Overlooked treasures of biomass

More than half of Slovenia’s land is forests, which puts us among EU countries with the widest relative forest cover. However, that is not all! Along with wood biomass, green residuals, annual plants, exotic invasive plant species and biomass waste from agriculture and industry represent a rich source of raw materials, which can replace the ones we, until now, had to import.
World average stats show we use wood biomass mostly for energy utilisation (53 %) as the rest is used in wood processing (28 %) and paper production (11 %). It seems very clear we are failing to use biomass effectively, considering its potential to give us wide range of biomaterials as end products or input materials for various industries, such as paper and textile production, polymer industry and other manufacturing industries.
Effective cascade use of biomass is opening a window of opportunity to develop numerous new bio-based materials with matching or superior characteristics than fossil-based materials in many existing products. We intend to replace them. By doing so, we help reducing burden on the environment. We also create a continuous flow for materials and products to be re-used or recycled in a nature-friendly manner at the end of their life cycle.
The so far discarded potentials of biomass represent a tremendous business opportunity for us and, by enforcing change in social and economic relations, we are getting another chance to regain a long lost nature's trust.

Developing new technologies and value chains

Partners in this programme aim to discover full potential of integrated and cascade use of biomass through comprehensive research and by systematically collecting and recording our findings.
We are determined to develop and optimise new, sustainable technologies and procedures to lead us to useful biomass components, which can be later used as environmentally acceptable and renewable materials and products. Whatever biomass residue should remain at the end of it all, we will convert it into energy.
Various research-production circles interconnect within this programme. They create new value chains with a common goal – optimal material utilisation of biomass throughout the circuit. Mastery knowledge base of research institutions intertwines with production/manufacturing competences of industry through entire process, from developing fundamental knowledge to industrial application. Partners from industry actively participate as early as initial phase of basic research by supplying relevant information about what results they expect and what is essential for the knowledge to be applicable in the industry. By doing so we can ensure that the search for new findings is focused on needs and demands, clearly stated by the industry as end user, thus allowing for successful market uptake and following principles of closed materials loops. All mentioned above demands a tight partner cooperation, high level of trust and creativity as well as open communication at all stages of process and between all value chains.

But the reward for these endeavours is priceless.

Our contribution to development of knowledge and technologies on bio source utilization:
* Database on availability, characteristics and usability of various types of biomass.
* Advanced processes for fractionation of biomass.
* Effective continuous processes for production of nanocellulose from various types of biomass.
* Fibres and materials treatment technologies for improvement of functional properties.
* Technologies in production of fibre webs  and biocomposites.
* Technologies and processes for biological treatment of waste and enzyme production.
* Efficient processes for mechanical treatment of solid waste and materials recovery.
* Innovative technologies for energy recovery of waste materials flows.

Dimensions of business opportunities

Nowadays market requests for green products are growing stronger and stronger. Competitive advantage on current and emerging markets is determined ─ more than rightly so ─ by increasingly stringent requirements regarding environmental and health protection. Demands are reflected in the search for locally available and renewable materials, in introducing technologies for material processing and product manufacturing with lower environmental burden and, in introducing efficient processes for re-use of discarded products. EU encourages ecological innovation, interdisciplinary and intersectoral clustering to boost economic competitiveness, green growth and green jobs. We want to ensure our place on this market.
Just by trying to replace existing fossil-based products or their components of fossil origin with bio-based ones, we are significantly enhancing our option set for development of marketable solutions with high added value. If we act the same way within existing production processes – by using sustainable technologies and environmentally acceptable additives – our option set gets even wider. Lastly, as we take advantage of combined superior knowledge and industrial competences to create something completely new, not sky, only our imagination is the limit.

Partners in this programme have envisioned so much of this already.

Our contribution to development of bio-based products and components:
* Green chemicals to be used in coating, resin and adhesive industries.
* Nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) and nanofibrilated cellulose (NFC) produced from residual biomass.
* Paper/board with improved existing and new functional properties.
* Smart packaging with printed sensors.
* Active yarns with functionalized cellulose fibres.
* Bio-based filtering materials.
* Lightweight and thermostable bio-composites for different applications.
* Cellulose-based battery separators.
* High-performance cellulose-based insulating materials.
* Enzymes, produced from biological decomposition of waste.
* Innovative system for energy recovery from waste with high water containment.

Social dimensions

Efficient use of primary and waste biomass is not just a beneficial economic decision. It is also critical and urgent societal decision, which in its processes necessarily involves a wider social environment. It encourages every single one of us to begin to understand our multiple societal roles in context of their interconnectedness. How? As empowered consumers, we have an obligation to demand quality products – with high longevity and biodegradable. As subjects in economy sphere, we are obliged to search for the best choices in means of production – locally available, multifunctional and renewable. And as people, inhabiting this joint living space, we are bound to co-habit it responsibly, to act towards restoring and maintaining it.
This programme represents a unique example of enforcement of circular economy principles. By connecting various value chains following a common goal – effective cascade use of biomass, we aim to:

* reduce dependence on foreign sources of raw materials,
* replace fossil based raw materials,
* establish efficient systems of closing materials loops,
* exploit opportunities on the growing market of green solutions,
* connect local competencies into innovative circular partnerships,
* strengthen local socio-economic relations,
* encourage society as a whole to act towards green co-existence and thus
* contribute significantly to reducing the burden on the environment.

By exploiting nature, we help preserve it. And empower ourselves.

Desire to introduce sustainable practices, where economic benefits give way to reflections about our common future, have created a need to form quality partnership relations. By turning to local ritches when providing raw materials for processing, production of goods and, later on, their decomposition, recycling and re-use, we can create efficient, self-sufficient production circles. And introduce circular economy. But in order to introduce it properly, real partnerships had to be formed. Here we are, 21 partners, top research teams mastering materials, chemical engineering, processing technologies, biotechnologies, nanotechnologies and energy engineering, joined by key experiential partners and industry end-users from fields of chemical, textile, paper, timber and automotive industry, civil and energy engineering. AND YOU!