A total of 33 companies have joining forces with VTT for the development of new generation sustainable forest products.
Together with a large industrial consortium, VTT Technical Research of Finland has launched a EUR4.5m project to accelerate the development of fibre-based products as alternatives to oil-based materials like plastics.
The project, funded partly by the European Regional Development Fund ERD, has brought together 33 companies, ranging from small to large, global companies.
The project will be coordinated by VTT and is expected to transform laboratory-scale results into pilot-scale demonstrations for products and processes which have a lower carbon foot print.
The project will also look into the current paper and board production infrastructure which can be used in the field of new packaging solutions, non-woven materials, porous insulation materials and even replace expanded polystyrene-based (EPS) materials.
VTT stated that awareness of climate change has been one of the main driving forces behind the search for sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives to oil-based products and materials.
Presently, the forest industry is looking for energy-efficient and low-carbon solutions to improve production. Apart from this, it is also looking for new applications and solutions to adapt the infrastructure of production to the changes seen in the market.
VTT said that the new initiative will continue in the development of advanced solutions for fibre products and processes, which for a long time has been the research institute’s priority.
The project, whose life is three years, has received EUR1.3m financial support from the European Regional Development Fund, via the Regional Council of Central Finland and the Council of Tampere Region.
For the research, VTT will be investing in a pilot line facility in the city of Jyväskylä. This facility which is expected to be ready by early 2018, will produce lightweight, porous materials, as it can be operated without a wet-pressing unit.
The Future Fibre Products project manager Harri Kiiskinen said: "The new pilot, together with the current piloting environment, will have a central role in demonstrating the alternatives with the most potential.
“We hope that it will be used as efficiently by industrial partners, universities, and other research organisations as the current one."
The industrial project partners include A Fredrikson Research & Consulting, Ahlstrom-Munksjö, Albany International, Andritz, Anpap, BASF, Berndorf Band, BillerudKorsnäs, BinNova, Essity (formerly SCA Hygiene Products), Glatfelter, Humuspehtoori, Irving Paper Limited, Kemira, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Metsä Group, Moorim SP, Neenah Gessner, Novarbo, Paptic, Pixact, ProDeliver, Rejlers Finland, Sappi, SCG Packaging, Stora Enso, Sulzer Pumps Finland, Suominen, UPM-Kymmene, Valmet, Weidmann Electrical Technology, WestRock Corporation, and Wetend Technologies.
Image: An example of a potential tomorrow's packaging solution. (Design and photo: Kaisa Jäntti).