Bringing rubber production to Europe: Continental starts work on test lab

With sods of soil sliding from shiny shovels, work on the Continental ‘Taraxagum Lab Anklam’ research and test laboratory officially began on Monday. Construction of the facility will now begin in earnest, and Continental Reifen Deutschland anticipates that the lab, based near Germany’s Baltic coast, will be operational in autumn 2018. Continental is investing a total of 35 million euros in the project, a sum supported by a subsidy of 11.6 million euros from the Ministry of Economics in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

Among those present at the groundbreaking ceremony were the Minister of Economics for Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Harry Glawe; the Mayor of Anklam, Michael Galander; and the head of car and light truck tyre research and development at Continental, Dr Boris Mergell.

“We are delighted to have found a location here in Anklam that meets the needs of our research and test facility,” said Dr Mergell at the ceremony. “We hope that through improvements in dandelion cultivation and processing, we will in future be able to meet part of our natural rubber needs in a more sustainable way. The plants we require for Taraxagum, as we call our dandelion rubber, can also be grown in temperate regions, helping to avoid monoculture and slash-and-burn farming in the tropics, while also substantially reducing the distances the raw material has to travel to our tyre production sites.”

Andreas Topp, Carla Recker and Boris Mergell present a Continental tyre produced using rubber source from Russian dandelions

Andreas Topp, Carla Recker and Boris Mergell present a Continental tyre produced using rubber source from Russian dandelions

Research at the laboratory will focus on the cultivation and processing of Russian dandelions as an alternative source of raw material to traditional rubber tree plantations in the tropics. Should testing deliver a positive outcome, Continental plans to use the raw material in its future series production operations to meet an increasing proportion of its natural rubber requirements.

Minister of Economics Glawe and Anklam Mayor Galander both emphasised the benefits Continental is bringing to the region and local area. Glawe voiced the hope that the company would become a strategic investor for the entire region, while Galander called the lab an important step in Anklam’s ongoing economic development.

Continental first applied for planning permission for the laboratory in August 2016 and is now starting construction at the site at Lilienthalring 1, Anklam on schedule. The laboratory will eventually provide work for around 20 employees. The German tyre maker originally launched its research efforts to replace rubber from the tropics with material sourced from plants cultivated in temperate regions in 2011 in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute IME in Münster, the Julius Kühn Institute in Quedlinburg, and the plant breeder ESKUSA in Parkstetten, as well as other partners in multiple research projects subsidised by the German Federal Ministries of Education and Research, and Food and Agriculture.

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