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Article | Jun 25, 2018

The rising stars of the future prove it: The forest industry offers fertile ground for future innovations

All three finalists of the Innovation contest Wood U Make It Happen?, organised by the Finnish Forest Industries and Forest Product Engineers, come from Aalto University. The semi-finals of the contest were held at PulPaper 2018. The winner will be selected in December at the 100 anniversary celebrations of the Finnish Forest Industries.

The PulPaper 2018 exhibition held on the last three days of May in Helsinki, Finland, is a major event for the forest industry professionals. This year the event was built around the theme Visit tomorrow today and focused on industry innovations and future talent.

The Wood U Make It Happen? innovation contest semi-finals were a part of the themed programme. The contestants and innovations of Wood U Make It Happen? are living proof of world-changing innovations being created to answer the changes brought on by global megatrends. Seven teams from Finnish universities and universities of applied sciences participated in the semi-finals of the innovation contest. The students’ ideas were highly innovative and promise a more effective, smooth and sustainable future for all of us.

Small innovations creating a sustainable stream

Seven teams and carefully thought out and crafted innovations took part in the contest: The biodegradable plate Kaarni, the wooden panel made from bark, Barkboard. Wood Chips, a cardboard structure that can be used instead of bubble wrap, Lid Tower a storage system for disposable coffee cup lids, a convertible wooden floor element, open data based data management program Motti and Enhanced food production system Relaps.

What would the world look like if all these bright innovations were in use already? This thought occurred to the attentive audience but was on the contestants’ minds as well. The contestants agreed that a more sustainable future is possible with constant innovation work and the big change brought on by small inventions.

Is Barkboard the next packaging material? Eemeli Laaksonen from Lahti University of Applied Sciences says that Barkboard can also be used as a weather shore panel.

“The range of bio-based products is expanding all the time and great innovations are constantly popping up. These are needed to keep sustainable development going", says Eemeli Laaksonen , a student from Lahti University of Applied Sciences. Laaksonen pitched his innovation, Barkboard, in the contest.

Samuli Rinne, a student from Aalto University agreed with Laaksonen. “If we want to see future innovations in use, companies need to be part of the developing process. Collaborating requires courage and will from the companies as well”, Rinne points out.

A convertible wooden floor element made the jury ask many questions from the inventor Samuli Rinne. 

Eveliina Juuri, Aalto University student and one of the creators of Kaarni, says that Finland has all the potential to be a global frontrunner in forest industry bio innovations. “There is a lot of potential in the forest industry. Finland already has a great foundation in knowledge and research and I think our opportunities are limitless”, Juuri says.

Eveliina Juuri, student from Aalto University said that the students should use their knowledge. “I think that the best ideas come when students with different backgrounds work together”, Juuri said.

Petteri Kääriä, a graduate from Tampere University of Technology points out that consumers also have a role: they have to choose and use the products. “Sustainable future is about multiple small changes, and it’s good to remember that making sustainable choices doesn’t mean that the consumers need to change their routines and way of life”, Kääriä said.

Brave presentations and awesome innovations

After two hours of pitching the jury of Wood U Make It Happen? was truly impressed.

One of the jury members, Maija Itkonen, CEO and co-founder of Gold & Green Company said that the future looks bright as these young talents have such a great attitude and so much knowledge. “We are in good hands”, she concluded.

UPM’s Director of Strategic Partnerships Esa Laurinsilta agreed with Itkonen. “It’s truly amazing that we have such brave and amazing knowledge coming from various educational institutes all around Finland”, Laurinsilta said.

All three Wood U Make It Happen? finalists come from Aalto University: Kaarni, Relaps and the convertible wooden floor element. The winner will be announced in December 2018.

Lauri Kouvo, student from Lappeenranta University of Technology presented his innovation Motti, which is an open data-based data management program. After the presentation Kouvo said that he thinks that the future of the forest industry is bright. “I’m very confident about the future, and I think that the industry will continue to be a major employer in Finland.”

Students of Aalto University, Mikko Niemeläinen and Milla-Mari Vastavuo presented their idea together. Their innovation improves food production by utilising waste streams at pulp mills and inspired a lot of questions from the jury.

The Lid Tower helps consumers remember that lids of single use coffee cups are recyclable. Cuiting Zhang and Henry Autioniemi from Tampere University of Applied Sciences have an innovation that is not just environmentally friendly, it’s also improves the hygiene at coffee shops.

Petteri Kääriä, a graduate from Tampere University of Technology has an innovation that may replace bubble wrap.

 

Contestants:

  • Barkboard- ecological material made from bark that can be used, for example, in packaging material. / Eemeli Laaksonen – Lahti University of Applied Sciences
  • Wood Chips – cardboard structure that can replace bubble wrap. / Petteri Kääriä – Tampere University of Technology
  • Lid Tower – Environmentally friendly and hygienic way to handle the lids of single use cups. / Cuiting Zhang & Henry Autioniemi – Tampere University of Applied Sciences
  • Wooden floor element – Convertible floor element. / Samuli Rinne – Aalto University
  • Motti – Know your wood - Open data based data management program / Lauri Kouvo – Lappeenranta University of Technology
  • Kaarni - A biodegradable plate made from fibers separated from the bark of willow. / Eveliina Juuri & Jinze Dou & Sanna-Liisa Järvelä – Aalto University
  • Relaps – Enhanced food production by utilizing waste streams at the pulp mill / Mikko Niemeläinen & Milla-Mari Vastavuo – Aalto University

 

Satu Peltola