Biomaterials are pushing new boundaries almost daily now. What does this mean for your business – and how do you get in touch with those innovators developing next-tech biomaterials?
Jari Tielinen, Head of Bio & Circular at Invest in Finland points out that the emergence of biomaterials is closely linked to the drive to "cut the cord" to oil-based solutions.
"Finally, we are in a situation where biomaterials can pull the rug from under oil-based," he says.
The Finns, having lived off their forests for centuries, are fond of referring to their trees as "green gold" – and from the looks of it, that's never been more true than now. "Looking at wood-related innovation, there is almost nothing we can't achieve. Biomaterials really represent a tremendous game-changer."
In the future, we can have flexible screens, sound systems and car parts made out of wood – as well as packaging materials, adhesives, paints, cosmetics, medicines, textiles...
"Wood is likely to serve many, many new markets in the future."
With world-class competence, numerous opportunities and favorable policies, Finland offers a unique platform for bio-based innovation, partnering and production.
"The National Bioeconomy and Energy & Climate strategies, as well as the Circular Economy Roadmap, facilitate continuous growth and renewal of the biomaterials industry in Finland," Tielinen says.
Today there is an entire bioeconomy value chain in place that is second to none. "With strong relationships between end-users, companies and researchers, Finland offers an unbeatable foundation for innovation," he believes.
There are established innovation ecosystems and platforms such as FinCERES, Finix and 4Recycling – and they're open and seeking collaboration with new actors. The newest program, the aptly named ExpandFibre, is a collaboration by Metsä Group and Fortum seeking to create a world-class R&D program with pulp fibre from renewable and sustainable sources as its node.
The 4-year joint R&D program aims to develop ground-breaking technologies and smart business concepts to convert straw and wood pulp fibre into novel bioproducts, such as textile fibres. The R&D program has been granted EUR 20 million from Business Finland.
Naturally, ExpandFibre has remarkable sustainable edge: Metsä Group and Fortum are on a mission to provide selected markets with new, high-volume bioproducts that have a significantly lower carbon footprint compared to similar (but fossil-based) products available today.
"Finland is a forerunner in the circular bioeconomy and initiatives such as ExpandFibre allow us to get to next level," says Tielinen.
And what new innovations are soon coming down the pipeline? – Tielinen says that for instance hemicellulose, lignin and bioactive components, as well as fractionation of straw provide intriguing opportunities at the moment. The green tide is rising globally as well: VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is piloting solutions to reduce the use of plastics through natural fibres in collaboration with as many as 52 international companies.
In addition to foreign players joining Finnish ecosystems, it is worthwhile to explore direct collaboration opportunities with the leaders and catalysts of bioindustry renewal.
"There is also an active local startup scene that is looking for partnerships and joint projects."
Mr. Jari Tielinen
Head of industry, Bio & Circular Economy
jari.tielinen (at) businessfinland.fi