Science is the foundation of green growth and new innovation
Science and scientific research are key factors in social development and, consequently, in business and trade. