Event recap: Finland, Maine and Michigan partner toward sustainable growth in forest bioeconomy

Event recap: Finland, Maine and Michigan partner toward sustainable growth in forest bioeconomy

In a move that capitalizes on collective forestry knowledge and a commitment to smarter, sustainable use of natural resources, Finland and the states of Maine and Michigan are elevating a cooperative effort in bioeconomy and clean technologies.

On Wednesday, December 9th, 2020, Finland, Maine and Michigan hosted a webinar to launch working groups in key sectors of the bioeconomy. The aim for the working groups is to act as platforms for joint U.S.-Finland research, development and innovation projects. The working groups will be open to companies, education and research organizations, and industry interest groups. In the virtual launch event and webinar, bioeconomy and forestry leaders had an opportunity to showcase their activities and create new networks.

Eight key highlights from the webinar

 

  1. The event featured remarks by both Governor Janet Mills of Maine and Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan. Governor Whitmer highlighted Michigan’s ambitious goals for the growth of the state’s forest economy, and affirmed that the collaborative working group will build ties between Michigan and Finland as well as create opportunities for business and knowledge sharing. Governor Mills described Maine’s robust response to changing markets, which has been to reach out to international partners for best practices in diversifying the forest economy. Together we can confront and solve global issues such as climate change and build a greener future.
     
  2. The forest bioeconomy could become a key track of Finland’s economic cooperation with the United States in the future, said Ambassador of Finland to the United States Mikko Hautala. There is immense potential for cooperation in sustainable forest management, development of innovative biomaterials and circular forest bioeconomy solutions. The new working groups between Finland-Maine as well as Finland-Michigan will connect our bioeconomy sectors' ecosystems closer together.
     
  3. In her remarks, Business Finland Director General Nina Kopola positioned Finland at the epicenter of global growth in the bioeconomy. “With world-class competence, numerous growth opportunities, and favorable policies, Finland offers a unique platform for bio-based production partnering and innovation.” We hope that many transatlantic projects come alive through the working groups to advance science and research as well as promoting industry links. This way we can bring new ideas to the global market, creating growth and economic prosperity.
     
  4. Michigan’s Natural Resources Deputy Shannon Lott outlined concrete areas for cooperation from circular economy solutions for excess biomass to sustainable forest management policies and forest carbon sink data. There are also opportunities in mass timber production as the wood construction market is advancing in the U.S. These working groups bringing together industry groups, academia and government actors, presents a unique opportunity for Michigan to move the needle on building a future of circular forest bioeconomy, said Ms. Lott.
     
  5. Ambassador Hautala saw a natural compatibility between Finland and the U.S. as there is a need to diversify forest economy in the United States and Finland is eager to expand its innovations in the area. There is much potential for sustainable job creation for both. With new innovations steadily entering the market, the time is now to look at legislative enablers for the bioeconomy sector to develop. While each country has its differences, best practices can be shared.  Further development of the sector also has the advantage of adding resilience in face of market fluctuations such as have been visible during the covid crisis.
     
  6. Four expert sessions in the event focused on success factors of the bioeconomy:
    1. Efficiency in Forest Management and Policies 
    2. Efficiency in Planning
    3. Efficiency in Education and Innovation
    4. Efficiency in Harvesting

    Speakers represented academia, government, industry representatives and companies from Finland and the United States.
     
  7. The sessions highlighted how the new forest bioeconomy stands at the intersection of nature and high technology, whether speaking about forest inventory and monitoring practices, education or efficient and sustainable harvesting methods. It was noted that the development of a robust modern forest bioeconomy forms a key part of successful climate actions. The event showcased the exciting research bringing forward new forest-based products. Woody biomass is nature’s original and best construction material. In addition, we are finding new uses in fibers, chemicals, liquid biofuels, nanocellulose, and much more!
     
  8. Wood-based products offer sustainable, climate-smart options as they can provide ways to store carbon, sustainably recycle carbon or replace products with a heavier carbon footprint. The carbon footprint of forest industry operations themselves is also declining. This holds true even while the forestry sector expands into new sectors.

The cooperation is based on Memorandums of Understanding that Finland has signed with the states of Maine and Michigan. At the center of these partnerships are sectors that share similar interests, as well as opportunities to pool expertise and collaborate on bio- and circular economies and clean technologies.


More information

Heli Hyypiä
Counselor, Climate Policy & Green Economy
Embassy of Finland, Washington D.C.
heli.hyypia (at) formin.fi

Marika Ollaranta
Head of Bio & Circular Finland Program
Business Finland
marika.ollaranta (at) businessfinland.fi
+358 50 480 4611