Natural Materials Association launch success
On 19 November, 1 Carlton House Terrace, London played host to the Natural Materials Association (NMA)’s official launch. The association is the first UK body to recognise the breadth of natural materials and aims to bridge the gap between materials scientists, product designers and those in education.
Angela Morris, Chair of the NMA and CEO of The Wool Packaging Company, welcomed guests and expressed her passion for natural materials. She noted the need for materials research to result in commercialisation and her hopes for the NMA to assist with this part of the process, where materials scientists often stumble.
Prominent speakers took to the plinth to present fascinating research projects and business ventures that use a range of natural materials. Among them was Professor Bruce Wood, Director of Centre for Creative Industries at Glasgow Caledonian University. He used various case studies to illustrate how a successful union between designers and manufacturers can lead to great results. A case in point was VK&C, a multidisciplinary consultancy known for their pulp paper lamp, made from recycled paper mill waste, which won numerous awards following collaboration with Italian furniture manufacturer, Cassina.
Professor Fritz Vollrath, Head of the Oxford Silk Group at the University of Oxford treated the audience to an insight into 21st Century silk and its properties. He showed how silk has huge potential to challenge current methods in the fields of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. He said that in the exploration for new uses for materials, ‘the best we can do is learn from the material itself’.
Later in the day, in a testament to the diversity of natural materials, Carmen Hijosa from the Royal College of Art showcased Piñatex, a sustainable, biodegradable material that has the aesthetics of leather and is made from pineapple leaf fibres. She is working closely with manufacturers in the Philippines during her final year of study and hopes to bring the material to market, shortly.
Numerous other speakers offered a wealth of experience and knowledge, which left the audience with many questions and much to talk about during the networking session.
A message that cropped up time and time again throughout the day was that we need to consider the potential and alternative applications of materials we already have. As Professor Bruce Wood said, ‘just by changing one element of a material you can enhance opportunity’.
Attendees expressed their enthusiasm via Twitter (see below).