Leather Processing and Product Research and Innovation Center

                  1. About Leather Processing and Leather Products Manufacturing

The Leather Processing and Product manufacturing sector is amongst the most lucrative agro based sector in the world. The sector is characterized by a long value chain with multiple socio-economic dimensions such as enhanced employability, creation of wealth and acts as a precursor towards rural development. The sector is playing a significant role in the world economy development and it stands as one of the most widely commercialized commodities in the world.

Africa is fast emerging as one of the future markets for sourcing quality Leather and Leather products for the booming global industry.Ethiopia's leather processing and product manufacturing sectors have been recognized as the primary priority sectors of the economy under GTP II (2016-2020) in order to contribute significantly to the country's manufacturing sector growth (FDRE-GTP II, 2015). The labor-intensive nature of the sector, its modest sophistication in technological requirements combined with Ethiopia’s large resource base for the raw material (mainly livestock) needs of the industry makes the Leather and Leather products sector a good candidate to be considered as a priority deserving special support to expand its sustainable production and achieve competitiveness at international level. Ethiopia has one of the world's largest livestock populations, with 63 million cattle, 31 million sheep, and 34 million sheep, ranking first in Africa and tenth worldwide (FAOSTAT 2019). Ethiopia is now a vital supplier of hides and skin raw materials, leather, and leather products for both domestic and international markets, putting it at the center of the booming leather industry.

Ethiopia is putting out its best efforts to improve the leather and leather products manufacturing businesses and obtain the projected foreign currency from the sector by utilizing its enormous livestock populations. The Ethiopian government is paying special attention to the sector and providing a favorable policy environment for investment.

It is recognized that, Ethiopia is emerging as the Leather hub of Eastern Africa. Given that the Ethiopian Institute of Textile and Fashion Technology, Bahir Dar University (EiTEX-BDU) has been offering BSc Degree programs in Leather Engineering since 2012 and BSc Degree programs in Leather Product Engineering since 2019, it is imperative to expand in the research fields and achieve the vision. Furthermore, the institute established Leather Processing and Product Research and Innovation center that are vital for the progress of Ethiopian industries and stakeholders involved in leather processing and leather product manufacturing.

             2. Background on Leather processing and product Research and Innovation center

The Ethiopian Institute of Textile and Fashion Technology, Bahir Dar University, developed the Leather Processing and Products Research and Innovation Center (LPP-RIC) as one of its research and innovation institutes (EiTEX-BDU). The center was founded in 2020 and it is one of EiTEX-BDU's five pillar research and innovation hubs. LPP-RIC, as an EiTEX research and innovation center, is primarily focused on the development of professionals, research laboratories, research, and income generation in the core disciplines listed below.

  • Animal husbandry & technological advancements in Livestock production;
  • Leather processing and finishing;
  • Leather products designing and pattern making
  • Leather cutting and sewing technology;
  • Leather product construction;
  • Footwear closing and bottom component technology;
  • Leather accessories and design;
  • Physical and chemical testing of leather and leather products;
  • Leather and leather products marketing;
  • Waste management;
  • Consulting small and medium Enterprises, and Industries.

The LPP-RIC was established among other development programs to excel in research, innovation, and dissemination activities. The center aimed at providing efficient support to the leather processing and products manufacturing industry, educational institutions, and stakeholders. In this context, the LPP-RIC is working to provide transferable knowledge and skills to stakeholders and the nation as a whole through ongoing and effective research and dissemination activities.  The LPP-RIC is working to ensure problem-solving, transferrable research and training, as well as outcome-based dissemination activities (scientific publications). These activities are in line with the University's and Institute's stated missions and visions, as well as the sector's expectations as outlined in the government's growth and transformation plan.

         2.1.    Vision of Leather Processing and Products Research and Innovation Center (LPP-RIC)

  • By 2025, to become one of Africa's three leather processing and leather products research and innovation centers, with a focus on problem solving and transferable research.

