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Research and development

Stora Enso’s expenditure on research and development (R&D) in 2016 was EUR 132 (EUR 124) million, equivalent to 1.3% (1.2%) of sales.

The company focuses on five R&D themes (‘Biobased chemistry’, ‘Materials sciences’, ‘Process solutions’, ‘Forestry and Renewable Feedstock’ as well as ‘Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial Digitalisation’). Examples of activities within the R&D themes are bio-based barriers, micro materials, composites, biotechnology (biochemistry), printed intelligence and wood-based building solutions.

Intellectual Property is important for protecting, defending and creating value to Stora Enso’s business. During 2016 Stora Enso continued to strengthen its patent portfolio, with 50 priority founding patent applications filed and over 300 patents granted worldwide. This is an all-time high when it comes to priority patent filings for Stora Enso Oyj.

The strong effort to replace fossil-based chemicals and polymers with high performing bio-based chemicals continued during 2016, with the focus on developing customer value in selected entry segments. The demo plant at Raceland for converting biomass into highly refined sugar is making progress and will deliver Xylose in the beginning of 2017.

The Innovation Centre in Stockholm is another important step on the road towards Stora Enso’s transformation into a renewable materials company. It helps to build on the company’s long, worldwide tradition in forestry, which – when coupled with access to sustainable raw materials and our expertise in fibres – gives us an excellent starting point for creating solutions that will benefit our customers and end-users in various industries and markets.

In May 2016, Stora Enso signed a joint technology development and license agreement with Rennovia. The two companies will cooperate to develop processes for biobased chemicals of interest to Stora Enso, employing Rennovia’s high-throughput catalyst discovery infrastructure and expertise in process development.

The Innovation Centre for packaging, located at the group’s head office in Helsinki, has turned out to be an excellent venue for innovation and R&D work. At the centre Stora Enso, together with customers and other stakeholders, can develop innovative and sustainable packaging concepts. The centre offers, among other things, a packaging design lab and, presentation areas with advanced touch screen technology and virtual reality retail technology. More than 200 events were organised at the Innovation Centre for Packaging within one year.

Stora Enso’s priority in 2016 was aligning the R&D Innovation process within the whole organisation, focusing on the different ideation platforms. Now, the target is having a common tool for the whole company.

Stora Enso has established new funds for CAPEX and Innovation and Digitalisation, from which the Consumer Board has been allocated capital expenditure for the further development of micro-fibrillated cellulose (MFC) and Intelligent Packaging. Also the Packaging Solutions division was allocated funds from the Digitalisation fund. The new MFC investments announced for Imatra and Fors mills are supported by the fund, as well as pilot cases of Intelligent Packaging and investments to accelerate commercialisation. In addition, Hylte Mill has received support for the biocomposite granule investment.

Development of the pre-commercial micro-fibrillated cellulose (MFC) plant at Imatra continued in 2016. The first commercial board with significantly reduced grammage thanks to MFC is well accepted on the market.  Development and testing of MFC applications outside the field of paper and board are also in progress.

Development of intelligent packaging solutions is still continuing, targeting the integration of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) into packages for consumer engagement and supply chain purposes as well as brand protection and tamper evidence applications. The first pilot cases with brand owners are in place.

Forest biology and biotechnology continue to be a major area of R&D, partly in collaboration with SweTree Technologies Ltd, but also with other research organisations.

As a founder member of the European Union’s Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC), Stora Enso has been strongly involved in preparation of the Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda and the annual work programmes of the newly established Bio-Based Industries Initiative Joint Undertaking, a new public-private partnership within the EU Horizon 2020 research programme. Stora Enso is partner in two running projects and active in several Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI) groups as well as in FTP (Forest Technology Platform) to strengthen our voice towards European and national policy makers and research funding organisations.

As a part of the announced strategic partnerships with the three leading Nordic Technical Universities research workshops were set up at Chalmers TU in Gothenburg (Sweden) and at Aalto University in Espoo (Finland) in autumn 2016. The aim was to build clearer understanding of how our needs and the universities’ capabilities can meet, first and foremost in the research arena around the Stora Enso Research themes and the long-term research needs in the divisions. The second target was to widen the contact network. The third target was to identify topics where we have a special interest regarding the universities’ Bachelor and Master programs, as well as also for recruiting talents to mills and research/innovation centres.

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