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Metsä Spring Ltd., part of Metsä Group, is an innovation company with the ambition to catalyse the creation of new businesses related to forest-based bioeconomy and circular economy.
Niklas von Weymarn, CEO of Metsä Spring, will be appearing on the Biobased value chains panel at the World Bioeconomy Forum (WCBEF) virtual event to be broadcast live from Ruka, Finland on 10th September 2020. He spoke to the WCBEF about Metsä Spring’s role in the post Covid-19 world and the future of bioproducts.
How well are your particular industries doing when it comes to creating new bioproducts, and what could be done to help or enhance your progress further? (for example, government policy, or private investment)
The forest industry, especially the large companies within the sector, tend to be focused on high-volume products. This, in turn, is typically very capital-intensive and thus, significant changes happen slowly. Moreover, to launch new products our industry would also need better predictability of the future business environment, typically reaching at least 10-15 years into the future. This is, however, seldom the case. My colleagues also often refer to the need of a ‘level playing field’, when comparing the EU, as a region for business, to other countries and regions. I believe we can improve in all these attributes. To find new products and markets, the forest industry must also broaden its conventional network. When entering, for instance, the textile market, achieving success in the entry is, in general, more likely, if the forest industry company is working on this mission together with a company from the textile market. In other words, becoming an expert of another market, “overnight”, is quite unlikely, even for large and resource-strong companies.
Do you see the circular bioeconomy as having an important role in the post Covid-19 world?
The circular bioeconomy is known for some strong features. Firstly, when implementing the essence of the term (circular bioeconomy), the economic output achieved is always based on the use of truly renewable raw materials, or even biomass “waste”. Secondly, a typical value chain of the circular bioeconomy has its roots on the countryside. In other words, the circular bioeconomy creates jobs and prosperity in rural areas. This, in turn, when such value chains are on place in a certain region, improves the self-sufficiency of that region. A fourth strong feature arises from the fact that circular bioeconomy inherently aims at using the biomass as wisely as possible. For example, a so-called biorefinery typically produces one main product, but simultaneously several side-streams, which become the raw material for several other companies. These four features were societally meaningful already before the COVID-19 pandemic and I believe that the implication of such features, in a post-COVID-19 world, will be even more prominent. In fact, we should accelerate the R&D&I activities in circular bioeconomy to support the bounce-back of the societies.
The World Bioeconomy Forum has a diverse range of high-level speakers and panelists, what are you hoping to achieve by taking part in the event, and what are your hopes for the future of the circular bioeconomy?
The World Bioeconomy Forum has become a leading meeting place for various stakeholders within the bioeconomy. By attending the event I expect to take home some fresh ideas and new ways of thinking. I am also hoping to make new acquaintances with key persons and organisations. Especially this year, with the remote event, I hope to see persons attending who would typically not travel to physical events. All viewpoints are important. In regard to the future of the circular bioeconomy, I wish to see continued strong support by the public stakeholders, especially for R&D&I activities, and consequently, a full utilisation of the potential that the circular bioeconomy embodies. Naturally, remembering to withhold a good balance between the three pillars of sustainability.
The Biobased value chains panel discussion at the event will also include: Alois Kindler (BASF), Alex Michine (Metgen), Eddie Peace (West Fraser) and Bruno Gorrini (Arauco). The Panel will be moderated by Ludo Diels, Research Manager, Sustainable Chemistry Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO). He is also the Vice-chair of the Public-private-partnership SPIRE.
Five Minutes With… is a series of interviews being run by the WCBEF to highlight some of the high-level speakers and panellists taking part in the event this year. To view the whole full day programme and register for the event please visit http://www.wcbef.com/