            2.2.  Mission of Leather Processing and Products Research and Innovation Center

  • To develop teaching-learning and research laboratories, as well as a conducive environment in which academicians and students can expand their academic excellence and potential by participating in research and innovation activities at the regional and national levels.
  • To attract, initiate and establish collaborative research activities with industries, universities and research organizations at national level and beyond.
  • To enhance research outcomes through publication and dissemination activities.
  • To build and strengthen academicians, industry employees, SME, TVET staff and stakeholder’s competence, know-how and skills through engaging in collaborative activities.
  • To build and strengthen multidisciplinary collaborative links with Universities, Industries and stakeholders at national level and beyond.
  • To generate income through short term training, consultancy service, testing and grant project proposal writing and seeking.

               3. Rationale of Leather Processing and Product Research and Innovation Centre

Leather processing and product manufacture were listed as one of the key productive sub-sectors of Ethiopia's economy under GTP II (2016-2020). (FDRE-GTP II, 2015). However, Ethiopia's leather and leather product sectors are not performing as expected in the global market. Along with this the total share of export in the sector is not also as per the government expectations. To this end, skilled experts and researchers in the field of leather processing and products have become essential. This may help industries, small scale enterprises, and other stakeholders to boost their engagement in creating high-quality leather and leather goods, expand their export share.

At this regard, specialized professionals in universities and related institutions are becoming important to focus on specific research activities to meet the sector's vital demands. LPP-RiC, Ethiopia's first and only research innovation center, is established under EiTEX to fulfill these vital and timely demands.

This rationale will be carried out by undertaking effective problem-solving research and innovation, focused transferrable technology developments, community support for focused training and associated activities in the sector, and improved scientific publications and other dissemination activities.

            4.  Research Thematic Areas

Most Ethiopian Leather Processing and Product industries and SMEs are now suffering with critical problems such as a lack of finished leather, a lack of high-quality raw resources, design weakness, lack of effluent treatment, poor management, and etc (LIDI 2017, UNIDO 2012). In this regard, EiTEX-BDU professionals undertaking several research projects based on regional and national need in order to address the sector's challenges. In accordance with national priorities and strategies, the LPP-RIC has identified many research thematic areas.

            4.1. Leather Processing Technology Research Thematic areas

 Animal Production:

  • Animal husbandry and production of hide and skin,
  • Advanced technology in raw hide/skin curing 

Innovation, value addition and specialization for leather making:

  • Leather quality up-gradation technologies,
  • Current and future developments in leather processing chemicals,
  • Advances in leather processing technologies,
  • Alternative raw materials for finished leather making,
  • Design and manufacturing of leather processing machineries and accessories,
  • Indigenous leather processing technologies and products,

Clean innovative technologies/processes in leather making:

  • Process optimization towards cleaner leather processing,
  • Salt-free and chrome-free tanning,
  • Chrome recovery and reuse,
  • Desalting and utilization of preservation salt,
  • Advanced in-process tannery liquid waste treatment,

Tannery solid waste management and utilization - wealth from waste approach:

  • Utilization of leather wastes and byproducts for composite manufacturing
  • Utilization of leather wastes and byproducts for high value products 
  • Utilization of leather wastes and byproducts to supplement leather allied industries

Applied research in leather Analysis:

  • Physico-chemical and structural study
  • Biochemistry of leather

             4.2. Leather products Technology Research Thematic areas:

Product Development, diversification and Innovation Technology:

  • Use of modern manufacturing technology for product development,
  • Fashion forecasting, merchandising practices and alternative material in products development,
  • Development of Eco friendly footwear and Leather products and commercialization,
  • Innovation and adaptation of High-tech/smart /creative/multi-purpose Leather products,
  • Adaptation of  (CAD/CAM) technology in footwear designing & manufacturing process,
  • R & D practice on substitution of imported Leather products and Reverse Engineering,
  • Ecofriendly leather products and process development and end product life management,
  • Standardization and development of packaging and labeling,
  • Footwear and Leather Products testing technology,

Adoption and improvement of Leather product materials and their manufacturing technologies:

