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April 25: IMPACT Forum - Sustainability through innovative bio-based materials

Updated: 19 hours ago

Warm welcome to the spring seminar "IMPACT Forum - Sustainability through innovative bio-based materials" on April 25, 2024 in Helsinki and online! This event, organized by the FinnCERES Flagship and Aalto Bioinnovation Center, brings together top experts to highlight the societal impact of innovative bio-based materials.

Join us to discuss environmentally responsible ways to increase the added value of the forest industry. How does the increasing regulation impact innovative bio-based materials? What is the role of packaging made from renewable raw materials in the current fossil-driven world?

Hear the latest updates from our invited top experts as well as the bio-based materials research community at Aalto University and VTT Technical Research Centre Finland. Don't miss this exciting opportunity!

The seminar will be organized as a hybrid event in Paasitorni, Helsinki, as well as online. Please note that online participation is open for everyone and free of charge, while on-site participation is by invitation only. For further information and inquiries, please contact us at info (at) and/or susanna.ahola (at)

Program of the seminar on April 25

8:15  Registration & breakfast

8:45 Online stream starts

9.00 Welcoming words Monika Österberg, Tekla Tammelin, and Michael Hummel FinnCERES Scientific Principal Investigators and Director of Bioinnovation Center


Session 1: Economic sustainability - Doubling the added value of the forest sector

Antti Asikainen, Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) Doubling the value added of wood-based sector - Role of new bulk production and high-end products

Professor Asikainen works as Executive Vice President at Natural Resources Institute Finland. He has broad experience in leading international and interdisciplinary research consortiums and programs. His main research interests are related to biomass availability and policy studies, wood harvesting technology and logistics. Asikainen is directing the recently established Finnish Forest Bioeconomy Science Panel and he was also a member of The Finnish Climate Change Panel in 2016-2019. He has contributed to several bioenergy related policy briefs to national and EU decision makers.

Anna Lintunen, University of Helsinki, Finland ACCC flagship: the role of forests in climate change mitigation

Anna Lintunen is a group leader of the research team Boreal Trees and Climate Change at University of Helsinki. She is docent and academy researcher, and studies the effect of climate and environmental conditions on boreal ecosystems, and how the ecosystems, in turn, affect climate considering the different land use and ecosystem managements. Her special expertise is on studying tree structure and function, and how they respond to changes in the environment. Currently, she is coordinating research in the Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research and the Atmosphere and Climate Competence Center (ACCC) Research Flagship.

Scott Renneckar, University of British Columbia, Canada

Challenges and opportunities in lignin-based materials

Scott Renneckar is a Professor in the Department of Wood Science at the University of British Columbia where he does research and teaching on sustainable biobased materials. He earned his PhD from Virginia Tech (USA) in Wood Science and moved to UBC in 2014, after serving as a professor at Virginia Tech for 9 years. He leads a dynamic team of researchers investigating the molecular structure and reactions of wood to transform trees and recycled fiber into novel materials that will serve as a platform for the bioeconomy. His research group’s goal is to apply novel processing methods to create petroleum free composites for the next generation of advanced renewable materials from Canadian forests and fields. Scott is recognized as a Canada Research Chair in Advanced Renewable Materials contributing to bioproducts research at UBC as theme-lead for UBC’s Bioproducts Institute.

Kalle Riihinen, Nordic Bioproducts Group, Finland

Economical feasibility in sustainability and the death valley of innovation

Kalle Riihinen is the Chief Operating Officer at Nordic Bioproducts Group (NBG). NBG is at the forefront of biomaterial innovation, harnessing the power of lignocellulose to create sustainable solutions that reduce environmental impact, drive transformative change across industries, and pave the way for a greener future.

Joint Q&A session


Coffee break



Session 2: Future outlook – New research-based innovations

Akira Isogai, University of Tokyo, Japan

Present situation of cellulose biorefinery in Japan

Akira Isogai is a professor in the Department of Biomaterial Sciences at the University of Tokyo. His research activities extend from fundamentals to applications of cellulose, chitin, and other polysaccharides. Fundamental research themes include chemical and nano-structural studies on plant cells and plant components, e.g. cellulose and hemi-cellulose. Applied themes include investigations into the preparation, characterization, and utilization of new bio-based nanomaterials and nanocomposites, and the development of paper devices for medical/electronic applications. For further quantitative utilization of biomass materials in high-tech fields, and to establish a sustainable society using renewable resources, fundamental and applied studies of polysaccharides and related research projects are under development. These are based on a deep understanding of natural/synthetic polymers from the molecular- and nano-levels to bulk materials.

