Finnish forests, water and minerals the new value products in high-level expertise
We must react to the sudden structural changes taking place in the Finnish IT
sector and in traditional forestry industry. For Finland to succeed new
business and service ecosystems must be developed. Bioeconomy has the
prerequisites for becoming a successful example of this for Finnish business
life. This will, however, require a functioning collaboration network and our
own bioeconomy strategy.
On 12 April 2012, during the VTT Bioeconomy Forum Finland event in Helsinki,
the President and CEO of VTT opened discussion on bioeconomy strategy and
establishing a various partnership networks.
Bioeconomy has all the prerequisites for creating a radical increase in the
value of exports and for developing into a new pillar of support for wellbeing
in Finland. This will require the making of choices, the taking of risks, and
the development and marketing of bioeconomy-based technologies.
to expert assessment, by 2020 new technological solutions and diversification
could, for example, raise Finland’s current forest industry production by 6
billion euros (equal to an increase of 22% compared to 2010 level).
energy and material resources are shrinking, environmental problems are
getting worse, and global population growth continues. On a global scale,
adjusting to these developments requires radical changes to production
methods, to the use of raw materials, and to living habits in general.
Bioeconomy provides an answer to many of these challenges, and creates new
The forest industry, for example, can expand its
current operations into the production of composites, biofuels and
biochemicals, and into service businesses. This would also bring about a
corresponding growth in sector profitability.
"I believe that
Finland, thanks to its competences and raw materials, can become a future
leader in bioeconomy, and create success and wellbeing for itself. The task
requires a new way of thinking and operating: In addition to research,
attention must also be paid on development and commercialisation of business
throughout the innovation chain", states Erkki KM Leppävuori, President and
CEO of VTT.
VTT as playmaker
Leppävuori, challenges Finnish companies, research institutions and
authorities to act together to expedite this development. "Bioeconomy – much
more than solely the utilisation of biomass – is an opportunity to succeed for
Finnish growth companies. We should act together to turn Finland into a
forerunner in bioeconomy, a country that develops operating models and
products." For the concept of Finland as pioneer country to succeed, this
above all requires bold new business ideas, the participation of public
funding to share the risk, and foreseeable legislation and control measures.
renewal of Finland’s business sector can be expedited by forming a voluntary
partnership network – the Finnish Institute of Technology and Innovation
(FIT). Research programmes in the network could be opened up to each other and
large-scale multidisciplinary projects initiated in applied research," says
Leppävuori. "This is also a question of effective utilisation of Finland’s
limited research resources."
"VTT has its own tool, the
Advanced Study Centre (ASC), which was established for in-depth, international
discussion," Leppävuori continues. "We invite research organisations and
companies to participate in ASC-type operations to structure a bioeconomy
strategy, and discuss and implement bioeconomy."
European Union strategy introduces bioeconomy as the foundation of smart and
green growth. According to Erkki KM Leppävuori, for Finland this is not only a
challenge but an opportunity to exploit the country’s high-grade competences
for the benefit of business life and exports. Finland’s valuable raw materials
– forests, water and minerals – can be utilised more effectively to become
highly refined export products.
According to the European
Commission, the annual turnover of the bioeconomy sector in the European Union
reaches EUR 2,000 billion, which corresponds to more than 22 million jobs and
approximately 9% of the EU workforce. In 2014 the EU is to initiate Horizon
2020, a framework programme in research and innovation in the EU, the results
of which are estimated to increase jobs by 130,000 by 2025.
Bioeconomy can be perceived solely as operations related to the processing
of biomass. VTT nonetheless views bioeconomy more widely: as a future
industrial sector created out of traditional biomass refining. Characteristic
for the operations of the sector are resource efficiency, maximisation of
value added, recycling, tight integration into energy production, and a
capacity for cross-sector innovation. The bioeconomy framework is formed of
the three pillars of sustainability: financial profitability; consideration of
the environment; and serving society.