Through our 100% owned subsidiary Wool Industry Research Limited (WIRL), this world-renowned research has been pulled together from around the country and undertakes world-class research which is supporting an expanding range of exciting potential products.
There are:

1. Discovering ways to break down crossbred wool fibre into functional components. This has resulted in five very different deconstructed materials, each with properties as good as or better than natural wool fibre, and suitable for use in high-value applications.

2. Developing and proving large-scale processing methods to enable commercial use of each deconstructed material, via a build of a bespoke pilot plant facility. Full commercial production will involve development of large-scale (multiple millions of kilos) manufacturing facilities in New Zealand.

3. The potential uses the new ingredients may have. Production must be competitive and must improve wool prices at the farm gate in order to ensure supply. Potential market size is also a consideration, as is ensuring use of only New Zealand strong wool.

New Uses Research Programme focuses on quality research and creating entirely new innovative strong wool products.

Our Purpose

WIRL is the research delivery arm of WRONZ and is responsible for developing innovative new uses for crossbred wool.

In 2016 WRONZ and the Ministry for Business and Innovation (MBIE) committed to a seven year, joint research New Uses for Crossbred Wool Partnership Programme delivered by WIRL.

The purpose of the programme is to identify potential new uses for strong wool and generate transformational, high-value, and high-volume opportunities for the strong wool-based industry, utilising 20,000 tonnes (20 million kilos) of New Zealand strong wool.

Following promising research outcomes, in 2020 another subsidiary company, Wool Source Limited, was formed to drive market engagement and commercialisation of new products arising from the New Uses Programme.

Key focuses

The New Uses Programme focuses on the deconstruction or breaking down of strong wool fibres which can then be reconstructed to form various materials able to be used to make other products.

New uses could include filtration, cosmetics, personal care, nutrition, luxury fibres, printing, bedding, fill applications, pigments, pastes, and leather. WRONZ is targeting high value sectors that will enable a higher price at the farm gate.

Looking ahead

The intention is to establish large scale manufacturing capability within New Zealand producing one or more of the new ingredients, and a research pilot plant is now underway.

New products will be licensed to a range of commercial entities including those in industries such as personal care and cosmetics, bedding, luxury garments, filtration, wet spinning and for use as pigments.

It is envisaged there will be economic benefit from the creation of an onshore ingredient manufacturing sector using New Zealand strong wool, for the growers, manufacturers, and WRONZ (by way of royalties) allowing further research and development.

The products developed so far are a good environmental story, and their development comes at a time when there is growing consumer demand for more natural, healthy, and sustainable products.

The programme aims to:

Develop new added value ingredients that will generate opportunities for new business, manufacturing in New Zealand, increase exports, and international markets

  • Highlight wool’s positive environmental and health benefits to help build value and demand for wool and the products made from it
  • Increase the per kilogram farm gate price for New Zealand strong wool base through increasing demand
  • Maintain ownership of intellectual property for New Zealand, control rights and ensure that manufacturing is New Zealand based and using New Zealand strong wool
  • Provide opportunities for WRONZ members and other companies to be involved
  • Collaborate with Iwi on cultural and commercial opportunities

The Result

Deconstructed Particles (DP)

DP takes the form of very small and roughly spherical shaped powder. Research and market engagement show high-value opportunities for DP, used in a range of reconstructed forms including cosmetics, personal care, and printing.

Deconstructed Particles 2 (DP2)

DP2 are tiny cylinders of wool, which, among other potential uses, can be used in personal care. It is the simplest of the new ingredients and one of the easiest to produce.

Separated Cells (SC)

SC are spindle-like fragments of fibre consisting of mostly cortical cells. It has an enormous surface area (1,000 times greater than strong wool), making them ideal for uses such as down fill replacement and filtration.

Fibre Paste 3 (FP3)

FP3 is a deconstructed form of wool that can be used in wet spinning dopes. When combined with other materials it can be extruded into a smooth continuous filament fibre that is typically about 10 microns in diameter.

The Research Team

The Lincoln Agritech New Materials Group is the lead research provider to the New Uses Research Programme, a partnership between the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and Wool Industry Research Limited, a subsidiary company of WRONZ.
The team are focused on generating transformational, high-value and high-volume opportunities for the strong wool industry.

Rob Kelly
Group Manager,
New Materials

Shaahin Saleh
Fibre Technologist

Amy Cruickshank
Postdoctoral Scientist
BSc, PhD

Claire Clark
Research Scientist

Gail Krsinic
Wool Research

Nikolai Pidwerbesky
Process Engineering

Parag Dhake
Laboratory Technician
BSc, MSc (Organic Chemistry),
MSc (Carbohydrate
Chemistry), PhD

Roger Cook
Workshop Engineer