“I’m impressed that the forest industry has adapted and improved both its productivity and product development,” says AB Volvo’s former CEO, Olof Persson, Chairman of IVA’s Innovation in the Forest Industry project.
Olof Persson sees similarities between the automotive and paper industries. New technology is constantly changing existing products. Vehicles and packaging are becoming more advanced all the time. And new technology is changing the way things are produced.
“But when it comes to brand new materials, such as cellulose-based textiles, it’s another thing entirely. There are no similarities between the automotive and forest industries there.”
Although there are new innovative forest-based products and materials, most innovations are still at the concept stage.
“The products are interesting, but it’s important to create a market and products that are actually competitive. Upscaling is not all that simple. Big investments are needed.”
According to Olof Persson, upscaling requires large demonstration facilities. To make these a reality, the public sector and industry need to work together.
“When new technology is turned into new products, a challenging stage begins; you have to get out there and sell them. It doesn’t happen by itself.”
One challenge for the forest industry, according to Olof Persson, is finding business models and products that provide the best possible profitability to make investments possible.
“It’s a case of using raw materials as wisely as possible. The forest volume is large, but not endless. We know exactly how much we can cut down. That’s why we need to focus on using it as efficiently as we can.”
The forest industry is a very important part of the Swedish economy. Net exports are substantial and the paper and pulp production apparatus is modern.
“The industry is playing an important role in the transition to the bioeconomy. New forest-based products will fit in well there.”
Olof Persson is convinced that the forest industry has a future. The IVA project will help it be as good as it possible can.
“We will come up with concrete proposals, like how to create new value chains and commercial opportunities. We will have proposals for the innovation process as well. The most important thing is to figure out how to turn the ‘green gold’ into real gold,” says Olof Persson.