President, CEO Leppavuori, VTT: Finland should create a national bioeconomy strategy

April 12th, 2012
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.

According 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).

Fossil 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 business.

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

Erkki KM 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.

"The 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."

The 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.

What is bioeconomy?

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.

Provided by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

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