Companies developing new plastic packaging, looking to improve existing pack performance or requiring polymer formulation "from scratch" for packaging use can now call on a new, expert service provided by Sheffield University scientists.

FaraPack Polymers, backed by the Faraday Packaging Partnership and the University’s commercial enterprise arm, Sheffield University Enterprises Ltd (SUEL), was officially launched on July 13.

Clients will benefit from the expertise of 41 polymer scientists and 120 researchers drawn from 7 different University departments, all of whom contribute ongoing expertise to the University’s world-renowned Polymer Centre.

Malcolm Butler, manager of both FaraPack Polymers and the Polymer Centre, says the service’s key functions will include helping clients with short-term development of plastic packs and materials, undertaking lab analysis and testing, providing advice and “new solutions to old plastic packaging problems”, and carrying out materials research, including synthesising “novel smart polymers”. All services will be available to both Faraday Packaging Partnership members and non-members, with users charged for scientists’ time “per day” and “per sample”.

Butler elaborates: “Most universities are well geared towards research lasting a few days or 12 months plus, but less so for projects of perhaps a few weeks’ duration. FaraPack Polymers will bridge this gap. Our Polymer Centre, backed by complementary expertise from Leeds, Durham and Bradford Universities, offers Europe’s leading polymer scientist ‘cluster’.”

Formed in June 2001, the Polymer Centre has itself developed significant expertise in such specialist areas as nanotechnolgy, smart packaging and thin film formulation.