Finnish innovation takes a green spin on fibre yarn production
The textile industry is dominated by synthetic fibres and cotton, neither which can boast their green credentials. Finnish startup Spinnova aims to change this with a new chemical-free fibre yarn production technology.
Cost-effective and sustainable production, natural material… the list goes on when Janne Poranen, CEO and co-founder of Spinnova, talks about the fibre yarn technology developed by his company.
With our technology we can make yarn directly, for example, from wood fibres from a pulp mill.
“With our technology we can make yarn directly, for example, from wood fibres from a pulp mill,” Poranen explains. “Let’s say you take Scandinavian long fibre soft wood pulp as the raw material, in our technology the pulp is driven through a small nozzle. This makes the fibres line up parallel and bond with one another – and yarn is formed.“
In other words, Spinnova’s patented technology turns wood fibres directly into yarn and the chemical processing needed in traditional textile fibre production methods can be left out. This not only improves cost efficiency but makes the process kinder to the environment.
Furthermore the use of water and raw materials and their recyclability are enhanced.
“The opportunities and potential are huge. The technology can be used both in specialised products produced in small volumes and has great potential in clothing textiles,” Poranen enthuses. “If our goals regarding the textile industry are realised, we have a good chance to scale this technology globally.”
Spinnova’s fibre yarn technology is only entering the product development phase, but has received a welcoming response both from potential clients and investors. The company, established in January, has already raised 1.95 million euros in funding and in February it won the international biorefinery competition organised by the Finnish Ministry of Employment and the Economy.
The panel of judges described Spinnova’s innovation as a breakthrough technology that can revolutionise both the textile and forest industries, and create significant new business in the future.
The innovation originates from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, where the technology was first developed. Poranen used to work in the pulp and paper sector research at VTT, but a year ago he decided he wanted to speed up the development of the fibre yarn technology. After convincing the ‘father’ of the technology, Juha Salmela, to start a company with him, Spinnova was born.
“VTT has a strategic goal to generate new companies and business out of the technologies developed there,” Poranen explains. “In practice, VTT has a subsidiary ‘VTT Ventures’ which manages process related to spin-off companies.”
In addition to VTT Ventures, Spinnova’s shareholders include Austrian textile fibre manufacturer Lenzig AG, investment company Besodos and a group of private investors, including former Nokia CTO Yrjö Neuvo.
The world of fabric
Currently Spinnova has a five member team working to take the fibre yarn technology from laboratory to larger scale industrial production.
“If everything goes well, in a couple of years we will have launched our first demo products which use the yarns produced with this technology,” says Poranen. “Around 2020 our aim is to start larger scale demo factory investments and industrial production.”
Considering the size of global textile industry (estimated to reach the value of 1.557 billion US dollars in 2015), it’s not surprising Spinnova has clear international ambitions from the start. Large textile corporations are an obvious target group, but Poranen believes the technology has plenty of applications also for small, specialised companies. He notes in particular the potential of creating a textile material which is entirely recyclable.
However, both the applications and Spinnova’s role on the market will be shaped with time:
“We will be both a technology provider and a producer of our own yarns,” Poranen concludes. “It is too early to say what our final business model will look like.”
Text: Eeva Haaramo