Four years in the making! Portuguese R&D CoLAB AlmaScience thrives in green electronics, smart packaging, and open innovation

Four years in the making! Portuguese R&D CoLAB AlmaScience thrives in green electronics, smart packaging, and open innovation

AlmaScience celebrates four years of research and development in sustainable technology, functional materials, and paper electronics. The scientific innovation lab and early-stage technology incubator hosts about 30 PhDs and other highly qualified team members, with world-class expertise in chemistry, materials science, printing technology, electronics, paper technology, and biology. 

“It is my great joy to bring together so much talent in one team and enable such amazing knowledge and capabilities alongside our associates. We are innovative, sustainable, collaborative, agile, and highly motivated – and I can’t wait to see what the coming years will bring!”
– Carlos Silva, CEO and President, AlmaScience

Today, AlmaScience is a reference in open and sustainable innovation, involved in multiple industrial-led consortiums, as part of the RRP (Mobilizing Agendas of the Recovery and Resilience Plan) and a handful of national and international innovation projects. Over only a few years, AlmaScience has amassed an impressive pipeline of 12 patents and trademarks in its focus areas with more in preparation.

 

From academia to business

Richard Florida mapped for Bloomberg the concentration of the knowledge economy in the United States: “There would be no Silicon Valley without the R&D that takes place at Stanford University; no Boston-Cambridge tech miracle without MIT; no Pittsburgh revival without Carnegie Mellon. In fact, it is hard to name a major tech hub around the world that does not have one or more great research universities.” 

That simple fact is no different in Portugal: The NOVA University Lisbon plays a central role in the Portuguese Research & Development & Innovation system. Its School of Science & Technology alone hosts 16 research centers and is an associate of nine CoLabs, including AlmaScience. 

However, even the best technology struggles to reach the market due to development, funding, and scalability gaps. As Steve Van Kuiken at McKinsey puts it, “Innovation develops around personal networks of experts at the porous edge of the organization and is supported by capabilities that scale the benefits across the business”. 

That’s why AlmaScience has teamed up with NOVA University, as well as with other high-profile partners from the industrial and research sector such as RAIZ (R&D center for forest-based bioeconomy), NOVA.ID FCT / CENIMAT, INCM (the Portuguese Mint), Firmo, Grupo Clara Saúde, The Navigator Company, and Fraunhofer Portugal, with support from the Portuguese Innovation Agency (ANI), to create a collaborative innovation lab that addresses this chasm for early-stage sustainable technologies based on advanced natural materials.

AlmaScience is also supported by the city of Almada and has chosen Madan Parque, a tech park and incubator in Almada, near Lisbon, to host its offices and labs.

“AlmaScience exemplifies the synergy between cutting-edge research and industrial applications, positioning Portugal as a global leader in sustainable innovation. 
By integrating advanced materials science with sustainable practices, we aim to revolutionize industries ranging from packaging to electronics. Our vision is to not only foster innovation but to ensure it translates into tangible environmental and economic benefits. We do this by transforming natural materials such as cellulose and paper into functional electronic devices using eco-friendly, ultra-low waste production methods. The future of technology lies in sustainability, and AlmaScience is at the forefront of this transformation.”
– Luís Pereira, CTO and Technical director, AlmaScience

This partnership is constantly fostering a stream of promising early-stage technologies, answering the industry’s growing needs for affordable, eco-friendly, high-performance products and solutions.

AlmaScience was conceived to bridge the gap from the fundamental research developed in academia and facilitate the transfer of knowledge over to industry, generating new business and job opportunities, which in turn generate income and therefore investment in more research – a virtuous cycle that looks like a true ecosystem: as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) put it: “For successful technology transfer, universities and research institutions need to operate in an effective innovation ecosystem – an interconnected network of governmental, industry and research institutions and enabling factors (such as human capital, technology transfer structures, and sophistication of businesses and market). In such an ecosystem, the parties bring their resources and expertise together to collaboratively achieve innovation in the service of regional and economic development.”

