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Funding deal

Textile firm switches to face mask fabric production

Ivan McKee: encouraged by firms diversifying into making masks

Scottish textiles business Don & Low is to manufacture filters used in the production of the highest quality face masks recommended by the World Health Organisation and NHS.

The Forfar plant has received funding from Scottish Enterprise for equipment to make fabric for the FFP3 face masks.

These are the top grade of respirator coverings to protect against virus and bacterial infection when the contagion is spread through coughing and sneezing (such as with the coronavirus).

They are also often used by healthcare professionals when handling hazardous pharmaceutical chemicals as they can block both liquid and solid aerosols.

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The Scottish Government, via Scottish Enterprise, has agreed to provide the company with up to £3.6 million of financial support towards the £4.5m purchase, import and installation of the equipment.

Once the machine is operational, Don & Low will be one of a handful of companies in Europe capable of supplying the filter material used to make the respirator masks.

Trade Minister Ivan McKee said: “COVID-19 isn’t going away any time soon, so while we have enough masks to protect our frontline health and social care workers now, we are also taking a long-term view to build PPE manufacturing capability in Scotland to meet future needs.

We are taking a long-term view to build PPE manufacturing capability in Scotland

– Ivan McKee, Trade Minister

“During these challenging times it’s encouraging to see so many Scottish businesses quickly diversify their product lines and invest in new equipment to help us deliver what is needed, when it’s needed.”

Colin Johnson, director at Don & Low, said: “We are pleased to be supported in making this new investment that will allow us to use our existing expertise to address the shortages of these key materials during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.”

Linda Hanna, managing director, Scottish Enterprise, added: “The unprecedented demand for face masks has highlighted the fragility of existing global supply chains.

“Investing in this equipment alongside Don & Low will simultaneously boost domestic manufacturing and supply while creating export opportunities.

“Most importantly, it means the highest-grade medical face masks will continue to be produced for those who need them most.”

University and SME in face mask development

A facemask prototype that could help prevent the spread of coronavirus is being developed in a partnership involving University of the West of Scotland (UWS) academics.

The product – Face Gaiter – has been created by fabric architecture firm, tensARC, who have turned their attention to face coverings for use by members of the public, particularly in work environments where social distancing is more difficult, without interfering with supplies of PPE for frontline workers.

The project, which has been awarded funding from the Scottish Funding Council, will see researchers from UWS’s School of Health and Life Sciences validate the Face Gaiter’s effectiveness in preventing transmission of the virus at the University’s dedicated microbiology facilities.

It comes as the Scottish and UK Governments both recently suggested there may be benefits in wearing a face covering when lockdown measures are gradually eased, particularly for those going back to work. 

Successful trials will see the company roll out the Face Gaiter, which the SME hopes will play a role in reducing the reproductive number of coronavirus due to its special design.

The University of Stirling’s Health Sciences and Sport faculty is also involved in the project to assess user comfort and safety.

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