Many would agree that the world is shifting to the third phase of industrialisation: the bioeconomy era. According to some estimates, Finland may even become the driving force behind bioeconomy in Europe. Bioeconomy offers the chemical industry significant new business opportunities.
The Chemical Industry Federation of Finland (Kemianteollisuus ry) is finalising a bioeconomy report that will shed light on future prospects. Although it is still too soon to draw conclusions, it is clear that chemical research and bioeconomy will play a major role in resolving global issues.
— Without chemistry expertise, bioeconomy stands no chance. One of the key observations of our project is that through competence in chemistry, biomass can be utilised optimally such that valuable substances can be captured and processed. Matter that could not otherwise be utilised can be used for energy,” says Director Riitta Juvonen, from the Chemical Industry Federation of Finland.
Seeking major added value
Although bioeconomy is on very firm ground in Finland, particularly in the forest industry, strong competence in the field can also be found in the chemical industry. Both basic chemicals and highly refined products can be produced from renewable raw materials.
The goal of the sector is to generate the greatest added value possible in bioeconomy.
— Major potential lies in Finland’s natural resources and in its related expertise. Competence in developing bioeconomy and the associated business opportunities are inherent in the chemical industry, says Harri Kerminen, Chairman of the Board of the Chemical Industry Federation of Finland.
The share of biomass-based raw materials is growing and the raw materials base is expanding. Currently seven per cent of the raw materials used in the chemical industry are biomass based, but, according to estimates, by 2025 the share is expected to be as much as 30 per cent in Europe.
New production technology can be created by combining, for example, process chemistry and bio- and nano-technology. Oil-based source materials will be replaced by new biomass-based chemicals, medications, cosmetics, coatings, adhesives, fuels and plastics.
Finland a pioneer in bioeconomy
Developing bioeconomy requires insightful industrial politics at both the national and EU level to encourage companies to develop products with a high degree of processing. Extensive, cross-sector co-operation will guarantee the quickest results.
Kerminen is convinced that through its concrete actions and development projects, Finland will reach the height of bioeconomy.
— Companies require purposeful R&D financing in the area of bioeconomy, tax solutions that will increase their R&D activities and co-operation between companies and the public sector. In setting ground rules for the sector, standardisation and the establishment of sustainability criteria are also important.
The idea of a national bioeconomy strategy has also come up.
— Finland can become a forerunner in bioeconomy, developing new products and operating models. Success requires, among other things, bold new business ideas and the participation of public funding to share the risk, says Erkki KM Leppävuori, President and CEO of the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.