The work of FinnCERES is based on a futuristic vision about using plant polymers to create new materials and solutions with a worldwide impact. Lignocellulose, for example, can replace fossil-based materials and help us resolve our dependence on plastics as well as provide solutions to environmental issues. It also offers opportunities for the Finnish economy, education, industry, and in job generation.
To reach these ambitious goals, we are committed to build a scientific cluster at three different levels. The first level is an academic one. Our network is based on cooperation between two large organizations – VTT and Aalto University. We have already signed a partnership agreement and started 13 subprojects within this partnership. Aalto University is also matching some of the initial funding level, which will enable us to hire about 20 doctoral students and post-doctoral researchers to work with us.
On the second level, we want to involve industrial partners. While our own investigators have strong scientific expertise in this field, our industrial partners have a major role providing insights about market needs. Six important companies, including an international one, have already agreed to join our network. This is crucial for achieving our goals: we want to direct our focus on issues that are relevant to society and industry.
Finally, the third and the most complex part of our ecosystem is the international dimension. We will be building a Boreal alliance with countries that share Finland’s interest in finding solutions based on lignocellulose. The main players in this field include Sweden and Canada. We have already met with organizations in these countries and reached an initial agreement to proceed with the cooperation.
Our work is just beginning, but I am very happy with the progress we have made so far. In less than one year, we have taken a big leap building this network in all three dimensions. I believe that the combination of academic research, industrial know-how, and international expertise will help us create a truly unique scientific ecosystem with potential to grow and develop into something much bigger.