“As a Lisbon-based incubator, AlmaScience provides access to cutting-edge technology and a supportive community, making every day exciting and inspiring. Being surrounded by passionate researchers drives my curiosity and innovation. And I hope Portugal becomes a leader in sustainable innovation, showcasing practical and impactful green technologies, following in the footsteps of countries like Sweden and Germany – pioneers in integrating green tech into everyday life.”
– Fausto Queda, Senior Researcher, AlmaScience

Fausto Queda
Fausto Queda, Senior Researcher at AlmaScience 


One goal, one dream, and one obsession

AlmaScience was created with one goal, one dream, and one obsession. 
 
One goal: to bring the ground-breaking knowledge produced in academia to the industry through open innovation processes that lead to high-value-added products and services. 
 
One dream: to expand the scope of Portugal-developed sustainable innovation onto the global market, resulting in business opportunities in key industries such as paper, polymers, textiles, biomedical, fashion, automotive, construction, and energy. 

“Our vision is not limited to developing eco-friendly technologies at the lab. Nor are we just replacing plastics or other synthetic materials with sustainable, natural materials. Our goal is to bring these technologies to market, to shoot for mass adoption, to optimize processes and revamp industries while reaping both environmental and business advantages. Sustainability is good business.”  
– Yoni Engel, VP for Business Development, AlmaScience

One obsession: sustainability. Every technology, system, product, and service developed by AlmaScience has sustainability in mind. Our approach is holistic. We take into account the entire product life cycle, from sourcing and production to end-of-life. We pair sustainable engineered materials and composites with advanced, cost-effective, and minimal waste manufacturing techniques to deliver innovative, sustainable, and eco-friendly solutions for a variety of applications and markets. 

AlmaScience stands actively by the objectives of the Twin Transition, Green and Digital, within the scope of the EU Green Deal, and to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, particularly 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, and 17.

“We stand at a critical juncture where our actions can shape the future for generations to come. The imperative lies in developing greener technologies that minimize our ecological footprint and contribute to a better world. Our work must be approached with utmost seriousness, recognizing that each decision we make has consequences. By developing products with the least impact on our environment, we can contribute to a healthier, more resilient planet.”
– Catarina Fernandes, Junior Researcher, AlmaScience

Catarina Fernandes
Catarina Fernandes, Junior Researcher at AlmaScience


Sustainability means meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Pushing forward its sustainability and innovation agenda, AlmaScience answers the industry's growing demand for affordable, efficient, and environmentally friendly tech solutions. From concept to commercialization, the lab functions as a one-stop shop for developing intelligent solutions born out of sustainable thinking and multidisciplinary R&D efforts. AlmaScience offers several technology solutions:  

SmartPack combines several different technological breakthroughs in service of the advancement of smart packaging technologies and solutions. From supply chain traceability solutions to active packaging elements that protect food produce in transit, from brand authentication to interactive unboxing experiences, SmartPack enhances packaging performance and value while minimizing environmental impact.  

CelluGel is the moniker for aerogel- and hydrogel-based solutions with applications in packaging, thermal and noise insulation, biomedical systems, and more – all while using abundant and sustainable cellulose as raw material. Take PetriCell Dry™ for example: this is a revolutionary technology that replaces agar-based growth media for microbiological testing with a proprietary cellulose-based, ready-to-use dry media that performs like agar but remains active for at least six months with no refrigeration, even when containing supplements. Another example is GELA, the cellulose-based fast-cooling wrap: in retail, this innovation promises to optimize operations and reduce the cost of refrigeration systems while simultaneously increasing consumer satisfaction, who will quickly consume their favorite drink at the ideal temperature.
 
PaperWeight Digital™ technology combines patented cellulose-based electronics with advanced, low-waste printing methods to create a responsive smart surface that detects pressure, weight, and touch. Out of this bundle came PaperWeight AI™, a real-time smart shelf solution powered by a paper-based sensor and enhanced with AI algorithms, easily retrofitted onto existing store shelves and layouts, offering unparalleled low cost of ownership and ease of deployment. 
 
