Inside Textiles

Free membership

Receive our weekly Newsletter
and set tailored daily news alerts.


Research partnership to provide US$ 21 million to revive New Zealand’s wool industry

The focus of the US$ 21 million research investment is to look at new ways to use wool as a source of high value keratin.

15th June 2016

Innovation in Textiles
 |  New Zealand

Clothing/​Footwear, Sports/​Outdoor

Wool Industry Research Ltd (WIRL) and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) have announced a new US$ 21 million research partnership to support the wool industry in New Zealand.

Meeting for the first time last week with Dr Max Kennedy, National Manager Biological Industries, MBIE, the Board will begin discussions around the research required over the seven-year period to generate transformational opportunities for the coarse wool market, the Scoop Media reports.

The focus of the US$ 21 million research investment is to look at new ways to use wool as a source of high value keratin. The partnership programme will also work with traditional manufacturing industries to develop new technical textiles.

Essential initiative

This is a really exciting and essential initiative for the wool industry, according to Wool Industry Research Limited (WIRL) Board Chairman, Graham Brown.

“This partnership is recognition by MBIE of further potential in the high value, new use areas that we, at WIRL, have already developed in previous research investments, such as the ground breaking research into using wool based protein sources,” he explained.

A seven-year partnership programme will now give our research consortium time to focus on finding new high value uses for crossbred wool. This will in turn lift farm gate prices and of course contribute to export earnings.”

Industry support

The total programme cost of US$ 21 million will be spread over the next seven years, at US$ 3 million per year. WRONZ and the wool industry will be funding 60% and MBIE 40% of the partnership.

“Wool industry members are 100% behind the new partnership. Everyone in the industry is aware of the decline in wool – what was once a major contributor to our economy, crossbred wool has been in a slow decline for years and struggles to maintain parity in its traditional interior textiles based markets,” commented Graham.

“Prior to seeking co-funding from MBIE, WRONZ obtained unanimous endorsement from wool industry members for the application and also for the need to find new high value/volume uses for New Zealand coarse wool.”

Partnership programme

Wool has traditionally been a significant contributor to New Zealand’s economy, but has slowly been in decline due mainly to poor returns to growers, and increased competition for land use from forestry and latterly dairy.

The research programme embedded in this Partnership Programme is wholly structured to generate transformational opportunities for the coarse wool based industry. The majority of the research investment seeks new ways to utilise wool as a source of high value keratin. The benefits will flow back to growers through improved wool price and demand, as well as to the new and existing New Zealand’s wool based value chains that will take the new materials to market.

The research will consist of three areas. Firstly, a basic research programme will underpin the partnership through developing new knowledge about the natural structure and formation of wool fibre. Secondly, discovery of effective ways to deconstruct the fibre and reconstitute it in a range of functional forms. Finally, the optimisation the performance and utilisation of the new materials in a range of forms and applications.

Further reading

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

Latest Reports

Business intelligence for the fibre, textiles and apparel industries: technologies, innovations, markets, investments, trade policy, sourcing, strategy...

Find out more