Introducing ExpandFibre Ecosystem member AIJU

Introducing ExpandFibre Ecosystem member AIJU

Members 26.04.2023

AIJU is a Spanish Technological Institute specialised in toys, children’s products, and leisure. We had the pleasure to talk with Paco Varela (Ph.D.) about AIJU and their interest in the themes represented by ExpandFibre Ecosystem. 

AIJU aims to optimise the creation and development process of children’s products, starting with the idea and continuing until the product reaches its market helping them in all proceses to create a new product (design, prototyping, plastic material development, industrialization and market research). With more than 30 years of experience, AIJU has advised hundreds of companies of all sizes on thousands of products manufactured for children, food packaging and plastic consumer goods.

Paco Varela (Ph.D.) started at AIJU in 2015, and currently he works in the Future Business department overseeing all European projects dealing with topics related to circular economy, bioeconomy, innovative materials and manufacturing, 3D printing, robotics, ITC and e-health, market & consumer research, etc. Through his work, Paco has become very familiar with projects funded by the European Commission (EC), and this is how Paco learned about the ExpandFibre Ecosystem.

Paco explains that at the moment, there are about six EC-funded projects running at AIJU in Horizon Europe, LIFE or Erasmus Alliances. The projects are related to topics such as these:  

  • Recyclability of materials (Precycling Project): the project studies how to remove all harmful substances and additives from materials so that they can be recycled and reused. For example, reusing materials derived from home appliances industry can be a safety issue.
  • Bioeconomy education for children (GenB Project). The project aims to find ways to Informing and educating young people on more sustainable behaviours and choices to build a future Generation, informed and interested in bioeconomy
  • In addition, there are projects related to robotics, circular economy VET education for industrial companies, biodiesel, and digital innovation hub for companies y and looking into replacing conventional batteries with hydrogen batteries, among others.

The link to ExpandFibre stems from AIJU’s interest in biomaterials and biomaterial solutions.  Companies making children’s products, such as s, toys, childcare articles, playgrounds, etc., are very keen to find biobased solutions for children’s toys. As an example, Paco mentions almond residue derived from the famous Spanish confectionary, turron. Almond powder was studied as a potential raw material source in Mastalmond LIFE project and polymer almond colour concentrates were industrialized by the Masterbatch company partner. Similarly, cellulose fibres, functional additives extracted from agro-waste residues, biobased polymers, and lignin fibres are also interesting as for their antimicrobial and UV-resistance properties, not forgetting durability and mechanical characteristics – all very important qualifiers for children’s toys.

Encouraged by the positive experiences AIJU has already gained from collaborating with some ExpandFibre members (e.g. Finnish biotechnology solution provider MetGen), the Spanish research organisation is open to partner with other members of the Ecosystem, in particular those with interest and experience in biobased solutions.  AIJU is open to offer their expertise in testing materials also on a small scale or pilot scale, acting as external partners to help test and analyse end products or similar.

More information: AIJU website