Finally, PapeRF tackles the challenges posed by the dissemination of Internet of Things devices and items utilizing printable, chipless RFID identifiers.

 

A scientific powerhouse 

Over the past four years, AlmaScience’s knowledge and expertise have risen to the point of excellence: the collaborative lab received a score of 9/10 for technological merit from an international panel of experts and is constantly involved in multiple national and international competitive funding programs. 

"AlmaScience excels in applied research and is involved in over 10 EU-funded projects in smart paper, printed electronics, and sustainable materials. Our participation in these programs fosters global collaboration, strengthens our strategic partnerships, and creates growth opportunities. We deliver application-focused research, cutting-edge expertise, sustainability knowledge, and extensive project management experience, significantly enhancing outcomes.
Noteworthy is our public mission: every partnership with us fulfils the goals set by the Portuguese government and the EU Commission of translating research to economic growth, benefiting the public with the creation of high value jobs, and increasing the competitiveness of Portugal and Europe."
– Tatiana Costa, Director of Innovation, Funding and IP, AlmaScience

AlmaScience is an active participant in EU-funded projects related to the advancement of green printed electronics, such as EMERGE (Emerging Printed Electronics Research Infrastructure), which proposes establishing the first integrated, distributed research infrastructure supporting comprehensive projects for multi and trans-disciplinary research on sustainable and flexible large-area printed electronics and photonics (FLAPEP); and REFORM, which aims to accelerate the development of a new European green functional electronics supply chain. It seeks to use eco-design principles to ensure that functional electronics can be produced that meet multiple application requirements for technological performance and compliance, while also meeting societal and environmental needs for sustainability. REFORM brings together a world-leading consortium of academics, non-profit RTOs, industrial associations, private SME partners, and large firms from eight countries across Europe. 

Other national and international projects, in areas ranging from energy harvesting to cellulose-based sensing surfaces and green electronic paper-based systems for wireless communication applications, include Bright, CELLECTIVE, IDS-Paper, SmartE, and MOCAS.  

Most significantly, AlmaScience is involved in four major Mobilizing Agendas from the Portuguese Resilience and Recovery Plan, which combined represent hundreds of millions of Euros in investment in the Green and Digital Transition of the Portuguese Economy. 
 
“From Fossil to Forest”, a project led by AlmaScience’s founding associate The Navigator Company, aims to develop packaging and other cellulose-based products to replace fossil plastics. Aligned with the goals of the Green Deal, the development of innovative forest-based products will be crucial for a fair transition to an economy that is positive for nature and neutral for the climate. The solutions range from high-performance pulps and brown papers, papers with greater mechanical resistance, papers with barrier properties, biocomposites, smart packaging paper sensors, and molded pulp for rigid packaging.  
 
Adjacent in spirit and goals is “Embalagem do Futuro” (“Packaging of the Future”), whose goal is to create an ecological, digital, and inclusive package. This consortium features 84 co-promoters from all Portuguese regions, with a total investment of 105 million euros. 
 
From farm to table: on one hand, the "VIIAFOOD" agenda aims at knowledge and technology transfer that will contribute to the re-industrialization of the Portuguese agri-food sector by creating a national cross-platform for the development and industrialization of innovative products, processes, and services. 

On the other hand, in the context of the “PT Smart Retail” agenda, AlmaScience is working with multiple partners to develop novel solutions for dematerializing processes in the retail sector while providing an enhanced end-consumer experience. The economic and environmental efficiency of the solutions being developed offer a remarkable potential for internationalization.

 

Beyond Paper

Four years ago, we set the goal of going Beyond Paper. Today, our goal is to bring our “beyond paper” technologies to market, to shoot for mass adoption, to optimize processes and revamp industries, all while reaping both environmental and business advantages. 

We will continue to push sustainable innovation out of the confines of the lab and into the realm of concrete, widespread, and day-to-day applications that drive both business and environmental rewards.

Sustainability is good business! 

 

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