Announced by Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE) on Thursday 30 November were the successful proposals for 2017. MBIE’s 2017 Partnerships Scheme Investment Round saw five new sector-led research partnerships receive funding of up to $25.7 million over the next seven years.  The funding scheme has a focus on longer term, innovative research with potential for transformative impact. LASRA’s proposal aim is to add value to products from hides and skins as outlined below:


High Value Products from Hides & Skins: High Value Biodegradable Leather and Co-products from Hides and Skins


Consumer demand for products which can be safely and easily disposed of at the end of their useful life is generating renewed interest in biodegradable leathers. No leather currently available in New Zealand meets the specific requirements set out in International Standards for biodegradability, in fact, the definition of leather is that it cannot be easily attacked by micro-organisms and is non-putrescible. New tanning techniques will be developed which stabilise the collagen structure to make a high-value, useable high-performing leather for footwear, clothing and leather goods, but which, unlike conventionally tanned product, can be safely disposed of at the end of its useful life by composting.


Hides and skins make up part of the “fifth quarter” of animals slaughtered for meat, and as such contribute to the total export income earned from pastoral farming. However, while the value of meat has increased in real terms within the last 30 years, the value derived from hides and skins has declined from a peak of S850 million in 2001 to S390 million in 2016, threatening the viability of the New Zealand hide/skin processing industry.


Maximising the return for each unit processed requires a whole-product focus, to include material currently discarded as waste (at a cost to the processor for disposal fees) or sold at a loss. Currently there is no market at all for ovine fleshings, trimmings, damaged skins, or fine-wool ovine skins. The total volume of these waste materials is at least 6,500 tonnes a year. This Partnership sets out to transform the value of these products through technological advances and innovations leading to higher value, niche markets.


The other successful partnerships included; University of Canterbury, Kiwifruit Cultivar Research Consortium, Beef + Lamb New Zealand Limited and DairyNZ.