Technology for sustainable industry. The results of the Life MATHER project

On 9 December, Whirlpool EMEA presented the results of the Life MATHER project together with the NTUA and t2i – Technology Transfer and Innovation.

The founding goal of the Life MATHER project was to provide a simple tool for manufacturing companies (and potentially other sectors too) to reduce, as much as possible, the health-related and environmental impacts of the chemicals they use. After three years of intensive research, development and testing, the project is nearing its conclusion. The closing event on the 9th of December 2020 was a chance for partners, policymakers and businesses to take stock of what has been achieved.

Life programme, EU, Life Mather
The Life MATHER project is co-financed by the European Union and is part of the LIFE programme © Guillaume Périgois/Unsplash

Life MATHER’s main actors

Co-funded by the European Commission as part of the LIFE programme, MATHER (Full MATerial and cHEmical monitoRing data and disclosure for the protection of the human health and environment) has led to the development of an ICT platform that examines each chemical component found in the materials that make up a product. The development phase focused on household appliances, which are an especially complex category of devices. For each substance, MATHER indicates the possible impacts on health and the environment, as well as regulatory information and potential alternatives. This allows companies to organise and plan ahead in view of future legal limitations.

This tool is the outcome of a partnership between three different yet complementary entities. Whirlpool EMEA was responsible for coordinating the project, providing data and expertise and testing the tool on some of its products.

During the digital event, a researcher from the Chemical Engineering School at the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) showed the platform “in action”. The NTUA oversaw the project’s ICT components, ensuring that the interface is as intuitive as possible. An online demo version is available for anyone to try.

Household appliances production, Whirlpool
The platform was tested on household appliances, which are an especially complex category of devices © Whirlpool EMEA

The third partner, t2i – Technology Transfer and Innovation, was in charge of analysing socio-economic impacts, as well as supervising communications and what is technically known as replicability – which entailed the involvement of 200 companies belonging to around 15 sectors, 12 health units and 82 policymakers.

Results, case studies and opportunities

The outcomes of the Life MATHER project, presented on the 9th of December, are noteworthy in several regards. In particular, the tool’s innovative function that allows for identifying alternative materials with a lower environmental impact is key to pre-planning the adoption of such alternatives in view of preparing for proactive strategies to conform to existing or evolving regulations.

The platform guarantees significant cost and time savings for LCAs (Life Cycle Assessments). Anodica Trevigiana, a medium-sized enterprise specialising in designer handles and other aesthetic components for domestic appliances, confirms that LCAs allow for quantifying the environmental impact of raw materials, processes and waste management. They thus provide a solid and objective basis for the adoption of authentic eco-design principles.

By facilitating data exchange, the tool helps select the most virtuous suppliers and, more generally, incentivises the entire supply chain’s traceability and transparency: a crucial aspect according to Arper, manufacturer of designer chairs, tables and home accessories. The information processed by the software is also useful for adopting voluntary environmental certifications. All factors that are key not only in environmental terms, but also for economic and market sustainability, especially at a time when consumers are more attentive than ever to sustainability, and willing to reward it with their purchases.

The new LIFE 2021-2027 programme

The MATHER project is part the LIFE programme’s fifth cycle, which draws to its natural conclusion at the end of this year. More details on the 2021-2027 programme will emerge following the EU Parliament and Council’s final approval. During the seminar, however, Manuel Montero-Ramirez, Project Officer at the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (EASME), anticipated some of the Commission’s proposals. The idea is to significantly increase the budget from 3.4 to 5.4 billion euros, and divide it across four rather than three areas. In addition to the existing ones – nature and biodiversity, environment and resource efficiency, climate change mitigation and adaptation – there will be a new category linked to the transition towards clean energy.

In Italy, for example, those who wish to present their project can refer to the national point of contact in the Environment Ministry, which offers a long list of services: from helpdesks to searching for partners, to workshops and training sessions.

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