Introducing EXOFLEX: Protect yourself, and the Earth

Every year, more than 15,000 motorcyclists are injured in the UK and, sadly, more than 300 die.[1] High quality protective gear is one of the most effective ways to ensure safety on the road. Yet, for some motorcyclists, especially those in developing countries, such gear can be cost prohibitive.

Moreover, most protective gear is made from fossil-fuel based plastics. While safety is paramount in the construction of helmets and body armour, a new design concept has shown how a bio-based material made from wood can reduce cost and benefit the environment.


Oliver Valentine, a recent graduate in industrial design was a winner in the ‘Prototyping a Fossil Free Future’ design competition at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London. The competition, sponsored by UPM Biochemicals, sought to demonstrate how various industries can make the urgent shift away from manufacturing products with materials based on fossil fuels to renewable, circular materials.

The competition featured 50 product and industrial design students from Central Saint Martins. All of them were asked to reimagine a range of everyday products – typically produced from fossil-based materials. Valentine’s design, the EXOFLEX, was a clear winner.

EXOFLEX is a ground-breaking modular and mono-material body armour. His concept provides accessible, repairable, easily manufactured, and cost-effective wearable protection. Emphasising both functionality and sustainability, the mono-material and modular construction enables customisation and targeted protection. The single material streamlines manufacturing and reduces production costs. Damaged components can be replaced by users without specialised equipment or expertise, extending the armour’s lifespan and reducing long-term costs and waste.

“I’m a keen rider, and I also build custom bikes myself. I’ve been knocked off on the road once, and have had plenty of motocross crashes, but, thankfully, nothing too serious. I have had friends seriously injure themselves, though, and, without adequate protection, they could have potentially been much worse off. My reasoning for creating a product in the motorcycling sector was born out of my love for it, but I also saw the disparity between protective equipment in western riders versus developing countries. I believe that from a congestion and environmental point of view, motorcycles are far better than cars for inner city transportation. Despite this, they inherently come with risks, so I wanted to mitigate this as much as possible — for the most amount of people I could,” said Valentine


A physical model of the armour’s concept design will be displayed at Design Transforms ’23 from 11 September to 15 October, an exhibition in conjunction with  the London Design Festival – and while this will not be full working prototype, it will still provide a tangible demonstration of the concept and its potential.