Research & Innovation
Sweden provides a home for biomaterials research
Biomaterials are in the spotlight in Sweden. In recent weeks, Stora Enso has inaugurated a new Innovation Centre for biomaterials in Stockholm, Sweden, and several organizations have collaborated to form an open “test bed” called LignoCity where companies can develop and scale up technology that refines lignin to climate-friendly fuels, chemicals and materials.
By Cindy Macdonald
Stora Enso’s Innovation Centre for biomaterials will host research, applications, business development and strategic marketing under one roof. By creating renewable solutions and products from second-generation biomass, such as wood, in order to replace fossil-based products, the centre is working to address societal problems such as climate change, increased urbanization as well as water and land use issues.
“Specifically, the centre will help to boost innovation by identifying business opportunities in the markets for renewable materials and bio-based chemicals. We will link our own expertise with leading research centres, universities and business partners,” says Arno van de Ven, senior vice-president and head of innovation in Stora Enso’s Biomaterials division.
Currently, there are 40 people working in the centre. It is estimated that by the end of 2017 it will employ about 100 people, recruited both from inside of the company as well as externally.
Stora Enso is a global provider of packaging, biomaterials, wood and paper.
LignoCity, a new centre for green technologies and the forest-based bioeconomy, is a collaboration of Innventia, Nordic Paper and Paper Province. As the world heads towards a bio-based economy, lignin – a by-product of pulp production – is increasingly seen as a raw material with great potential.
Thanks to a broad collaboration initiated by Innventia, Nordic Paper and Paper Province, several lignin initiatives can now be realized. With financial support mainly from VINNOVA, Innventia’s demonstration plant in Bäckhammar will be further developed and made into an open test bed for companies who want to evaluate and validate new refining concepts in the lignin area. The plant is currently the only one in the world that can produce tailor-made lignin qualities in sufficient quantities for upscaling.
The purpose of LignoCity is to create a centre where ideas are brought together and opportunities for commercial development are identified and supported, say the partners. Lignin from kraft pulp production and other sources, for example, from ethanol and sugar production, can be processed at the plant. The project involves 18 industrial and public players.
“With LignoCity, we are bringing together business models, technological development and infrastructure for research, development and innovation. In the long term, we also hope to be able to extract other components from the black liquor and tackle other process streams,” says Per Tomani, manager for the LignoCity project and the Lignin & Carbon Fibres focus area manager at Innventia.
“It is extremely valuable for the region’s businesses to have access to this type of open test facility, so that we can continue the development of a forest-based bioeconomy,” says Maria Hollander, CEO of Paper Province.
Innventia established the demonstration plant in 2006 in order to demonstrate the LignoBoost process. This technology, which today is owned by Valmet and installed at pulp mills in the United States and Finland, was developed in collaboration between Innventia and Chalmers.
In addition to Innventia, Nordic Paper and Paper Province, the following organizations are involved in LignoCity: Akzo Nobel Bygglim AB, Region Värmland, Biokol Sverige AB, LignoBoost Demo AB, Blatraden AB, BTG Instruments AB, Bionic Group of Companies, Ren Fuel K2B AB, SunCoal Industries GmbH, Swerea, UMV Coating Systems AB, Valmet Power AB and Volvo Cars. More companies are welcome to join the venture.