The 2nd annual ExpandFibre Ecosystem seminar was held on Tuesday June 21st 2022

The 2nd annual ExpandFibre Ecosystem seminar was held on Tuesday June 21st 2022

23.06.2022

The highlight of the ExpandFibre Ecosystem’s annual event calendar was organized virtually on Tuesday June 21st at 13:00 EEST. Highlights of the 3-hour event included updates on the growing Ecosystem’s current status, key activities of the leading companies Fortum and Metsä Group as well as the launch of the new ExpandFibre Ecosystem Platform for all member organizations.

Approximately 80 Ecosystem members tuned in to participate in the virtual ExpandFibre Ecosystem annual seminar, which is the main event for the whole Ecosystem to share new knowledge and results, pitch their ideas and innovations and explore them together.  

Programme managers Maiju Miettinen from Fortum Bio2X and Katariina Kemppainen from Metsä Spring and event host Andreas Lindberg from Spinverse opened the event with an insightful look into the status and activities of the ExpandFibre Ecosystem. Also, the ExpandFibre Ecosystem Platform – a new collaboration and networking tool for the Ecosystem members – was officially launched.

Since the last annual member seminar in June 2021, the Ecosystem has almost doubled in size, growing from 43 to 80 organisations. The wide and diverse group includes 12 international members and 57 companies, complemented by research partners and other organisations from all domains and topics of the ExpandFibre R&D roadmap. The 15 Ecosystem projects broadly cover the different themes of the ecosystem with especially many projects addressing textiles, other fibre products and cross-cutting topics. More projects are sought related to the hemicellulose and lignin products as well as the sourcing and fractionation of straw.  

Highlights from the ExpandFibre activities of Fortum and Metsä Group

Kari Aaltonen (Product Line Specialist, Plastics Recycling at Fortum Waste Solutions Oy) shared selected highlights from Fortum’s and Metsä Group's joint biocomposites development work, which has now reached the proof-of-concept phase with more exciting results and updates to come in the future.  

Hélène Lehtinen (Director, Barrier Development at Metsä Board) & Leena Yliniemi (Product Management Director at Metsä Board) summarised Metsä Board’s work within ExpandFibre concentrating on both packaging material and packaging development to improve circularity with the fundamental aim being the prevention of food waste with sustainable and high-quality packaging solutions. Key initiatives of Metsä Board include the Metsä Board Excellence Centre and its ecosystem co-creating packaging innovations across the life cycle, as highlighted by Leena. Another key activity of Metsä Board is focusing on the development of new bio-based barrier solutions for board products – an initiative directly linked to Metsä Board’s target of producing fossil-free products by end of 2030, as summarised by Hélène.

Inspiring keynote presentation and other highlights from the Ecosystem

Anna-Stiina Jääskeläinen (Senior Manager, R&D at Kemira) gave an inspiring keynote speech, highlighting the unique properties of cellulose, which can be tailored to match a high number of different needs. According to Anna-Stiina cellulose really is a miracle material that can be transformed into almost anything with chemistry being the crucial and invisible enabler for sustainable, safe and functional cellulosic products. Anna-Stiina also detailed that Kemira is participating actively in five ecosystem projects with the main reasons for their activity in innovation projects including sharing R&D work related risks with other partners, accelerating transformational research, boosting innovations and gaining wider knowhow in general. 

Five of the newest ExpandFibre Ecosystem out of the total 15 Ecosystem projects were presented to the Ecosystem by the project coordinators or project representatives:

  • SUSBINCO – Chunlin Xu, Professor at Åbo Akademi
  • 4everPack – Anna Tenhunen-Lunkka, Senior Scientist & Project Manager at VTT
  • Telavalue – Pirjo Heikkilä, Senior Scientist & Project Manager at VTT
  • BIOPROT – Krista Koljonen, Post-Doctoral Researcher at LUT
  • FOLD – Jarmo Kouko, Research Team Leader at VTT

Interesting result updates were presented from two longer running Ecosystem projects Novel Fiber Surfaces Functionalized by Lignins Refined and Engineered from Finnish Biorefinery Processes (LigninReSurf) project coordinated by Åbo Akademi’s Prof. Chunlin Xu and Value for Cellulosics (ValCel) project coordinated by Professor of Practice Mika Härkönen from VTT.

The event concluded with engaging pitches from the Ecosystem members:  

  • Call for new research project ideas on straw supply chain byAxel Hinderer, Supply Chain Development Specialist at Fortum Bio2X
  • Presenting a novel LCA software Verderon.io byAntti Jäänvirta, Project Manager, Green Technologies (Verderon.io) at Semantum
  • Pitching a novel process and products using lignin as a truly green functional material by MartinMiltner, CEO & CTO at Lignovations
  • Presenting a new Ecosystem member and their expertise to the Ecosystem by Jenni Moberg, CEO at Patternsfrom Agency
  • Two Business Finland funded project ideas under preparation on commercialisation of lignin and bio-based fire retardants by Olesya Fearon, Research Scientist at VTT and Vesa Kunnari, Research Scientist at VTT