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Substantial prize to Merja Penttilä from Wihuri Foundation


Wihuri Foundation for International Prizes has rewarded Research Professor Merja Penttilä with 150 000 euros for her achievements in the field of industrial biotechnology. The prize was awarded to her in a ceremony at the Finlandia Hall on October 9.

Penttilä was appointed VTT’s Research Professor in the field of biotechnology in 1999. Her specialties are industrial biotechnology and in particular the use of microbes, enzymes, chemicals as well as biofuels using genetic engineering and metabolic engineering. She has an extensive background in biorefinery research and renewable natural resources - particularly in relation to utilization of lignocellulose.

"At VTT it has been possible to take forward sometimes even bold ideas. It is great to work with colleagues who have the enthusiasm and the will to get things going, "she says.

In her speech at the Finlandia Hall Merja Penttilä raised the question of world's mega challenges and the need to change the direction of the development. "In Finland we use forest biomass as energy source, and we are developing textile fibres as well as nanocellulose from it. However, bioeconomy could also be something else in Finland in the future. It does not need to be based only wood or large amounts of raw materials and big production volumes – it can also be production of special products and inventions that result from know-how," said Penttilä in her speech. "It's time to decide whether we want to be the front line in bioeconomy in Finland.”