“Where are the lights?” asked Jan Vapaavuori, Finnish Minister of Economic Affairs, prior to his keynote speech at the Bioeconomy Seminar held in the dimly lit cinema at Tennispalatsi on 15 October. “You are the light, minister,” remarked Peter Nyman, reporter and the presenter of the event organised by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, MTV3 and Franck Media.
The cinema was indeed lit up, with the bioeconomy in the spotlight. Although I have worked in the forest industry for quite a while, the seminar opened my eyes on the possibilities offered by the bioeconomy as a whole — inside and outside of the forest. This is a wake-up call — we are discussing some important matters here!
At the Bioeconomy Seminar, wood and wits were chosen as the strongest Finnish assets. Although this was done in a somewhat jocular manner, it is actually quite close to the truth. Our skilled engineers and renewable resources, and their sustainable yet reasonable use, are our strengths in processing green gold and other renewable natural resources.
At UPM, wood fibre is the essential point upon which our business and new innovations are based. Some of our latest innovations include a wood-based diesel fuel made from processed tall oil, which is a residue of the pulp production process, and biochemicals and biocomposites.
Wood-processing companies utilise our renewable resources for pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and clothing. Many everyday products are made from wood, from the labels printed by fruit scales to bread bags and kitchen rolls. The bioeconomy also includes agricultural production – grain products, meat, berries, game and bio-based energy, for instance.
We have huge bioeconomic capital, the value of which we have not yet fully grasped in Finland. gJan Vapaavuori stated that Finland is currently facing the worst economic crisis in many years, and that our economic growth depends on our capability to renew. “Bioeconomy and Cleantech can both make the world a better place and improve the Finnish economy,” Vapaavuori said.
The environmental awareness of products, recyclability, respecting biodiversity and minimising climate change are all matters that increasingly affect the everyday choices of the average consumer. Finland has the skills, the values and the attitude required to answer these questions, which are globally important and guide consumer behaviour. Diminishing natural resources force industry to use resources efficiently, which is also the only sensible way to operate from a business perspective.
The promotion of the bioeconomy is a national issue, which in time may develop into something the whole country can be proud of — a new Nokia. Now we need to put the bioeconomy in the spotlight for the Finnish people as a whole — and to head for the international market unified, with sustainability, resource efficiency and innovative products made from renewable resource at the forefront. Bioeconomy and Cleantech — hand in hand.
Our next source of national pride could very well be the Lappeenranta biorefinery. The new diesel fuel UPM BioVerno that will be sold at St1 and ABC service stations in Finland is pure Finnish wood-based diesel, and a global first.