On Wednesday, Germany’s president Frank-Walter Steinmeier announced the winner of the 2021 Deutscher Zukunftspreis (German Future Prize), an accolade bestowed upon those promoting technology and innovation within the country. This year the award went, perhaps predictably, to the research team at Biontech for their work developing Pfizer’s Covid-19 mRNA vaccine, but the awards event also honoured research into finding a viable substitute for the rubber from the Pará tree.
Research into the use of locally sourced rubber in tyre manufacture has led to Continental’s Dr Carla Recker being nominated for a prestigious award in her native Germany. Together with fellow researchers Prof. Dr Dirk Prüfer from the University of Münster and Dr Christian Schulze Gronover from the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME, Recker has been shortlisted for the ‘Deutscher Zukunftspreis 2021’, an award for technology and innovation bestowed by Germany’s President.
The German Sustainability Award project is hailed as “Europe’s premier award for environmental and social engagement.” Held annually since 2008 and oriented towards the goals of Agenda 2030, the multi-stakeholder, government-supported awards honour those working towards a more sustainable future. Awardees for 2021 include Continental, whose Urban Taraxagum bicycle tyre caught the judging panel’s attention. The tyre is an award-winner in the Responsible Design category.
The miniscule pieces of plant root that Dr Tobias Ruckert shows us look for all the world like fresh spices, but the recipes he prepares with them aren’t for eating. These roots are from the Taraxacum kok-saghyz (TKS) plant, better known as Russian dandelion. Continental has been evaluating its suitability as an alternative source of natural rubber for much of the past decade.
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.
For the past six years, Continental has worked with partners on projects to source rubber from Russian dandelions for its tyre production. In 2016, the company announced plans to establish a new facility for industrialising this process. A seven-acre site in Anklam, not far from Germany’s Baltic coast, was selected for this research laboratory. The tyre maker now reports that groundbreaking for the 35 million-euro initial phase of its Taraxagum Lab Anklam will take place this coming Monday.
For a number of years, Continental’s Tire division has collaborated with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology (IME) in Münster, Germany and the University of Münster’s Institute for Plant Biology and Biotechnology (IBBP) to develop rubber from dandelions that is suitable for series tyre production. The scientists heading the ‘Rubin – Industrial Emergence of Natural Rubber from Dandelion’ project have now been awarded the Joseph von Fraunhofer Prize for their research into Russian dandelion and the development of prototype passenger car tyres that used dandelion-derived rubber. The award was presented yesterday in Wiesbaden, Germany, to IME’s Professor Dr Dirk Prüfer, IBBP’s Dr Christian Schulze Gronover and Continental’s Dr Carla Recker.