What might life be like in Finland after the era of oil in a bioeconomy? How
is the transition made? VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland brought
together experts of various fields to consider these questions. The results
were compiled in the publication People in the bioeconomy 2044. It contains
three descriptions of everyday life, which VTT hope will inspire and encourage
discussions on solutions for the future.
Ageing, population growth, climate change, and lack or resources are
challenges that world leaders are expected find global solutions for. In
addition to challenges and risks, this is also an opportunity to develop a new
kind of society – a sensible society with respect for environmental values.
According to researchers at VTT, the future will look brighter in Finland if
serious attention is given to the development of a new kind of society. A
transition period of 20 to 30 years to the bioeconomy requires that consumers
are willing to adjust, enterprises make significant investments and take
risks, and government decision-makers provide strong, long-term support.
The bioeconomy is based on the reasonable, sustainable use of natural
resources, and in the future, it will be connected to almost everything we do.
The concept of a bioeconomy is somewhat controversial. VTT sees it as an
extensive socio-technical system that combines various technologies, markets,
people and procedures. In the future, it will connect different branches of
industry in ways we have never seen before. It will also combine the idea of
sustainable development to business operations, and introduce consumer
products made of biomass.
The bioeconomy is an opportunity for Finland, thanks to its vast forest
resources. The processing degree of wood can be increased by turning it into
plastic-like products for manufacturing composites, packaging materials,
textiles and even ingredients of foodstuffs and medications. The use of other
raw materials will also change dramatically in the future. Information
technology will also play a more significant role in the future. It will
become key in making manufacturing, energy production and transport more
“The transition to a bioeconomy requires us to learn how to use our natural
resources in a wise and sparing manner. The efficient industrial use of
biomass does not solve all the problems and other sources of raw material are
also needed. One of them is the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and
combustion gas. However, we are still at the very early stages of this
process", says Anne-Christine Ritschkoff, Executive Vice
President of Strategic Research at VTT.
Helmi, the Anderson family and Jonas “Brad” Salmi in the era of a
The fictional characters of the VTT publication live in the era of a
bioeconomy in 2044: Helmi lives in Taavetti in Eastern Finland with her
family, the Anderson family live on the outskirts of the Helsinki metropolitan
area, and international inventor Jonas “Brad” Salmi lives in Oulu.
Agriculture is booming in Finland because some of the traditional farming
areas of the world have been destroyed as a result of various catastrophes.
There is not enough work for everyone as robots are doing some of the work.
Living conditions elsewhere in the world are deteriorating, and immigration to
Finland is on the increase. Significant progress has been made in medical
science and the onset of illnesses can be predicted based on the data on the
individuals’ vital functions. Medication is personalised. Sensors monitor the
vital functions of individuals and send the data to doctors. People are still
flying to their holiday destinations: bioenergy resources were introduced
widely 20 years earlier and this has meant that the carbon footprint of air
traffic is no longer an issue. Information technology is used to serve society
in a variety of ways. 3D printing is an everyday thing. Food is almost
entirely based on vegetables. Once again, the broad bean has become a key
source of protein. Thanks to advanced processing methods, the valuable and
health-promoting ingredients of vegetables are being utilised more efficiently
than today. Food products are packaged in bio-based materials. By foaming the
substances of wood it is possible to manufacture textiles and materials to
replace plastic, among others.
Country living with robots
Helmi’s family live in the countryside and earn their living from, highly
processed farm products: they sell berry-based deli products to Russians, flux
fibres to the textile industry, and wood fibre from forests grown with enzymes
for the industrial production of fibre materials. They use bio-based
fertilisers on their farm, along with stored solar energy and biogas-produced
electricity. The work on the farm is highly automatised and robots take care
of routine tasks.
The Andersons live in a zero-energy house and wear clothes made of willow
The Anderson family live in a zero-energy house in the metropolitan area of
Helsinki. Every year, they fly to Thailand on a plane using fuel manufactured
with microbes. In Thailand, they are used to eating insects. The father is a
specialist in prolonging life, and the mother works at the technology hub of
Otaniemi developing textile fibres from wood biomass. The family have cut down
on eating meat and avoid buying expensive synthetic meat. Their grandmother
lives far away and she keeps in touch with her grandchildren with the help of
hologram technology. The children are able to stroke her cat from their own
home using special touch gloves.
Multitalented Jonas “Brad” Salmi puts new technologies to test
Having studied technology, philosophy, design and marketing, Jonas is always
among the first to try out new technologies. He has been involved in starting
up businesses all over the world. His business ideas vary from resin-based
medications to hologram services. Jonas spends a lot of time in his home
laboratory in Oulu. His latest hit idea is a plant that reacts to light and
nutrients, and produces tomatoes in different colours and flavours. His
hobbies include increased production, in other words making things with a 3D
printer. With Jonas being able to turn the guest bed that was needed last week
into a set of dining table and chairs next week, he can save a lot of space,
PUBLICATION ON LINE: People in the Biotechnology 2044 publication /Documents/2014_V4.pdf
Strategy: Bioeconomy is the next wave of the economy, press release of
the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, the Ministry of Agriculture and
Forestry and Ministry of the Environment in Finland on 8th May, 2014: http://www.tem.fi/en/enterprises/press_releases_enterprises?89511_m=115058
ILLUSTRATIONS by Jutta Suksi: