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Interview with Carmen Ghituleasa

Carmen Ghituleasa
Carmen Ghituleasa
General Director
National R&D Institute for Textiles and Leather (INCDTP)
National R&D Institute for Textiles and Leather (INCDTP)

Romania yet to apply circular economy concept to textile-leather domain
The National Research & Development Institute for Textiles and Leather (INCDTP) in Bucharest was established in 1996 by merging the textile and leather-footwear research institutes. INCDTP engages in research, development and innovaton (RDI) activities having a fundamental and application-based approach for small and micro production, and consultancy. The institute also provides technical assistance services, laboratory investigation and testing, quality management, certification and inspection, editing and publishing of literature. General director Carmen Ghituleasa describes in detail the research activities and projects under study at the institute.

What broad topics does the institute conduct research on?

INCDTP is a dynamic and flexible player on national and international level, addressing multidisciplinary researches in niche areas. It is the only institute in Romania that has expertise and R&D facilities for textiles, clothing and leather processing (TCL), with a 65-year-old history and 150 employees. 

In recent years, the institute's dynamic and comprehensive presence at national and international levels has resulted in the development and promotion of interdisciplinary applied research in the following:
  • Smart textiles and interactive products with tailored properties, for protective applications 
  • Digital technology, 3D simulation, design and anthropometry 
  • Work and safety equipment for different applications
  • Invasive and noninvasive medical devices of high-tech textile materials
  • Environment protection: eco-nano-bio technologies and waste water treatments for a clean production in textile- leather field
  • Information technologies used in textile-leather field 
  • Lifelong learning and retraining for new skills development, studies and strategies for increasing textile, clothing and leather sectorial competitiveness and RDI capacity;
  • Intensifying contacts and partnerships with academia and industry
  • Getting in line with the objectives of the technology platform for textiles and clothing and those of European research area.

What major textiles and leather research projects is the institute currently working on?

The major EU research projects for textiles and leather that are currently under way in the institute are:
I. Research centers of Excellence in the Textile sector  (RESET), funded by Interreg Europe with funds from the European Regional Development Fund (FEDR)
Objectives: to generate a change  in the implementation of regional policies and programmes, to support policy improvement and capacity building of partners' regions, to develop R&D and innovation excellence in sustainable ways

II. Fate of aerosolized nanoparticles: the influence of surface active substances on lung deposition and respiratory effects (NANOaers), funded by Eranet Siinn 
Objectives: addresses the open question regarding the influence of aerosolization and of chemical surface active substances on nanomaterials (NM) 

III. Design and development of UV shielding materials (UV-SHIELD), funded by Eureka-Cluster, Eurostars 
Objectives: to create comfortable textiles for summer clothing with ultraviolet protection factor

IV. Exploiting fungi potential for recalcitrant compounds removal from cellulosic wastewaters, funded by Eranet Cofund-Manunet III
Objective: Development of an innovative myco-based tertiary treatment for tannery and paper mill wastewaters, efficient in removing tannins and absorbable organic halogen (AOX), not depleted by consolidated bacterial based processes. 

V. Manufacturing of value-added textiles for aromatherapy and skin care benefits (AromaTex), funded by Eranet Cofund-Manunet III 
Objectives: to produce aromatherapeutic garments like sportswear and leisurewear, and skin/body care products like dressings and facial masks for microbial infections treatment and cosmetic pads for skin hydration, by using biologically active compounds.

The use of smart textiles is not restricted only to the apparel industry. What are the top five possible challenges while incorporating smart fabrics in other segments?

In their evolution, textiles have undergone several stages of development: functional textiles, characterised by properties according to a field of use; multifunctional textiles, characterised by a complex of properties that give the textile support the ability to meet various requirements; and smart textiles, used to build intelligent structures that can perform detection, actuation and control functions.

The main application of smart fabrics in other segments are:
  • Medical: monitoring, treatment
  • Sports and health
  • Personal protective equipment and military, security: deceleration systems, paraglides, recognising systems, flying rescue, survival equipment, autonomous platforms for surveillance
  • Home textiles

What have been the top three research studies and innovations at the institute in the last decade?

It is difficult to select only the three top research studies and innovations in the last decade. I would like to emphasize that research is our main activity and we have expertise in different scientific and industrial fields, related to textile and leather: technical textiles, agriculture, medicine, collagen biomaterials, protective equipment and cultural heritage.

What kind of research activities and events do you offer?

