“PRESERVE is an opportunity to solve a real problem” – Interview with Aldo R. Reyes, project coordinator
Sometimes it is difficult to understand the mechanism behind the idea of a research project and the various processes that are needed to reach one or more concrete goals.
In this series of interviews, we will give the floor to a number of experts who are involved in PRESERVE activities: they will share their perspective on the project and will help us understand what drives the research of an EU-funded project.
We begin this series of interviews with the project coordinator, Dr. Aldo R. Reyes, from IRIS Technology Solutions (Spain).
Can you tell us what is PRESERVE about and its most important outcomes?
PRESERVE is an innovative and revolutionary enterprise that aims to expand and improve the circularity of bio-based packagings that we produce and use in our everyday life. In more detail, we want to enhance the performance of packaging by applying customized and optimized bio-based barriers and coatings. Also, on the recovery and recyclability side, in PRESERVE we are working ito stimulate the degradation of bioplastics into smaller units, called 'functional oligomers', and delamination of multilayer packaging via enzymatic processes, which will be recovered for further uses. One very important point to mention is that in PRESERVE we target several materials, including rigid and flexible packaging, ensuring that our outcomes are applicable at least to the 60% of the currently existing packaging options in plastic and carboard market. The excellence of PRESERVE lays on our roadmap alignment with the European objectives to be achieved by 2023 regarding circularity and reduction of plastics released to the water streams, as well as the agreements summarized in the Green Deal Agenda, which is meant to have a strong effect in the creation of jobs and industrial activities carried out in the emerging bio-based sector. However, our primary and most important outcome is contributing to create a change in consumerism and production, while generating options and hopes for a greener future.
Can you describe the main responsibilities of a project coordinator? What does it mean for you to coordinate PRESERVE?
To be a coordinator is a great responsibility, not only on the administrative and the resources management side, but also for the continuous communication and motivation it requires. In my case, I feel extremely fortunate for having the pleasure to serve as coordinator in such a beautiful project with such a committed and hard-working consortium. Without their contributions (and demands) this first year of PRESERVE would have been considerably more difficult to lead. Personally, I like to get involved in as much activities, meetings and discussions as my time allows me, not only to be informed but also to learn about the partners. Being a coordinator does not mean being a boss! It means being a leader, helping everybody to cover any needs, but also asking for help. PRESERVE is the first project I coordinate and I can truly say it is being a magnificent experience so far. The learning curve was hard at the beginning, but with resources and support from the partners it has turned into a real motivation.
What are the main challenges that PRESERVE is going to deal with?
We are targeting ambitious technical goals. The fact that we have 48 months to cover an entire revolutionary roadmap is a challenge itself. As it happens in most projects, the resources management can be a challenge, as well as the schedule and risk monitoring; but, so far, the general performance has been excellent. If I had to highlight a specific challenge in a few words, it would be to apply in the real market all the research, development and food safety standards that have been achieved in PRESERVE.
We are close to complete the first year of research: what would you highlight of the activities carried out until now?
It has been a super-exciting year! Speaking about the technical advances of the project, I believe we are on a very good track and the partners are great, and are performing greatly! I would emphasize, as a first insight, the high level of cooperation I see in the project. It really makes things more enjoyable and easier. Also, I would like to highlight the dissemination and communication activities that PRESERVE is launching and sharing even weekly. In comparison to similar EU-funded projects, the number of followers in social media and people interested in our activity is astonishing! I truly value the fact that from PRESERVE we are promoting partner profiles and results, because to know who is participating is as important as the results itself. It is a great opportunity to expand and to collaborate with similar fellow projects, as the participation of PRESERVE in different networks, workshops and clusters demonstrates.
What are the priorities for the next 6 months of activities?
Technically speaking, the priority will be to start as soon as possible with the materials production and characterization at the lab scale. Also related to this point, the coordination is monitoring the activity and promoting to this point continuous communication and follow up between WPs in order to avoid delays and schedule incompatibilities between data/product producers partners and data/products/consumer partners. It is very important to create a momentum in the project activity and in the relation between partners due to the fact that, in 6 months, the project will enter in a fully industrial phase, which needs to be fed from the rest of activities carried out in the project. Apart from the mentioned, we have at least 6 deliverables [reports to evaluate the advances of the project, ed.] to be submitted, as well as to re-activate face-to-face activities if the COVID global situation allows it. Finally, we need to close a few administrative amends we are dealing with right now.
What is the added value of PRESERVE?
For me PRESERVE is a clear and tangible opportunity to show that we have a solution for a real and gargantuan problem. The society needs to understand the effects of actions on the environment both at the group level and the individual level; and also, the eco these effects will have during the time. We all throw our hands up when we see in the news that there is an island made of garbage that floats in the Pacific and covers approximately three times the size of France; but then we go to the fridge, we open a yogurt and throw the lid and the container to the normal trash instead of to the yellow bin… We have a problem! But we are not going to solve it just by conscience, we need tools. We need real industrial and affordable mechanisms that can allow producers and consumers to reset their modus operandi. Of course, at the technical and business levels, we expect advances and we also expect to create a robust and consolidated consortium. For me, I see the added value of PRESERVE in allowing everyone to understand the importance of the environmental crisis we live in and to excel in looking for the solution.