The UK facility known as ‘R8’ will enable DS Smith, its customers and partners to accelerate the research and development of radically new packaging fulfilment solutions.
Located near Birmingham, it 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 to the group’s innovation and R&D teams, it is hoped the new site will act as a global hub for sustainable packaging development within manufacturing.
“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,” said Stefano Rossi, CEO, packaging division at DS Smith.
The site will also host a range of cutting-edge tech, including a modular Pilot Line inspired by the automotive industry. Developed in Italy, this line uses robots to make boxes from an array of components and fill them at high speed.
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, will also be areas for exploration.
“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,” Rossi added.
As part of the group’s commitment to sustainability, the R8 facility is said to be carbon neutral and designed for both re-use and deconstruction, as well as using reconditioned furniture, solar panels and air-sourced heat pumps.