The first research strategy for the Finnish forest cluster was published in Helsinki on 5 October 2006. It defines key focuses of research activities in the forest cluster and its customer sector. Meeting the objectives in the research strategy means that Finland will continue in future to have a successful, world’s most profitable and sustainable forest cluster whose products and services are the most desired in the world.
The objective is to double the value of the forest cluster’s products and services by 2030. Half of this value would come from new products. Domestic use of wood should be increased by one-fourth. The cluster’s investments in research and development should also be doubled.
In 2005 the total value of production in the Finnish forest cluster was approximately 40 billion euros. The value of exports was about 15 billion euros or nearly 30 per cent of Finland’s total exports. In addition to the forest industries the cluster includes forestry, engineering and maintenance for the pulp, paper and sawmilling industries, chemical industry serving the forest industries, the production of wood furniture and wood and fibre packaging, and the graphic publishing and printing industry. Last year the cluster’s R&D investments totalled roughly 350 million euros. Domestic wood consumption amounted to nearly 60 million cubic metres.
"To renew the forest cluster, we must use research to produce new information, technology, expertise and new products and services for which there is global demand. This will create a foundation for profitable new business operations," said Senior Vice President R&D Lars Gädda of M-real, the chairman of Finland’s National Support Group on the Forest-Based Sector Technology Platform at the seminar unveiling the research strategy in Helsinki. "To improve the competitiveness of companies and forestry, research must produce new solutions to lower production costs and raise the value of products."
According to Mr Gädda, research should be focused so that solutions meet the requirements of sustainable development from an economic, social and environmental protection viewpoint.
The focuses of research in the forest cluster are:
Smart wood and fibre products
The rapid development of information and communications as well as bio- and nanotechnologies will allow the development of smart and functional wood and fibre products and new business operations.
Materials made from wood and its components
New possibilities to use wood should be investigated and applications should be developed.
Versatile bioprocessing of wood
In addition to present products the bioprocessing plant of the future will separate materials, chemicals and energy products from wood and this will create new business operations.
Sustainable use of forests
Forest productivity and the profitability of forestry should be improved according to the principles of sustainable development. Public approval of the use of forests is also a precondition for the success of the forest cluster.
Increased value for wood biomass
Taking advantage of the properties of wood biomass and putting it to new uses will increase the value of wood and guide the use of wood to new applications.
Smart production technologies that save resources
The goal is to develop radically new production systems that make the best use of resources and are energy-efficient so as to reduce capital intensiveness and improve the entire cluster’s efficiency and flexibility.
Customer solutions for the future
New attractive, customer-oriented and competitive products and service concepts will be developed, for example to meet the needs of printed communications, packaging, construction, decoration and new product fields such as chemical and energy products.