Technology major and premium tyre maker Continental today officially inaugurated its research laboratory named 'Taraxagum Lab Anklam' in Anklam, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Germany. Spread across 30,000 square metres, the new facility is set up as a base for future research on farming and the extraction process of Russian dandelion as an alternative raw material source to the rubber tree in the tropics.
In case of positive test results, the tyre manufacturer is planning to introduce the raw material into serial production within 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 inaugurate this lighthouse project today. We are the first tyre manufacturer in the world to invest such a significant amount in industrializing dandelion rubber. We see Russian dandelion as an important alternative and complementary to conventional natural rubber from hevea brasiliensis allowing us to meet rising global demand in an environmentally compatible and reliable way.”
Continental's new research laboratory is another technological milestone on the road to implement Vision 2025 for its tyre business. “As part of our Vision 2025 strategy, we have invested far more than 2 billion euros in production, research, and development as well as in jobs and new products worldwide since 2011. 2018, 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 background in agricultural sciences, chemistry, and production and process technology will search on plant cultivation as well as developing, setting up, and operating machines for processing Russian dandelion at the new location. The new business location creates opportunities for farmers in the region and their cultivation areas, too.
"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 visible,” emphasised 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.