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Newalk (news from the press)

Materials, components and technology for the footwear of the future

Innovation values Portuguese footwear in international market

"The footwear industry has embraced the paradigm of innovation for nearly 20 years," following a "long tradition where firms compete to participate in research and development (R&D) projects," said Maria José Ferreira, Director of Research and Quality at the Portuguese Footwear Technology Centre (CTCP).

"Companies that did that in due time took a big step and were an example. What happens now is that more companies are willing to invest and risk in this area, because they could see that R&D results are required for companies to stand out and to add value to their products" and "they believe that this is really the way to remain competitive."

The most visible result of this strategy is the fact that "Portuguese shoes today have the second highest selling price in the world, after the Italian," the Director explained.

The NSRF has approved the Newalk project, which brings together 30 co-promoters, including 22 companies from various sectors of the fashion industry and eight organisations of the science and technology system.

The Newalk is based on the action plans of the footwear and fashion sector, having been supported by initiatives/networks such as Shoelnov and Footure from APICCAPS (the Association of Portuguese Manufacturers of Footwear, Components, Leather Goods and Associated Items) and the CTCP, and by project F2F from the APCM (Association for the Fashion Competitiveness Cluster).

"R&D projects in this sector start with the needs or opportunities identified by companies or organisations in the sector, often the CTCP, which encourage the development of innovative solutions through partnerships between companies and RTD organisations", explains Maria José Ferreira.

Bearing this in mind, "over the past 20 years the footwear industry has tried to bring together universities and other R&D centers or companies in the footwear sector."

Model strengthens cooperation

The Newalk project "was organised to innovate, and, thereby, to leverage actual interventions in the footwear sector, in areas identified as relevant," thus contributing to "the competitiveness of all companies involved: leather, components, systems, technologies and footwear."

The model to manage, organise and disseminate results proposed in the project should promote "a strong relationship between the co-promoters both nationally and internationally, preventing conflicts of interest," the director explains.

The Newalk project has a planned investment of 5,061,992.75 euros, with a total incentive of 3,553,160.70 euros, and 3,234,754.94 euros of nonrefundable incentive supported by the NSRF. As for results, Maria José Ferreira believes that these will occur in 2012 and 2014.

In practice, the Newalk - Materials, components and technology for the footwear of the future is described as a project that aims to promote "the integrated and synergistic development of new materials, functional components and advanced technologies to create, produce and market distinctive footwear."

The project focuses on six major areas: footwear based on knowledge, technology and design, to develop customised high performance, comfortable shoes, “Grow Healthy” children's footwear and "live better" footwear for seniors.

Secondly, the goal is to develop footwear for health and wellness in individuals with particular problems, such as varicose veins in the legs, musculoskeletal disorders, balance and posture problems, thermal regulation or allergies and fungi in the foot.

The other area is "new materials, chemicals and functional devices", such as leathers with new textures, biodegradable materials for the sole, new chemicals to treat leathers, soles and shoes, and innovative mechatronic devices.

The project will also focus on "advanced technology to produce and market footwear, including innovative technologies to apply in the development of fashion products", as well as "flexible and integrated logistics for the manufacturing plant to help manage storage and the distribution system of materials and components, called Flexi-FlowSupplyProduction.

Finally, the project aims to develop innovative methodologies and quality control systems. It is intended that "these methodologies lead to new international standards to improve product quality."



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