Research and development
Stora Enso’s expenditure on research and development (R&D) in 2017 was EUR 127 (132) million, which was equivalent to 1.3% (1.3%) of sales.
The company is focusing on five R&D themes (‘Bio-based 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 include bio-based barriers, micro materials, composites, biotechnology (bio-based chemicals), printed intelligence and wood-based building solutions.
Intellectual property is an increasingly important tool to support Stora Enso’s strategy and to differentiate from our competitors. During 2017 Stora Enso continued to strengthen its patent portfolio, with 49 priority founding patent applications filed and over 220 patents granted worldwide.
The strong effort to replace fossil-based chemicals and polymers with high performing bio-based chemicals continued during 2017, with the focus on developing customer value in selected entry segments. The demo-plant at Raceland started up and crude xylose is being produced and refining is in progress. All volumes that will be produced at the plant are contracted to xylitol producers.
In addition our liquid xylose was successfully tested in the laboratory by potential customers in the Americas for production of bio-based chemicals. The production will keep ramping up throughout 2018.
The Innovation Centre in Sickla, 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. The centre focuses on improved pulp properties, regenerated cellulose & MFC, lignin and bio-based chemicals.
The Innovation Centre for packaging, located at the Group’s head office in Helsinki, has turned out to be an excellent venue for identifying new opportunities and developing innovations in renewable materials. In the Innovation Centre, Stora Enso, together with customers and other stakeholders, can develop innovative and sustainable packaging solutions. The Innovation Centre offers, among other things, an inspiring space for collaboration, a showroom for highlighting our best offering and a packaging design lab. In 2017 more than 250 meetings, workshops and events were organised there.
Stora Enso’s priority in 2017 was aligning the R&D Innovation processes within the overall organisation, focusing on harmonising the different existing ideation platforms. Now, WeNovate, our group-wide tool for collecting and evaluating ideas is up and running. In 2017, we ran 7 campaigns and generated 175 ideas, of which some were forwarded for the stage gate process in the responsible divisions.
The 2016 established Innovation and Digitalisation funds are gaining a lot of attention from the divisions and improves the process of turning ideas into value.
The development of the pre-commercial micro-fibrillated cellulose (MFC) plant at Imatra Mills continued in 2017 focusing on application development. To further enhance the MFC production and the production of light weight carton at the same time, Stora Enso invested EUR 9 million in new MFC production at Imatra, Ingerois and Fors mills. The new capacity corresponds to 500 000 tonnes of board made with MFC after a ramp-up period of 3–5 years.
Development of intelligent packaging solutions is still ongoing, 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.
Supporting Stora Enso’s innovation strategy, we have a number of co-operation projects with research organisations and academic institutions. The aim is to build a clearer understanding of how our needs and the universities’ capabilities can meet, first and foremost in the research sphere surrounding Stora Enso research themes and the long-term research needs in the divisions. The second target is to widen the contact network. Thirdly, we aim to identify topics where we have a special interest regarding the universities’ bachelor and master programmes, also for recruiting talents to mills and research/innovation centres.
Our collaboration partners include Aalto University in Finland, and Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, the Royal Institute of Technology, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, SweTree Technologies Ltd, and Wallenberg Wood Science Center R&D. Stora Enso is a member of national, European and trade associations focused on the bioeconomy and forest agendas including Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI), Forest Technology Platform (FTP), and the Swedish and Finnish Forest Industry Federations. Stora Enso is also a member in the EU’s Biobased Industries Consortium (BIC) and the Bio-Based Industries Initiative Joint Undertaking, a new partnership within the EU Horizon 2020 research programme.