Miguel Nogueira is the president of the International Committee of the Laminates Industry, ICDLI. In October 2022, Nogueira was elected in the General Assembly in the context of the European HPL Summit organized by the ICDLI in Bologna, Italy. Nogueira is Managing Director at SURFORMA, a company based near Porto, being part of the Portuguese Sonae Indústria Group. The 52-year-old holds a degree in chemical engineering from the University of Porto and lives in Maia.

Interview with Miguel Nogueira, President of the International Committee of the Laminates Industry, ICDLI.

Easy Engineering: A brief description of the organization and its activities.

Miguel Nogueira: The ICDLI – International Committee of the Decorative Laminates Industry is first and foremost a classic networking association of European HPL manufacturers and their suppliers. Its aim is to be perceived as the European voice of the HPL industry and to make the concerns and interests of its members heard. To this end, the ICDLI works at the crucial interfaces between the media, politics, society and science, organizing and attending events, launching publications and technical support, and carrying out media work like this interview.

E.E: What are the main areas of activity of the organization?

M.N: A very important area is the transfer of knowledge towards users, planners, architects and the professionals of tomorrow. We want to facilitate the access to overarching knowledge on HPL – by the way also for new company employees and professionals. For several years now, our HPL Compendium has been providing everything worth knowing about the HPL material system, in a compact and concise way. It is the central component of our knowledge initiative, providing information on the production, processing and application of the material. The compendium is already available in several European languages and thus facilitates the cooperation of property developers across national borders.

Apart from that, we were once again represented at interzum in Cologne with our HPL Gallery, presenting a wide range of attractive HPL decor designs and information on the performance properties of the material system. At the world’s leading trade fair for furniture suppliers and interior design, our booth was a central meeting place for the industry and interested stakeholders.

And these are only some extracts of our activities, which e.g. also include regular publications on sustainability, safety and performance of HPL. Recently, for example, we published a leaflet on the fire behaviour of HPL in exterior façades together with renowned fire protection experts from the City of Vienna.

E.E: What’s the news for 2023 about new directions?

M.N: To quote the Obama administration: “It’s the sustainability, stupid.” Clearly, concern for the climate, biodiversity and the environment deeply influence the actions of our members. As ICDLI, we want to support our companies in the green transformation in a tailored and efficient way. This includes, for example, the question of more sustainable sourcing of raw materials, where our industry still has a lot of catching up to do. Our Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) paves the way to recognition of HPL as a potential solution for greener buildings and furniture. We also want to bring forward the usage of green energy and advanced waste management.

Thus saying, we are looking at ways of recycling HPL and closing the loop on our material. Already today, HPL is extremely durable and has a long service life. Depending on the indoor or outdoor application, our products can last up to 50 years. The carbon content in the material, for example the climate gas CO2, is stored for a long time compared to many other furniture and building products. However, it is also a fact that at the end of their use life, HPL products are mainly used for energy recovery, i.e. incineration. We want to counteract and support measures that significantly advance the recycling of HPL.

Miguel Nogueira, President of the International Committee of the Laminates Industry, ICDLI.

E.E: What can you tell us about market trends?

M.N: The unique properties of HPL and modern technologies in the HPL production has allowed some great innovation in the later years. Acrylic solutions for anti-fingerprint are a great example. Other solutions are coming to the market, such as HPL made with real fabric, that are an evolution recognized by the architects and specifiers that adds value to the existing solutions. Generally, HPL fulfills more and more diverse tasks, offers more and more solutions – and thus expands the range for planners and designers.

At the same time, as said, are we looking at producing our material more sustainably and recycling more at the end of its lifespan: this is what consumers expect from us and this is how we secure important market shares in the long term – within Europe and globally.

E.E: What estimations do you have for the second half of 2023?

M.N: In general, maintaining the competitiveness of the European single market is a core concern for all participants in the ICDLI. The recent increase of energy and raw material prices, caused primarily by the war in Ukraine, impacted strongly the HPL business and has shown the vulnerability of the European Economy. Finding joint answers to this as an HPL industry will be one of the central tasks of our association in the coming months and years. We now see that sales are quite stable in 2023 so far. Nor are we currently observing the extreme fluctuations in energy prices that we had in 2022. But generally, electricity and gas continue to be more expensive than they were some time ago. In addition, labor costs are rising, there is an increasing shortage of skilled and unskilled workers, and the market for wood panels in Europe has become smaller due to the omission of Russia.

This is connected to new competitors from abroad entering the European market. Thus, our focus is even more on delivering high quality laminates and differentiating specialties (digital print, high variety of designs) to European customers in short time. In parallel, we want to strengthening the standardization work as this is the guarantee and a kind of test seal for the high quality of our products.