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Metsa and Fortum lead R&D program for fibre technologies

Fortum and Metsä Group joined forces with Business Finland to create a world-class R&D program with pulp fibre from renewable and sustainable sources as its node. The 4-year joint R&D program, called ExpandFibre, aims to develop ground-breaking technologies and smart business concepts that are required to convert straw and wood pulp fibre into novel bioproducts, such as textile fibres. Source: Timberbiz

The R&D program has been granted EUR 20 million from Business Finland.

The ExpandFibre partners want to encourage members of the ecosystem to significantly accelerate their efforts within the circular bioeconomy. Members of the ecosystem can apply for financing from Business Finland or from the EU.

In addition to production and export of physical bioproducts, such as pulp, paper, board, and solid wood products, Finland is also known for having one of the highest standards in terms of biomass management, for its technology suppliers, and its education curriculum, as well as for its engineering and R&D services.

ExpandFibre builds on this knowledge platform with a mission to provide selected markets with new, high-volume bioproducts that have a significantly lower carbon footprint compared to similar (but fossil-based) products available today.

“We are excited to enter into this innovative partnership through ExpandFibre and are looking forward to a mutually rewarding cooperation within the whole ecosystem,” Risto Sormunen, Head of Bio2X Development at Fortum said.

“With this setup, Fortum will continue building on its pioneering bioproducts vision: bringing residual straw raw material into industrial processing and further into environmentally friendly materials and chemicals. Our aim is to develop high-value end-products from all the main components of straw – cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin.”

Niklas von Weymarn, CEO of Metsä Group’s innovation company Metsä Spring said: “Metsä Group is firmly rooted in the sustainably managed Finnish forests. Finding new, added-value applications for pulp fibre obtained from our Northern wood is a key R&D target for the group. We are thrilled to partner up with Business Finland and Fortum in the ExpandFibre programme and we are very much looking forward to co-creating new technologies and concepts within the partnership and as part of the larger innovation ecosystem.”

ExpandFibre is a collaboration scheme to be launched during northern summer and it will run until August 2024. The program focuses on seven research themes:

  1. Textiles
  2. Biocomposites
  3. Packaging materials
  4. Other new fibre products
  5. Hemicellulose
  6. Lignin
  7. Sourcing and fractionation of straw

The value chains of interest to the ExpandFibre program are all based on renewable and sustainable raw materials, namely straw and Northern wood.