New materials research is a really tough competitive area. Big companies and small startups struggle to lead innovation and deliver new materials suitable for any kind of industrial use and boosting R&D. Meanwhile researchers try to create new physical properties in materials, and green associations like the Italian Legambiente are struggling to spread knowledge about new construction materials suitable for a perfect circular economy.
An Italian startup, Co.Re. – Composite Research invented MadFlex a rigid but flexible panel suitable for virtually infinite applications in the manufacturing industry: from naval technology, to construction and automotive. The company was founded in 2014 by 4 young professionals. We interviewed Eugenio Fossat, R&D manager and Co.Re. co-founder.
What’s Co.Re. and how did you launch the company
I’ve always dreamt about creating my own business in the new materials research and development. A company that could provide cutting edge solutions like performing, green, long lasting materials. We needed an easily applicable idea to start, and to create a product that would show the world the very deep mission of our company.
In 2014 I was trying to pass a huge carbon panel through a door: I asked myself “and if it could be made flexible?”. Then we worked on MadFlex a composite panel that is rigid on a side, and flexible on the other. We mad up a 4 people team with a commercial and R&D background: people I met in a previoud experience in a clean energy company. At the beginning of 2016 Nicola Giulietti, Nadia Ceolin, Marco Morrone and I, founded Co.Re. with the financial support of two business angels.
What’s your view on the startup support environment? How did it help you starting your own business?
Our company actually is pretty uncommon. We made our first steps in my family garage (my parents were complaining…) with instruments of the 60s refurbished by our own. Then we moved to a new space, provided without costs by an Italian entrepreneur interested in our project progress. Other companies followed, providing us more industrial locations and new technology and instruments to make our experiments. Therefore we had a strong support by the entrepreneurial community (I’m deeply thankful to everybody believed in us). The University too has been a powerful hub of collaboration and support: professor Costa (University of Turin) supported us, while the Chemistry department published a graduation final test with a variation on our material technology.
What’s Madflex and what’s the difference with other materials?
Like many other composite materials, Madflex provides a strong mechanical resistance, is lightweight and features excellent chemical properties. It’s also pretty easy to adapt in any shape you need with a simple thermic process. The best feature is that a 9 meters panel could easily become a 20 cm cylinder and it’s always the same rigid panel on the other side! It’s a unique material to create objects or components easy to transport and store, without need to implement complex mechanical systems. It’s also pretty good in terms of thermic insulation that provides a wide range of opportunities in the building industry.
Madflex it’s also a low impact material: a 1,8 kg panel features the same mechanical characteristics of a 10 kg aluminium panel, with a 5 times lower cost in terms of environment impact of the production process. The financial cost is quite the same, with a cheaper production cost while comparing same mechanical features.
Naval technology, automotive and aerospace industries are excellence assets of the Made in Italy export. What are the solutions you can provide to the manufacturers in these fields? Do you guys have a case history to share with us?
We have already started to analyse the Madflex usage in automotive and naval industries together with manufacturing companies. Aerospace industry requires higher standards, and we’re starting now. Some innovative implementations are in the beta test step, or in the prototyping step but are currently covered by non disclosure agreements. We always ask our customers: “what do you want to do with this material?” and we always have innovative and creative feedbacks.
What are the development directions you are planning in terms of product and marketing development?
We have a business idea based on collaboration. We are basically a prototyping company, while the final production of finished materials and products and their commercial sale is up to our client companies. In this way everybody focuses on his area of expertise.
We are focusing on developing new variations of Madflex tailor made on our customers’ needs, and we are also working on brand new materials. That’s what I’ve been always dreaming about and what we are passionate about. We think that a good answer to the crisis and the problems the world is struggling with, is made by new ideas and products.
[header photo by Matthew Henry via Unsplash]