In Finland, recycled and regenerated fibre technology developer Infinited Fiber Company Oy (IFC) has raised EUR 3.7 million in funding from investors, including Swedish fashion major H&M Group, Finnish energy major Fortum Oyj and equity company Virala Oy. IFC is currently running a 50-tonne-per-annum (tpa) pilot plant in Espoo and plans to increase the annual capacity of the next generation sustainable textile fibre production up to 500 tonnes in order to meet the growing demand from the market.
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Infinited Fiber Company (IFC) offers carbon-neutral fiber regeneration technology for textile and non-woven industries. Its proprietary technology, originally developed by VTT – Technical Research Institute of Finland, converts textile, cardboard, and agricultural waste to new and better textile fibre – infinitely.
All the rights and know-how were transferred from VTT to IFC in early 2018.
I’m very proud that we have created a technology that enables textile waste to be used over and over again by producing a strong, sustainable fiber without compromising quality and comfort. We are delighted to welcome the global fashion retailer H&M Group, as well as Fortum, a leading clean energy and resource efficiency company, and Finnish investment company Virala, to be our new partners in closing the loop for textiles, said Petri Alava, CEO of IFC.
IFC currently operates a 50-tonne-per-annum pilot plant in Espoo, Finland, and plans to increase the annual capacity of the next-generation sustainable textile fibre production by up to 500 tonnes in order to meet the growing demand from the market.
We’re excited about the partnership with Infinited Fiber Company. Their innovation aligns perfectly with the H&M group’s sustainability goals and our vision to become fully circular. Infinited Fiber has proven significant potential to accelerate the journey from a linear to circular fashion industry. We look forward to being part of developing and scaling this technology in the coming years, said Erik Karlsson, Investment Manager for Sustainable Fashion at H&M group’s investment arm CO:LAB.
In addition to cotton-rich textile waste, the three-phase IFC manufacturing process can use most materials containing cellulose, such as recycled paper, cardboard, and agricultural waste such as straw – yet the reconstituted fibre will be the same.
Consistent quality, cost- and resource-efficient
According to IFC, key properties of “Infinited Fiber” include a naturally soft look and feel, consistently proven quality, 30-40 percent better colour uptake than competing fibres, antibacterial and bio-degradable, and excellent moisture absorption qualities.
In addition, it has total cost competitiveness in the textile production supply chain using fewer chemicals and water than conventional textile processing. Furthermore, the process can be done repeatedly without compromising the quality of the fibre.
A problem in the textile industry is the growing demand for cotton that simply isn’t available. We have proven that for example in denim applications, the commercial quality requirements can be reached with our Infinited Fiber. The global denim industry is pushing us to bring our solutions to the market. Our reborn Infinited Fiber is reusable forever, carbon neutral and applicable like natural cotton without any microplastics harming the environment, said Petri Alava.
Fortum expands biorefining investments
For Finland-headed energy major Fortum Oyj, its investment in IFC fits as one of its four strategic priorities is to build options for significant new businesses. Bioeconomy is a natural option due to its synergies with the company’s current business and the mission to improve resource efficiency.
Fortum has piloted fractioning technologies that separate cellulose and other components from biomass for further refining, resulting in higher purity of fractions than in the traditional pulp and biofuel processes.
Its investment in IFC gives it approximately 4 percent ownership of the company but offers the company “natural access” to sustainable fibre and also textile manufacturing partners, the next steps in the industry value chain.
Material efficiency offers a significant means to curb climate change. Fortum is studying possibilities to grow business that is based on the more resource efficient use of biomass. One option is to invest in technology start-ups in the value chain. We believe strongly in biorefining, new technologies and their role in a more sustainably produced textile fibre. In addition, several international brands have announced that they will increase the share of such fibre in their manufacturing processes, said Heli Antila, Head of Fortum’s business focusing on biobased solutions.
The business model of IFC is to license the Infinited Fiber technology for global fibre producers in textile and non-woven industries. The end-use applications include fashion, disposable personal care products such as wipes, diapers, pads, and technical products such as automotive filters, dairy, and construction applications. The production process is protected by several patents in key market areas.
According to IFC, the sale of the first licensed commercial plant with an annual capacity of 25 000 tonnes is scheduled for 2020-2021. The 50 tpa pilot plant started up production in March 2018 and is selling solutions to several leading global brands.
After the investment round, the company’s founders and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland still remains the main owners.