  • Alternative materials selection and development,
  • Advanced sole manufacturing technology,
  • Adaptation of footwear and Leather products chemicals/finishing material manufacturing technology,
  • Adoption and R& D practices on new footwear materials,
  • Development and modification of leather products technology equipment and tools,
  • Modern  cutting, preparation, stitching, and finishing technology adoption and transfer,
  • Studies on sewing thread, needle, materials and their combination,
  • Use of modern manufacturing technology for product development,

Statistical Survey and analytical research:

  • Social and behavioral surveys,
  • Study on traditional leather product artifacts,
  • R& D practices on end product life management system and market research,
  • Research & development on sustainable supply chain management,
  • E-marketing and brand management,

Quality and Productivity improvement in Leather product manufacturing:

  • Quality enhancement & Implementation of cost minimizing system
  • Adaptation of sustainable technologies for significant reduction of downtime
  • Implementation of cost management & productivity improvement tools

Leather Products machinery /equipment/, tools, adoption and implementation:

  • Development, modification, and adoption of Leather products equipment and tools,
  • Adoption of basic and advanced shoe upper making techniques/method/tools/machineries,
  • Adoption of advanced lasting& finishing technology/machineries,
  • Sole and mold technology,
  • Advanced shoe last and  accessories manufacturing technology,
  • Adoption of cutting and sewing technologies

Improvement of Production system and Management:

  • Productivity improvement and cost minimization,
  • Product and process quality improvement,
  • Process and product standardization,
  • Occupational health and safety management,
  • Conversion and utilization of waste to useful product,
  • Development and utilization of store management tools,

Management system:

  • Implementation of social compliance requirement, quality and productivity tools
  • Development and Implementation of coordinated industry level waste management system,
  • Designing data base and information management system,
  • Adoption and Implementation of Mass customization and Introducing e- marketing,
  • Value chain and supply chain management

                4.3. Research Application Procedures under LPP-RIC

EiTEX, Leather processing and products research and Innovation center (LPP-RIC) invites applications from the researcher through a clear announcement. Applications that meet the objective and eligibility criteria of the center can be submitted within the due date to center electronically as well as hard copy in the prescribed format stipulated by the center. The teaching staff, technical staffs and students of the Ethiopian Institute of Textile and Fashion Technology-Bahir Dar University (EiTEX-BDU) are eligible for submitting the research proposal on the topic of relevance to Leather processing and Leather products manufacturing sector. The research project will be selected based on the following criteria:

  • Whether the project complies with one of the Thematic areas of the centre;
  • The technical feasibility;
  • Commercialization plan in the future;
  • Whether the products, technologies or systems (even though these may be available overseas) will meet the needs of the local Leather and Leather product manufacturing industry and SME;
  • Whether the proposed budget is reasonable and realistic and/or whether the project can be funded by other sources;
  • Whether the project will benefit at least a certain sector of the industry and SME.
  • Relevance with government policies or in the overall interest of the community;
  • Environmental friendliness of the project product and process etc.

                   5.  Academics

Undergraduate: Leather Engineering (B.Sc.), Leather Product Engineering (B.Sc.),

Postgraduate: Leather Product Design and Engineering (MSc)

                   6. Testing and Consultancy services

The center is providing different services including testing, training and consultancy services by closely interacting with the industries, small scale enterprises, and research and development organizations, academic institutes and stakeholders.The LPP-RiC provides the following services which are crucial for leather processing and leather product manufacturing industries and stakeholders.

   6.1.  Testing Services

  • Footwear quality testing
  • Leather goods quality testing
  • Leather garment quality testing
  • Finished leather properties testing
  • Synthetic leather properties testing

        6.2   Laboratory Facility

At present the center has four laboratories for undergraduate and post graduate teaching, research works, testing service and production. The center has Leather Construction Laboratory, Leather Cutting and Lasting Laboratory, Footwear and Garment Pattern Making Laboratory and Leather Physical Testing Laboratory. Similarly, the center is working to upgrade the laboratories to an international standard level and to set additional technical laboratories for expanding the range of problem-solving research and community service activities.