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Geosynthetics innovation gaps and opportunities

Industry News | March 22, 2022 | By:

Some see the geosynthetics industry as complacent and slow to change. Is there room to address geosynthetics innovation gaps in the industry?

Solar array
Photograph courtesy of Solmax

Solmax said in a prepared statement that it believes there is a fundamental place for innovation in the geosynthetics industry. The company asserts that innovation will be critical in taking the industry to the next level.

Geotextiles and other geosynthetics have been used in engineering and construction for more than 50 years. They provide containment, filtration, drainage, separation, protection, reinforcement and much more. They’ve proven a catalyst in many ways, improving the performance of engineering and construction solutions—making them stronger, more durable and economical, enabling projects to be delivered faster and with greater ease, and improving protection of the environment. 

So where are the opportunities to innovate in this industry? Where are the gaps? And how can we cultivate a culture of innovation across the industry to drive advances across the sector? 

Geosynthetics innovation gaps? 

Mining and civil engineering are two areas that are not generally considered quick to adopt new solutions, due in part to stringent regulations and slow shifts in policy. Across industries, the way engineers use geosynthetics now is not so different from what we did five decades ago. However, there’s room for change.  

Few participants in the geosynthetics value chain have the capacity to fund large research projects, so there’s space in the industry for new products that can add value. Key areas that are gaining in importance are the ecological aspects of engineering and construction projects, as well as improving product performance. Cost, quality and ease of use are also areas that need to be addressed, not just in manufacturing geosynthetic products but in their end use. 

There are also many opportunities arising from megatrends in other sectors. Key examples are autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence and sustainable “green” trends. These are new areas where geosynthetics could be useful, but there’s also the opportunity to apply solutions arising in these megatrend arenas to the use of geosynthetics. 

Innovation future?

With a string of firsts—from white to high temperature, textured and conductive geomembranes—Solmax is reaching for fresh thinking and doing that will accelerate progress, add value, and unlock new opportunities for the geosynthetics industry, our clients, our business, and our partners.  

Solmax has, with its acquisition of GSE Environmental in 2017, combined manufacturing excellence with knowhow in terms of developing new products. In the last few years, Solmax has implemented a full, formal innovation process to ensure the company can identify emerging needs and opportunities, and take ideas from the drawing board to the marketplace. Now, with the acquisitions of TenCate Geosynthetics and Propex GeoSolutions, Solmax has added highly skilled talent with different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. This is key to generating new ideas. 

In short, Solmax has the science and engineering, the industry knowledge, the manufacturing capability and the hands-on experience to drive innovation across the company and the sector. But Solmax says it can’t do it alone; the whole sector needs to shift to a more innovation-driven mindset.  

Geosynthetics industry culture shift? 

Constant change in every sector is becoming commonplace and the benefits of that change are rapidly coming to light. Standing still will cost the geosynthetics industry a place in the race. Industries are converging and ecosystems are beginning to form, creating custom solutions for specific clients and industries. This opens the door to knowledge sharing, collaborative innovation and faster adoption of more effective, high-quality solutions that are customizable. 

The next few years in this industry will be exciting.

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