VTT’s Ali Harlin has been invited to join The Academy for Technical Sciences in Finland as a permanent member. Harlin currently works in circular bioeconomy and packaging materials at VTT as well as in startup companies.
The Academy for Technical Sciences has a noble mission: it aims to advance technical-scientific and economic research, education and civilization, utilization of technical breakthroughs in Finnish industry, economy, and society, advancement of sustainability in Finland as well as internationally, and to boost the valuation of the science branches it represents.
VTT’s Research Professor Ali Harlin has recently been invited to The Academy for Technical Sciences in Finland. Harlin sees the Academy as an important channel in knowledge transfer: “The Academy with its 460 members is an excellent community for me to network and exchange insights on latest research results. At the same time it offers a gateway to publish scientific information also to a broader audience”, explains Harlin the Academy’s role.
In the junction of science and business
Harlin’s job takes place in the interface of research and business. He has been a university professor, involved in numerous startup companies, and since 2005 worked as a research professor at VTT. These various roles are brought together by his chemistry know-how. “I am a doctor in chemical engineering by education, which offers me a possibility to specialize in very different applications. Lately I have started to work with material technologies.
“Research and science are in principle simple things. You play with what the laws of physics and chemistry give you. Once you shift towards business, new factors emerge. In addition to the evident commercial considerations, you need to observe also several societal aspects, as well as for example legislative details. And it is very important to follow the latest trends in order for the innovations to have a chance to succeed in the first place”, ponders Harlin the commercialization of scientific results and applications.
Circular bioeconomy and packaging materials under investigation
Lately Harlin has been working on circular bioeconomy. Circular bioeconomy refers to the renewable natural resources of bioeconomy. It has a relevant role for example in slowing down the climate change. Among other things, Harlin is a co-founder of a startup called the Infinited Fiber Company (IFC). IFC uses used clothes when creating new textile fibers and is therefore in the core of circular bioeconomy. Infinited Fibre Company’s application is based on research conducted at VTT under the supervision of Harlin and its operations are based at VTT’s premises in Espoo, Finland. VTT has also given rise to another spin-off called Spinnova, which produces textile fiber from cellulose.
“In early 2000s everyone talked about bioenergy. Since then the focus has shifted towards recyclable material products. There is not enough bio raw materials for everything, which calls for products with added value”, describes Harlin the domain’s progress in the past two decades.
At the moment Harlin works in particular with packaging materials. Wood-based packaging materials are soaring at the moment. For the first time in history, in 2021 in Finland packaging materials surpassed paper when measuring in euros. “I can have an impact in communicating about the latest applications in circular bioeconomy via The Academy for Technical Sciences in Finland”, sums Harlin.