Heartland Wins Continental’s Sustainable Material Innovation Challenge
Heartland Industries has won the innovation challenge for sustainable material solutions in manufacturing. This international challenge was put on by INAM (Innovation Network for Advanced Materials) and Continental, a multinational automotive supplier and tire manufacturer.
The purpose of this challenge was to find sustainable material solutions for rubbers and plastics in automotive applications.
Since the mobility sector is one of the main target demographics that Heartland focuses on, it was easy for the team to communicate how hemp-based materials can make a meaningful impact on several applications that the Continental team is actively working on.
The project brief specifically discusses how “plastic components reduce vehicle weight and thus contribute to lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions – while improving performance.” This type of thinking is perfectly aligned with Heartland’s market penetration strategy to provide hemp-based additives to reduce the weight of plastic parts in the automotive industry.
The performance of a vehicle is enhanced when the weight of that vehicle is reduced. This is why the companies that create the strongest, lightest, cheapest, and most sustainable polymers will win manufacturing contracts across the mobility sector for years to come.
The secret sauce of the plastics and rubbers business is in the additives. These additives provide strength increases while reducing weight, cost, and carbon footprint. Continental has identified Heartland’s hemp products as a viable path to sustainability without compromise.
The challenge was had strict requirements. The material needed to be versatile in order to win:
- The solution had to work with recycled and virgin plastics and rubbers.
- The solution had to work with bio-based and petroleum-based plastics and rubbers.
- The solution had to work for fluid lines that are transporting hot and cold liquids.
- The solution had to be a CO2-neutral process.
- The solution had to be able to decompose.
- The solution had to cost less.
Fortunately, Heartland Industries passed the test with flying colors.
The Continental team was looking for sustainable solutions, and they found one.
Sustainable material solutions are part of Continental’s comprehensive sustainability roadmap, which aims to achieve 100 percent carbon neutrality, 100 percent emission-free mobility and industry, 100 percent circular economy, and 100 percent responsible value chains – all by no later than 2050. These mandates all align with the Paris Climate Agreement.
Most companies have set carbon-neutral mandates around the 2040-2050 timeline. Continental is active in this mandate and its desire to create sustainable raw material supply chains.
Unlike many manufacturers, Continental is not passively waiting on the sidelines for innovators in sustainability to pop up. That is not the ideology of the industry leader.
Industry leaders across the world know that sustainable materials are the future of manufacturing. It’s only a matter of time before this vision becomes a reality and a standard.
The companies deepest in the automotive and oil industries know this to be true today.
- The oil companies that are producing plastic are all looking for sustainable materials as additives to reduce their carbon footprint.
- The automotive suppliers that are manufacturing for large OEMs are looking for sustainable materials to lightweight their plastic and rubber parts.
The fact that the companies closest to the oil supply chain are raising their hands and telling the world that they want more sustainable materials should tell us all that something big is happening. The sustainability trend line is here to stay.
Newer generations are making data-driven assertions about how to save our planet from man-made disasters. One of these assertions is that reducing the carbon footprint will reduce the man-made impact that manufacturers have on the environment.
As this data has surfaced over the past few decades, manufacturers have started to look at the little ways they can become more environmentally friendly. They started with easy things like renewable energy, and are now getting into green materials and circular economies.
Over the past decade, sustainability has moved from a trend to a strategy. There are entire divisions at large corporations that focus specifically on sustainability. Previously that only meant reducing the carbon footprint of an organization. But today, it’s a holistic strategy that takes into account the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility, LCA (Life Cycle Assessment), EHS (Environment, Health, and Safety), and other sustainability initiatives. This is why we brought on Eric Austermann as our Chief Sustainability Officer. We knew that long term, becoming more sustainable was the opportunity that most manufacturers were looking for.
We are proud to work alongside Continental and the Innovation Network for Advanced Materials to develop industry-leading solutions to large problems in the automotive industry.
The most important part to remember is that using hemp as fillers in rubber is not new research. Rubber mixed with hemp additives has been sited for over 50 years. These two materials mixed together create strength improvements, weight reductions, and improved thermal properties compared to mined alternatives.
Now that the competition has concluded, Heartland will begin work with Continental to develop a sustainable product portfolio. Our team will be mentioned as the inventor of the solution in Continental’s social media, website, internal news, and press releases. And, after a successful proof of concept (POC), our business case will be presented to Continental’s venture capital unit to assess a potential investment.
This is a huge step in the right direction for Heartland’s team. As we have solidified our position in the automotive industry, we have taken a top-down and bottom-up approach. This means that, naturally, we have focused on working with the automotive OEMs at the top of the supply chain, and the plastics compounders at the bottom of the supply chain.
But, as we begin to replace specific materials in specific car parts by infusing imperium inside, we are realizing that the real innovation in the automotive industry comes from the tiered supplier base. The plastic and rubber suppliers provide raw materials to the Tier 1, 2, and 3 suppliers that manufacture the automotive parts we see in our cars today. It’s these tiered suppliers that are creating the innovations that will define the automobiles of the future.
Continental is now one of more than a dozen partners that Heartland is working alongside within the automotive supplier base. Our goal is to support these leading suppliers in the automotive industry to help them create stronger, lighter, cheaper, and more sustainable parts. These suppliers know that by starting the R&D process today, they will be able to embed sustainable materials into their supply chain within the next 12 months.
The manufacturers that wait until these innovations are commonplace are going to be too late to the party. The time to start working with sustainable materials is right now.
Join us as we build a world out of hemp.