Following the ground-breaking ceremony in November 2017, the building covering an area of 30,000 square meters is ready for occupation just one year later. It is designed as a base for future research on farming and the extraction process of Russian dandelions as an alternative raw material source to the rubber trees in the tropics. The tyre manufacturer is planning to introduce the raw material into serial production within the next ten years, in order to obtain an increasing proportion of its natural rubber demand from the dandelion plant.
At the opening, Nikolai Setzer, member of the Executive Board of Continental AG and head of the Tyre division, said, “We are proud to open this lighthouse project today. We are the first tyre manufacturer in the world to invest such a significant amount in industrialising dandelion rubber. We see Russian dandelions as an important alternative and complementary to conventional natural rubber from hevea brasiliensis, allowing us to meet the rising global demand in an environmentally compatible and reliable way.”
Additionally, the investment in the new research laboratory is another technological milestone on the road to implementing the Vision 2025 Continental has developed for its tyre business. “As part of our Vision 2025 strategy, we have invested more than €2 billion in production, research, and development as well as in jobs and new products worldwide since 2011. Anklam now features prominently in the series of unique projects in Europe, America, and Asia,” highlighted Setzer.
In the medium term, around 20 employees with backgrounds in agricultural sciences, chemistry, and production and process technology will research plant cultivation as well as developing, setting up, and operating machines for processing Russian dandelions at the new location. The Ministry of Economic Affairs of the state of Mecklenburg- Western Pomerania supported the future-oriented project with €11.6 million in order to create high-quality jobs locally. The new business location also creates opportunities for farmers in the region and their cultivation areas.
During the opening ceremony, Harry Glawe, Minister of Economic Affairs of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Michael Galander, the Mayor of Anklam, and site manager Dr. Carsten Venz addressed the attending project partners, journalists, farmers, neighbours and residents of Anklam.
“With the opening in Anklam a foundation is laid for research and development in a new dimension and diversity. We fully support this project which has the real potential to shape the future of the region. It is our goal that with the success of the research project the need for a production plant for natural rubber arises. This enterprise contributes to more direct value creation and the local agriculture, as well as the industry in the region, will be strengthened equally”, underlined Harry Glawe, Minister of Economics, Employment and Health of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.
“We have been working to understand the molecular basis of the rubber biosynthesis in the dandelion plant for many years. This biological understanding has now brought industrial use within reach. With the new test laboratory, Continental has broken new ground that makes this transfer concept highly viable,” emphasized Dirk Prüfer, Professor of Plant Biotechnology at the University of Münster (Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster – WWU) and site director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME, Münster branch.
Continental presented the plans for the laboratory in August 2016 and began construction in Anklam in November 2017. The tyre manufacturer has been conducting research into replacing natural rubber from the tropics with plants which can be grown at moderate climates since 2011, in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute IME in Münster, the Julius Kühn-Institute in Quedlinburg, the plant breeder ESKUSA in Parkstetten and other partners in various research projects.
The first sample of a premium winter tyre featuring a tread made from pure dandelion rubber was brought onto the road in 2014. The first truck tyre with a tread made from Taraxagum then followed at IAA 2016.
You can find further information about the Taraxagum project at www.taraxagum.com