On March 15th, 2023, a Innovation Workshop was organized by LAB University of Applied Sciences and UH University of Helsinki. Participants had a change to discuss about the future face masks, their materials, indicators, added values and minimum requirements of the face masks in the small groups. We listened presentation on (1) Preliminary results on the survey made within the health care professionals (Susanna Tella, LAB), followed by (2) Future intelligent face masks (Patrik Koskinen, LAB), (3) Design of the face masks (Ari Känkänen, LAB) and (4) Business models and procurement (Laura Pitkänen, Paulus Torkki, UH). There were totally 22 participating the Workshop either on-site or remotely.
BioProt is a two-year project started at the beginning of 2022 and has been funded by Business Finland, including six research institutes (LUT, LAB, VTT, JYU, Luke, HU), four companies with own projects (Lifa Air, Teknikum, Premix, Teknos) and five In-kind companies (HUS, Mehiläinen, Berner, Optitune, Lindström Group).
In the Innovation Workshop at University of Helsinki, we met face-to-face to tackle the following questions: (I) Where we are right now with the research in BioProt, (II) What are the important properties to be addressed and (III) What kind of issues should be taken into consideration in the future. Altogether, lots of very detailed issues were discussed during the day.
Future face masks and their design (LAB)
Following questions were raised during the forenoon: How would the future face masks look alike in the future? What is the message coming from the health care professionals? Is the design important part of the face masks?
Susanna Tella (LAB) presented preliminary results from the survey made for heath care professionals performed during December 2022 and January 2023, highlighting the issues on current and future face masks. Many properties of the face masks were seen important, such as breathability, easiness to wear and quality. For example, importance of the material transparency was discussed.
Patrik Koskinen (LAB) presented different indicators for the face mask that are changeable based on detecting some specific property, such as humidity, oxygen saturation or amount of viruses. Data collection and purification of the material were also discussed.
Ari Känkänen (LAB) showed examples of existing face masks. Protectiveness, comfortableness, easiness to wear, thermoplasticity and 3D-printing were highlighted. He showed also a prototype made in the BioProt project.
In the end of the session, different topics based on the presentations seen were excitedly discussed in four groups where one group consisted of the participants taken part remotely.
Business models and procurement of the face masks (UH)
Paulus Torkki (UH) brought up questions related to the materials and production processes. In the BioProt project, the bio-based material(s) chosen and antiviral components added are the things that bring added value to the face masks. At the moment, several bio-based and/or biodegradable are under testing. The ultimate goals of the polymers studied is to fulfill the basic requirements for the materials determined by the standards and make it work in the existing processes. Most likely, price of energy affects also the production costs.
Laura Pitkänen (UH) presented and suggested alternatives to the materials produced. Examples in health care, elderly and day care were discussed. The effect of bio-based materials on procurement was also brought up. It was stated that dialogue with actors is inadequate at the moment. Additionally, it is the seller's task to provide the effectiveness issues to the customers. Minimum requirements in a call of face mask were also discussed, considering: (1) Is the bio-basicity the most important thing, (2) Do the laws and regulations dictate or (3) Do the taxes that punish the use of fossil-based materials have the strongest effect.
In the end of the session, Tuula Jyske (Luke) suggested meeting with Tukes and Fimea to clarify the regulation issues set for the face masks.
Next Workshops of BioProt
Next seminar of BioProt organized by HUS, LAB and LUT will be held on 11.5.2023 at 12-16 in Siltasairaala, Helsinki, with the topic "The use of protective equipment in hospitals- Present and future".
Next Workshop of BioProt organized by Luke will be held at Viikki and Bioruukki on 16.-17.5.2023.