% corresponded to member fees.
The centre’s research areas include projects for the healthcare industry that help improve the diagnostics of diseases such as cancer through improved diagnosis and treatment, as well as projects aimed at removing microplastics from water. However, the lion’s share of the centre’s projects are related to the circular economy, such as those involving the development of new packaging from milk whey and extending the shelf life of hard cheese. Other projects make it possible to collect and recover marine litter to give it a new life in the form of urban furniture. Oil and other industrial products are also obtained by applying chemical recycling methods to the composites used for wind turbines
and in the aeronautics industry for subsequent use in the ceramics sector. When taken as a whole, these projects provide a real response to another major challenge: climate change.
With the aim of helping to decarbonize the economy in the transport industry, composites have been developed that can be recycled using microwaves and laser welding. This development will reduce vehicle weight and thus help cut CO2 emissions without compromising performance. New transformation processes for thermoplastic processing have been designed that make it possible to replace the metal components in critical structures such as batteries and hydrogen tanks. This will lead to new modes of mobility. The use of plastic materials in the construction industry is another research area developed in different projects to reduce the carbon footprint and help mitigate the warming of cities. Much of the funding for this research was obtained thanks to the support of the Valencian Community’s Ministry of Sustainable Economy through the Valencian Institute of Business Competitiveness (IVACE), which was key for consolidating the innovation model supported by both institutions.
To keep growing and increasing work areas aligned with the needs of companies in the sector, expansion has been approved of the AIMPLAS facilities at the technology park in a new 1,100 m2 unit, which means that the centre now covers 11,600 m2 of total constructed area.
Carbon footprint CALCULO Seal
In 2021, AIMPLAS also registered its 2019 and 2020 carbon footprint in the register of the Spanish Ministry of Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge, which meant it obtained the CALCULO Seal. Registration includes implementing a plan to reduce the centre’s carbon footprint, which, among other initiatives, involves doubling the current photovoltaic energy capacity, giving priority to renewable energy when buying electricity, continuing to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels by promoting efficient driving and carpooling, renewing the fleet of company vehicles by electrifying them, and increasing the number of chargers for electrical vehicles available at its facilities.
In technological services, AIMPLAS is still the leading Spanish technology centre in terms of the number of different plastic tests accredited by ENAC in accordance with the UN-EN ISO/IEC 17025 standard. In 2021, it further expanded its scope of relevant accreditations to include authorizations for plastic waste to be exported while complying with Basel Convention requirements, as well as tests of compliance with the regulation on reusable plastic tableware, which is expected to help drive the shift towards the circular economy of plastics. In addition, a new biodegradability laboratory has been installed to carry out disintegration tests at pilot plant level.
Last year, the Competitive and Strategic Intelligence Department launched a new service to support companies in a context in which legislation affecting plastic materials and products is constantly changing. Thanks to the Product Legislation Service (PLS), companies will be now able to stay up to date on legislation and receive assistance when needed.
In regards to training, the University of Valencia launched a university level, expert course on plastic recycling, and the Valencia Polytechnic University ran their Masters Degree program on Polymeric Materials and Composite Technologies for the 8th year. International seminars, such as the first international seminar on plastic recycling also took place, which helped to enrich the technical understanding of professionals and specialists within the sector.