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Two leading ecosystems on bio-based materials discuss future challenges and opportunities

The collaboration took the next important steps as the ExpandFibre team members from Metsä Group and Fortum gathered virtually on February 3 to get to know better and exchange ideas for future collaboration with the researchers from Aalto University and VTT working within the FinnCERES competence centre.

The primary focus of FinnCERES is very closely linked to that of ExpandFibre as FinnCERES works to uncover answers to the most fundamental questions about lignocellulose disassembly and re-assembly and to create new, cost-competitive, bio-based materials that are expected to address the main challenges of our century, including resource sufficiency and climate change. The fundamental research carried out within FinnCERES is the perfect foundation for the industrial scale applications and processes of biomaterials and bio-products investigated and developed further within ExpandFibre by Metsä Group and Fortum.

The virtual event, hosted by Kaisu Leppänen from Spinverse, kicked off with setting the scene for the collaboration between the two lignocellulose focused ecosystems. The event’s main purpose was to offer an excellent possibility for deepening the already ongoing collaboration between ExpandFibre and FinnCERES by connecting the team members from different organisations. Further, the aim was to discuss the science behind the biomaterial innovations that both ecosystems are focusing on – with a shared ideation as the key for taking things further in the future. Altogether the event attracted approximately 40 participants from different organizations within Metsä Group, Fortum as well as Aalto University and VTT.

Session 1 – Introduction to the collaboration & identifying the common challenges

The first 30-minute session gave a brief recap on the ExpandFibre and FinnCERES collaboration presented by ExpandFibre Programme Manager Katariina Kemppainen from Metsä Spring and FinnCERES Scientific Leader Prof. Monika Österberg from Aalto University. Both presenters highlighted that the primary idea behind the collaboration of these two publicly funded ecosystems is to successfully link fundamental scientific research carried out by FinnCERES researchers and the industrial development carried out by Metsä Group and Fortum. Thus, the key points of the meeting were to accelerate the common understanding of the scientific phenomena behind biomaterials and bio-products, hopefully leading to accelerated commercialization of ideas and research activities.

Session 2 – Group works focusing on three different themes deepening the understanding behind the science

FinnCERES Scientific Leader Research Prof. Tekla Tammelin from VTT gave an overview on the three group work sessions selected for the event. Prof. Tammelin further highlighted the great opportunity for FinnCERES researchers to go deep into the science behind the chosen themes as well as encourage the active dialogue on the chosen topics between the event participants:

  • Bio-based composites via emulsion templating

  • Lignin-containing bio-based composites with antimicrobial properties

  • Novel fractionation concepts

The thematic group works were hosted by ExpandFibre Programme Managers Katariina Kemppainen from Metsä Spring and Maiju Miettinen from Fortum as well as Sari Asikainen, Head of Product Development at Fortum Bio2X. Every group had detailed presentations from FinnCERES researchers on the chosen topic followed by active dialogue and ideation for future collaboration. The following presentations were given within the three groups:

  • Marie Gestranius and Tekla Tammelin, VTT: Emulsion templating – High consistency and effortless water removal

  • Jukka Ketoja, VTT: FoamWood - Wood inspired structures from wet cellulose foams

  • Juha Koivisto, Aalto University: Controlling Surface and Mechanical Functionalities of bio-based foams

  • Monika Österberg, Aalto University: Stabilization of foams and emulsions for added value materials

  • Hanna Hörhammer and Marc Borrega, VTT: Role of oxygen in fractionation of various biomass

  • Mikhail Balakshin, Aalto University: Toward new generation of biorefinery – AqSO process

  • Huy Quang Lê, Aalto University: γ-valerolactone (GVL) Biorefinery

Taking the collaboration further

The event was closed by recapping the presentations and discussions within the three thematic work groups. The three hosts all agreed that the time reserved for the detailed presentations and discussions was understandably not enough, highlighting the need for further ideation, detailed discussions, and even developmental testing work between the FinnCERES and ExpandFibre team members. Key themes identified in the discussions were e.g. environmental and sustainability issues and the importance of understanding the market fundamentals for various biomaterial applications.

The February 3 event was a successful steppingstone for taking the collaboration between these two ecosystems even further – without a doubt the fruitful collaboration will continue into the future even stronger.


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