FIBIC's FuBio Cellulose research programme searched for ecological and economic production processes for producing staple fibres, new cellulose materials and water purification chemicals from cellulose pulp. The programme examined such things as dissolving cellulose and the regeneration of fibres using new environmentally friendly processes as well as cellulose-based hygiene, packaging and water purification applications.
At the same time investments were made in expertise that would enable the wood processing industry to expand into to product value chains.
"We examined value chains that differed from those of the traditional forest products industry. This brought together different kinds of players and gave birth to fruitful interactions among the companies while raising Finnish cellulose expertise to new levels", summarised Anna Suurnäkki programme manager at VTT, Technical Research Centre of Finland.
One of the development outcomes with the most potential, the result of fruitful multi-faceted cooperation between business and researchers, was a method which can be used to produce cellulose-based artificial fibres. On an industrial scale they could easily replace the textile fibres used today.
"If successful, there is significant potential for growth. It has been estimated that the demand for cellulose-based artificial fibres will increase by as much as four-fold by 2030", Ms Suurnäkki explains.
This increase in production of fibres of about 15 million tonnes would be worth about EUR 20 billion at the current Euro price of cotton. In addition, the programme improved the competitiveness of the cellulose fibre manufacturing process as well as developing absorbent fibres for hygiene products. Their effectiveness was also tested on production scale.
Breaking down boundaries produces innovation
Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, provided seven million Euros in funding for the three-year programme. The total budget for the programme was about 11 million. The organisations involved were Aalto University, Fibic, Kemira, Lappeenranta University of Technology, Metsä Fibre, Stora Enso, Suominen Kuitukankaat Oy, Tampere University of Technology, Helsinki University, Oulu University, UPM-Kymmene Corporation, VTT and Åbo Akademi University.
According to Financial Manager, Jukka Laakso, cellulose fibre has the potential to be a globally successful product which could bring a completely new impetus to both the pulp and textile industries.
"It is rare that something completely new and surprising is produced within old, established networks. The FuBio Cellulose programme is a clear indication of how cross-disciplinary cooperation, which also cuts across traditional industrial sector boundaries, can achieve results within SHOKs. Hopefully the deepening of collaboration between companies, universities and research institutes will also be seen more and more in R&D&I activities."
Programme Manager, FuBio Cellulose, VTT
Tel. +358 (0)20 722 7178
anna.suurnakki (at) vtt.fi
Financial Manager, Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation
Tel. +358 (0)50 5577 885
jukka.laakso (at) tekes.fi