DS Smith launches industry-leading R&D centre: ‘R8’

Posted on 5 Oct 2023 by The Manufacturer

DS Smith, leading provider of sustainable, fibre-based, packaging, has announced the launch of its global Research & Development (R&D) and Innovation Centre, ‘R8’.

The new facility is an industry-first and allows DS Smith, its customers, and partners to accelerate the research and development of radically new packaging fulfilment solutions.

Located near Birmingham in the UK, the R8 facility includes a 4,000m2 pilot hall, four laboratories, conditioning chambers, an ideation and design studio, prototyping areas, and collaboration spaces. As well as being the home of DS Smith’s Group Innovation and R&D teams, it is intended to spearhead research in manufacturing, maximising on the growing demand for sustainable packaging, and the innovation needed to deliver it.

Stefano Rossi, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Packaging Division, DS Smith: “Our customers are some of the world’s most iconic FMCG brands, online retailers, and industrial players, so innovation and sustainability are very high on their agenda. Our global R&D and Innovation Centre will facilitate the collaboration that we know is needed to solve some of the industry’s biggest challenges.

We will be partnering with customers to help them transition to the circular economy by focusing on novel packaging solutions that deploy new materials and technologies. Nothing is off the table – we have designed the hub to encourage scrutiny of existing ways of working and explore all the possibilities, especially for service-based offerings in the packaging supply chain.”

With R8, DS Smith has created a collaboration space that allows it to cover the whole innovation spectrum under one roof: from early technology and material development, ideation, and concept development, testing and product development, through to prototyping and customer pilots.

Projects will be informed by key industry drivers rooted in sustainability, supply chains, and data. Smart packaging for tracking and monitoring the supply chain, alternative natural resources in papermaking, reusable fibre-based packaging and technologies, and advanced barrier technology for food and industrial applications, are all areas for exploration.

Among the leading-edge technologies at R8 is a modular Pilot Line, inspired by the automotive industry and developed in Italy, which uses robots to make boxes from multiple components, and fill them at high speed.

Stefano Rossi continues: “We believe in sharing expertise to help customers reduce waste, streamline production, and increase sustainable productivity. At the heart of this is a solid commitment to reducing plastics, paving new pathways for alternative fibres, and designing out waste altogether.”

Sustainability is integral to the DS Smith business model, which is inherently circular, and is supported by the DS Smith Now & Next Sustainability Strategy. This ambitious plan focuses on the sustainability challenges the world faces today, as well as those that will impact on future generations, empowering the business to lead the transition to a low carbon, circular economy.

In support of Now & Next and DS Smith’s commitment to the Circular Economy, the R8 facility is carbon neutral. It has been designed for both re-use and deconstruction, and uses reconditioned furniture, solar panels, and air-sourced heat pumps.

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