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Photo: (L-R) Dr Max Kennedy, National Manager Biological Industries, MBIE; Graham Brown, Chaiman WIRL; Derrick Millton, Chairman WRONZ. 
A new $21 million partnership between Wool Industry Research Ltd (WIRL) and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has been announced in an exciting research partnership for the coarse wool industry in New Zealand.
Meeting for the first time last week with Dr Max Kennedy, National Manager Biological Industries, MBIE, the Board will begin discussions around the research required over the seven-year period to generate transformational opportunities for the coarse wool market.
The focus of the $21m research investment is to look at new ways to use wool as a source of high value keratin. The partnership programme will also work with traditional manufacturing industries to develop new technical textiles.
 This is a really exciting and essential initiative for the wool industry, says Wool Industry Research Limited (WIRL) Board Chairman, Graham Brown.
 “This partnership is recognition by MBIE of further potential in the high value, new use areas that we, at WIRL, have already developed in previous research investments, such as the ground breaking research into using wool based protein sources.
 A seven year partnership programme will now give our research consortium time to focus on finding new high value uses for crossbred wool. This will in turn lift farmgate prices and of course contribute to export earnings.”
 The total programme cost of $21m will be spread over the next seven years, at $3m per year. WRONZ and the wool industry will be funding 60 percent and MBIE 40 percent of the partnership.
 Wool Industry Members are 100 percent behind the new partnership. Everyone in the industry is aware of the decline in wool – what was once a major contributor to our economy, crossbred wool has been in a slow decline for years and struggles to maintain parity in its traditional interior textiles based markets, says Graham.
“Prior to seeking co-funding from MBIE, WRONZ obtained unanimous endorsement from wool industry members for the application and also for the need to find new high value/volume uses for New Zealand coarse wool.”
The research will consist of three areas: 
1. A basic research programme will underpin the partnership through developing new knowledge about the natural structure and formation of wool fibre.
2. Discovery of effective ways to deconstruct the fibre and reconstitute it in a range of functional forms.
3. Optimising the performance and utilisation of the new materials in a range of forms and applications.
Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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