Here is what we offer:
  • Industrial research for the design and execution of new technologies/products for the textile & leather industries and related fields: multifunctional technical articles, protective equipment for risk-level environments, parachuting equipment & systems for personnel and military techniques, paragliders, strategic textiles, performance home textiles, agro-textiles, bio-materials for pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, auxiliary products for leather industry and semi-manufactured products with special finishing, components and sano-genetic footwear, laboratory equipment & apparatus
  • Accomplishing new generation of invasive and non-invasive medical devices, having high degree of biocompatibility, based on textile materials designed for general surgery; general biomedical sciences, material technology, composite materials
  • Elaboration of studies and technologies for recovering, recycling and valorisation of textiles, leather and substitutes wastes to obtain intermediary or final products
  • Participation in European projects within specific research programmes FP V, FP VI and FP VII, EUREKA, EraNet-Manunet, EraNet-SIINN, EraNet-Crosstexnet, Erasmus, COST actions, INTERREG IVB, IEE, Interreg EU; bilateral cooperation with Japan, Ukraine, Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Cyprus, Austria, China, India and Korea
Testing and consulting:
  • Consultancy in case of disputes, specialised technical assistance, as the testing laboratories are third party laboratories that perform complete laboratory tests for textile and apparel
  • Ecological characteristics, such as heavy metals, amines or pesticides, of textiles and leather products 
  • Elaboration of strategies, diagnosis & forecast studies
  • Other services of specialised technical assistance & consulting
Quality assessment:
  • Quality testing of textile and leather-footwear products: 100 methods for the characterisation of fibres, yarns, woven fabrics, knits, nonwoven, composites, decorative articles, carpets, medical articles; courses and seminars regarding quality management system
  • Harmonisation of Romanian and European standards and elaboration of new standards.
Other services and support:
  • Publishing and editing of special papers, publications and specialty literature like Industria Textila, Revista de Pielarie-Incaltaminte  (The Leather & Footwear Magazine); CNCSIS rated B+, books, manuals, catalogues and dictionaries
  • Organising international conference such as TEX-TEH and ICAMS
  • Organising seminars, workshops and courses, coordinating the Centre of Professional Competence Assessment and Training
  • Memberships within networks, involvement in national scientific and technical associations.

Leather was always considered a polluting industry. Recent technological interventions have reduced that to some extent. What more is happening in this segment to make it more environment-friendly?

Within European research projects, INCDTP participated in the development of a project on sustainable development of the Romanian small and medium enterprises (SMEs) engaged in textile-clothing and leather-footwear. The initiative promotes technological innovation as a tool for improving the business environment and increasing the competitiveness of economic agents. Sustainability is a key driver of business, so reducing energy consumption lowers the price of manufacturing, thus increasing the competitiveness of economic agents from the sector. 

Enhanced sustainability and competitiveness of SMEs could be achieved through an energy efficient production, using energy-saving tools and technical solutions developed in this initiative.

As a research institute, if we were to ask you to do some trend forecasting, what changes do you visualise in the textile and apparel industry?

Research takes place in a universe without frontiers. By looking at its depths and diversity, we find that textile materials and technologies are innovations that can respond to a variety of societal challenges.
According to Euratex, three major trends were singled out to shape the future of this industrial sector:
  • The move from commodity to specialty products in all stages of the textile value chain
  • The preferred use of fibres and textiles across many new and growing application areas and markets
  • The replacement of the traditional mass production concept in favour of a more flexible, customer-driven, integrated product development, production, distribution and service model
Euratex's future vision stipulates that by 2025, the textile and apparel industry will be a strategic EU sector providing innovative and competitive products enabling personalised, adaptable and attractive solutions, integrating services for very diverse, informed and demanding consumers and business.

What is your take on circular economy and blockchain? How is the institute working towards providing solutions to the challenges in supply chain?

In Romania, the concept of circular economy is understood but not yet applied in the textile-clothing-leather domain. The research themes addressed within the institute, according to the requests of updating and performance increase of sectors in the textile-leather industry, contribute to the development of a sustainable development strategy of these branches based on innovation and correlated with the main technology trends at the European Union (EU) level. Having always in view its main mission, namely the sustainable development of RDI capacity with the aim of increasing competitiveness of the Romanian TCL sectors, INCDTP offers expertise and services of excellence, remaining open to future collaborative project implementation and ready to join strategic partnerships.

What new fibres and biomaterials are researchers at the institute experimenting with?

For the advanced eco-nano technologies and materials, researchers are experimenting with:
  • Nano-structured materials and their hybrids, having photocatalytic effects or multiple interactive features, with self-cleaning, self-sterilisation, anti-microbial, anti-static or hydrophobic properties
  • New generation of fibres with content of PCM, Tocopherol,  ZnO, Permethrin, microcapsules with content of certain essential oils or other chemical compounds for different novel fabric properties like thermal regulation, skin care, health care, insect protection and stress management
  • Advanced materials based on metallic and insulating barrier layers for textiles with electromagnetic shielding, electrically conductive and dissipative properties
  • Collagenic biomaterials for medical application.

What are the challenges exclusive to the European textile industry?

According to Euratex, Europe's textile and clothing industry is a world innovation leader, but due to its small-to-medium-sized company structure, it generally lacks the capacity to engage in long-term transformative research using exclusively internal resources. To stay a global leader, it cannot afford to lose its thought leadership and technological edge.

How many patents does the institute hold?

The institute holds 109 national patents and patent applications and four European patent applications. (HO)

Published on: 05/09/2018

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.