Jaana Vapaavuori, Aalto University Porous biomaterials as versatile and attractive solution for device applications

Jaana Vapaavuori is a Professor at Department of Chemistry and Materials Science, Aalto University received her Ph.D. in Applied Physics in 2013. She leads Multifunctional Materials Design Group, established in 2019. She has received multiple recognitions, such as Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship (Canada), the Young Researcher of the Year 2020 award of Finnish Foundation of Technology Promotion, ERC Starting grant of European Research Council, and she is also leader of a Nordic Network beyond e-Textiles. Her research interests involve developing new designed materials for light-controllable nanostructures, liquid crystals, multifunctional porous materials, biomaterial-based light management layers for photovoltaics and sustainable material solutions for electrochemical devices.

Laureen Mahler, Aalto University Bio-Based Tessellations: A Design Perspective on Ecology and Innovation

Laureen Mahler is a designer and doctoral researcher at the Aalto University Bioinnovation Center doctoral school. Her research takes a multidisciplinary, practice-based approach to the creation and design of origami tessellations as novel packaging structures. Prior to joining Aalto, she was a faculty lecturer at a Berlin-based arts university in Germany, where her focus was on printmaking and interactive book structures.

Erfan Kimiaei, Aalto University

Innovative assembly of biomaterials for barrier packaging: From design to end of the life

Erfan Kimiaei is a last-year Doctoral researcher at Aalto University with 6-months of research visit experience at North Carolina State University. In parallel, he is also currently a Permeation applications specialist at the Bioproduct and Biosystem Department at Aalto University. His specialization is in developing innovative multiphasic materials for various applications such as barrier packaging, textile coatings, emulsions, and foams alongside technological advancement and eco-friendly practices. Additionally, his expertise extends to materials' end-of-life scenarios by biodegradation analysis and evaluating the environmental aspects of material production processes through life cycle assessment to promote sustainability and embrace the circular economy concept.


Lunch break



Session 3: Future of packaging - Impact of regulation on innovation

Maija Pohjakallio, Metsä Group

Navigating in the changing regulatory and business landscape

Maija Pohjakallio works as Vice President for Climate and Circular Economy at Metsä Group. She has extensive experience of circular & bioeconomy and related operational environment including both policy framework and innovations. She is excited about promoting wellbeing of people and planet by combining science and business with sustainable development and circular economy. Maija received her doctoral degree in 1996 from Helsinki University of Technology in physical chemistry and electrochemistry (currently Aalto University). Her current work includes collaborative activities in various stakeholder groups as well as strategic sustainability work and providing expert support for advocacy.

Andrei Nahkala, Huhtamäki

Industry perspective to EU packaging and packaging waste regulation

Andrei Nahkala works as Global Head of Public Affairs at Huhtamaki, a leading sustainable packaging solutions provider globally with manufacturing operations in 36 countries and employing over 17 000 people worldwide.  Andrei holds MSc degrees in political science (Jyväskylä University) and marketing (Aalto University). Before joining Huhtamaki Andrei has built a career in Public Affairs working both in public sector and in private sector in various countries. At Huhtamaki Andrei has been following closely for the past two years EU’s Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation which is now on the final stretch of decision making within EU institutions.  In his talk Andrei will provide a perspective on need for science based regulation.

Ilona Leppänen, VTT Technical Research Center of Finland Ltd 

Two innovative cellulose-based approaches to tackle the plastic challenge: Controlled biodegradation of cellulose materials and novel methods for microplastic analytics

Ilona Leppänen works as a Research Scientist at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland developing novel bio-based and biodegradable materials from wood such as fibres, films, and membranes. She recently graduated with a D.Sc (Tech.) from Aalto University, Bioproduct Technology, and her thesis was titled “Inherent and Tailored Properties of Cellulose – A Versatile Toolbox for Materials Engineering”.  The topic was related to cellulosic materials, which have significant potential in creating a sustainable bioeconomy helping address issues like plastic pollution and the need for sufficient material resources. More specifically, the thesis studied the impact of chemical modifications on cellulose’s biodegradability and demonstrated how cellulose can be used to tackle the microplastic problem by providing novel methods for microplastic analytics.

