Continental has opened its research laboratory named “Taraxagum Lab Anklam” in Anklam, Germany.
Following the groundbreaking ceremony in November 2017, the building covering an area of 30,000 square meters (32,2917 square feet) 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 tire manufacturer is planning to introduce the raw material into serial production within the next 10 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 Tire division, said, “We are proud to open this lighthouse project today. We are the first tire manufacturer in the world to invest such a significant amount in industrializing 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.”
In addition, the investment in the new research laboratory is another technological milestone on the road to implementing the Vision 2025 Continental has developed for its tire business, according to Setzer.
“As part of our Vision 2025 strategy, we have invested more than € 2 billion (approx. $2.3 billion US) 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,” said 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 (about $13 million US) in order to create high-quality jobs locally. The new business location also creates opportunities for farmers in the region and their cultivation areas.
Continental presented the plans for the laboratory in August 2016 and began construction in Anklam in November 2017. The tire manufacturer has been conducting research into replacing natural rubber from the tropics with plants that 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 tire featuring a tread made from pure dandelion rubber was brought onto the road in 2014. The first truck tire with a tread made from Taraxagum then followed at IAA 2016.
You can find further information about the Taraxagum project at taraxagum.com.