Continental Reifen Deutschland GmbH today marked the start of construction of its “Taraxagum Lab Anklam” research and test laboratory in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania with the traditional ground-breaking ceremony. Among those present were the Minister of Economics of the State of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Harry Glawe; the Mayor of Anklam, Michael Galander; and the Head of Research & Development Passenger and Light Truck Tires at Continental, Dr. Boris Mergell. Continental is to invest a total of €35 million in this research project. The Ministry of Economics supports the construction and research efforts with a state subsidy of €11.6 million.
Taraxagum Lab Anklam is scheduled to become operational in the fall of 2018. Research at the laboratory will focus on the cultivation and processing of the Russian dandelion as an alternative source of raw material to traditional rubber tree plantations in the tropics. Given a positive outcome of the tests, the tire manufacturer is planning to use the raw material in its future series production operations to meet an increasing proportion of its natural rubber requirements from the dandelion.
“We are delighted to have found a location here in Anklam that meets the needs of our research and test facility,” said Dr. Mergell, Head of Research & Development Passenger and Light Truck Tires at Continental at the ground-breaking ceremony. “We hope that through improvements in dandelion cultivation and processing we will in future be able to meet part of our natural rubber needs in a more sustainable way. The plants we require for Taraxagum, as we call our dandelion rubber, can also be grown in temperate regions, helping to avoid monoculture and slash-and-burn farming in the tropics, while also substantially reducing the distances the raw material has to travel to our tire production sites.”
The Minister of Economics Glawe emphasized that Continental could prove to be a strategic investor for the entire region. “We hope that following the successful outcome of this research project, a next step could see an innovative factory of the future taking shape in Western Pomerania. This would bring long-term benefits for the economy, nature and society in the region where we aim to see more added value and innovative workplaces created,” he said.
Speaking for the municipality of Anklam, Mayor Galander called the tire manufacturer’s research and test laboratory an important step in the ongoing economic development of the town. “We are very pleased that this ground-breaking ceremony marks the start of future-oriented development work here by an international corporation,” he said. “This sends out an important signal beyond the borders of our region, documenting the attractiveness of our town as a business location and the qualifications of the local people.”
Continental first applied for planning permission for the laboratory in August 2016 and can now start work on the construction site at Lilienthalring 1 in Anklam on schedule. In the future, the laboratory will provide work for some 20 employees. The tire manufacturer originally launched its research efforts to replace rubber from the tropics with material sourced from plants cultivated in temperate regions in 2011 in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute IME in Münster, the Julius Kühn Institute in Quedlinburg, and the plant breeder ESKUSA in Parkstetten, as well as other partners in multiple research projects subsidized by the German Federal Ministries of Education and Research, and Food and Agriculture.