Headed by Christine Hagström-Näsi, Forest Cluster Ltd pursues innovations without fear of taking risks. methods. These days, it takes more than just pushing the world's best quality paper products to the markets. You also have to ask customers about the kinds of products and solutions they actually want." Best powerhouses in the nation Forest Cluster Ltd initiates innovation and research programmes and channels research funding. It is made up of some of Finland's leading forest industry companies, the engineering and chemical industries serving them, vtt Technical Research Centre of Finland, the Finnish Forest Research Institute (Metla) and four Finnish universities. The Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (Tekes) and the Academy of Finland have also committed to long-term funding. "The goal is for the Forest Cluster's programme volume to rise to 50 million a year after it is up to full speed. The total funding for forest sector r&d in Finland is 350400 million a year." Hagström-Näsi says that the aim is for Forest Cluster to provide a framework for longer-term research than currently available. The company also provides the opportunity to take bigger risks than allowed with traditional r&d. "It takes courage to pursue true innovations. There will be successes and failures." Forest Cluster's research strategy covers seven focus areas, from sustainable use of forests to smart wood and fibre products. Hagström-Näsi's educational background is in chemistry, and she has closely followed the development work of biorefineries using wood. Biodiesel to fuel cars is an example of a product that can be produced from wood-based raw materials. "A future scenario might be that wood is brought to a plant and everything people need is made from it." NEW OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE FOREST SECTOR The Finnish forest sector's research and development activities are world class. Tightening competition and changing markets, however, call for closer collaboration between the players in the sector. I Text by Matti Remes Photograph by Aki Roukala n 2007, Forest Cluster Ltd was established with the mission of channelling research resources and building a foundation for innovations through new networking opportunities. Future success factors must be increasingly pursued through cross-scientific and cross-technological collaboration, says Christine Hagström-Näsi, Managing Director, Forest Cluster. "The so-called smart products being developed in cooperation with the it sector are a good example of this crossdisciplinary collaboration," she says. "Information can be embedded in wood and fibre products, for example in rfid tags used for identification." Hagström-Näsi is quick to note, however, that world-class innovations must also be commercialisable. "The forest industry too is moving toward more customer-oriented operating An example for others Forest Cluster is one of the five Strategic Centres for Science, Technology and Innovation defined by Finland's Science and Technology Policy Council. The others are metal products and mechanical engineering, energy and the environment, health and well-being, and information and communications industry and services. The purpose is to channel their research resources to targets that are important for companies and society. "Forest Cluster was the first to start its operations. Others are watching with interest to see the kind of progress we make and what kinds of operating models can be duplicated for the other centres." 28 FOCUS 2008
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