Joona Kontinen, Sulapac Ltd

What does it take to bring novel packaging products to the market?

Joona Kontinen is one of the key talents behind Sulapac materials and nowadays works as a Growth & Innovations Manager developing and commercializing bio-based biodegradable materials that serve customers across various industries on three continents. He has MSc degree in Material Science, specializing in polymer chemistry, and he is completing his PhD studies at Aalto University on the topic of biodegradation of biopolymers and wood composites. Currently, he is concentrating in developing new business areas and technologies after years of innovating and developing new materials into the market. In addition to exceptional knowledge of material characteristics and performance, he has a thorough understanding of relevant EU regulations such as the Single-Use Plastic Directive (SUP) and the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR).

Panel discussion: Reuse vs. recyclability and the role of future regulation

Moderator: Luana Dessbesell, Aalto University

Assistant Professor Luana Dessbesell leads a research group at Aalto University focusing on sustainable bioproducts innovation via translating research to commercialization, considering an interdisciplinary approach leveraging techno-economic, environmental and circularity indicators. Her background in forest and chemical engineering with ten years' experience as a researcher and biorefinery technology due diligence specialist in Canada and Brazil. She supports her research team's objective of facilitating academia and industry design transformative technologies and business strategies considering bioeconomy opportunities and circular economy principles to achieve long-term competitiveness.


Coffee break



Session 4: Future outlook – New research-based innovations

Arthur Ragauskas, University of Tennessee, United States

New Math: Lignin + Cellulose + Hemicellulose = Net Zero

Professor Arthur Ragauskas is the Interim Department Head and Governor’s Chair for Biorefining based in University of Tennessee’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, with a complementary appointment in the UT Institute of Agriculture’s Department of Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries and serves in the US Energy and Environmental Sciences Directorate, Biosciences Division, at ORNL. His research program is directed at understanding and exploiting innovative sustainable bioresources. This multifaceted program is targeted to develop new and improved applications for nature’s premiere renewable biopolymers for biofuels, biopower, and bio-based materials and chemicals. Recently, his research team has begun to examine the upcycling of waste plastics. His vision is to be the world’s most dynamic research and educational center for Forest Biorefinery, creating sustainable chemical solutions essential to converting Lignocellulosic Biomass resources to Biomaterials, Biofuels, Biochemicals, and Biopower for people everywhere.

Sofia Guridi & Matteo Ionnachero, Aalto University

Bio-connected second skins: Weaving the green future of smart textiles

Sofía Guridi is a Design Researcher from Chile at the Aalto University Bioinnovation Center doctoral school. Her work focuses on the intersection of textiles, electronics, sustainability, and biomaterials for creating soft interfaces. She is currently part of the Fashion/Textile Futures research group at the Department of Design where she is pursuing her PhD in Sustainable Smart Textiles. 

Matteo Iannacchero is a chemist and doctoral student at the Aalto University Bioinnovation Center doctoral school. His background is in biopolymer chemistry, and he is currently involved in a multidisciplinary project that entangles chemistry, material science and machine learning to achieve optimal properties for future e-textiles. The collaboration is done between the Aalto School of Chemical Engineering and the School of Science.

Aayush Jaiswal, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

Fiber Optics from Forests: Environmental Sensing with Cellulose Optical Fibers

Aayush Jaiswal works as a Research Scientist at VTT in the Biomaterial Processing and Products research area. His work focuses on application development for cellulose nanomaterials in fields such as barrier packaging, printed electronics, and photonics.

Bruno Mattos, Aalto University

Advanced light management with wood-based carbon materials

Dr. Bruno D. Mattos is a Senior Scientist in the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems, where the leads the Circular Biobased Materials research group. Bruno obtained his doctoral degree at the Federal University of Paraná (Brazil) together with the Forestry unit of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA). Bruno’s research is devoted to developing new materials and systems from biopolymers and biocolloids, with a focus on circularity and end-of-life aspects.

Seminar remarks

Monika Österberg, Tekla Tammelin, and Michael Hummel

FinnCERES Scientific Principal Investigators and Director of Bioinnovation Center


16.15-18.00 Research stands & cocktails



18.30 Seminar Dinner



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