The Forest Bioeconomy is vital to Finland’s future success

Forest bioeconomy facilitates building a low-carbon and energy-efficient society. The Forest Bioeconomy Programme at the University of Eastern Finland aims to promote growth of the bioeconomy and new innovations in the utilisation of wood-based materials. The research focuses on the ecological and societal impacts of forest bioeconomy, such as the sustainable use of renewable natural resources.

The Saastamoinen Foundation has supported the implementation of the University of Eastern Finland's forest bioeconomy programme with over one million euros in 2016–2023. The funding covers, among other things, the costs of a five-year professorship in the field of forest bioeconomy and the costs of the coordinator of the five-year forest bioeconomy programme. In 2021, the Foundation granted EUR 757,000 in the University of Eastern Finland’s fundraising campaign. These funds are being used to support the internationalisation of forest bioeconomy research, education, and societal interaction for 2022–2027.

The development of bioeconomy education and research at the University of Eastern Finland focuses on forests, wood, and land use. Investing in bioeconomy is part of the University's societalcommitment to sustainable development. Successful forest research and academic forest education are the competitive advantage of the University of Eastern Finland both nationally and internationally. The centre of expertise established in Eastern Finland pursues to be Europe's most sought-after academic partner in bioeconomy research and education related to forests, wood, and land use. In accordance with the objectives of the project, research and teaching on forest bioeconomy foresight has been launched and established at the University of Eastern Finland and developed to an international top level.

Multidisciplinary bioeconomy education, high-quality research and closer business cooperation improve the attractiveness of the University and Eastern Finland as a whole both nationally and internationally. The University of Eastern Finland is a member of the European Bioeconomy University (EBU), whose eight member universities cooperate to develop the European bioeconomy. Bioeconomy research is also important for the competitiveness of Finland as a whole, as the practical demand and social demand for bioeconomy products are still growing.

Saastamoinen Foundation supports the implementation of the forest bioeconomy programme

A practical example of the implementation of the forest bioeconomy programme was the extensive forest bioeconomy project FORBIO, i.e., Sustainable, Climate-Neutral and Resource-Efficient Forest-Based Bioeconomy research project, which was funded by the Strategic Research Council at Research Council of Finland (formerly known as the Academy of Finland). FORBIO was proof of the successful cooperation and synergy between different disciplines and different actors in the Joensuu campus, i.e., University of Eastern Finland, Natural Resources Institute Finland, European Forest Institute, Finnish Environment Institute, and Finnish Meteorological Institute. The final report of FORBIO was the publication of the international open access book Forest Bioeconomy and Climate Change with the support of the Foundation.

The forest bioeconomy programme is continues to materialise as interdisciplinary openings that combine the perspectives of several disciplines, such as social sciences, business, law, chemistry, physics, biology and geography, with forest and wood research. The University's Forests and Bioeconomy research community (FOBI) coordinates multidisciplinary bioeconomy research and nowadays also the university's bioeconomy programme. An indication of the success of the forest bioeconomy is access to the Research Council of Finland's flagship programme – School of Forest Sciences at the University of Eastern Finland coordinates the Forest-Human-Machine Interplay flagship (UNITE), whose other host organisations are Natural Resources Institute Finland, Finnish Geospatial Research Institute (FGI) of the National Land Survey of Finland and TampereUniversity.

Forest Bioeconomy Professorship and Forest Bioeconomy Symposium

The importance of forest bioeconomy foresight and multidisciplinary research on business models will be emphasised in the future. The significance of digitalisation for the future of forest bioeconomy and service business is one of the interesting research topics of the professorship in forest bioeconomy.

In addition to research-related recruitments, the University of Eastern Finland considers it important to speed up the implementation of the bioeconomy programme through international activities and improving its visibility. The University organised in 2021 an international Forest Bioeconomy Symposium with a focus on foresight. Currently, the funding is being used for international researcher exchange, and research and education collaboration with bioeconomy universities in Europe and beyond.

The forest bioeconomy programme was last updated at the beginning of 2021. The update placed particular emphasis on international cooperation as a key part of the development of the University's bioeconomy research and education.

Photo: Raija Törrönen, Bioeconomy, ©UEF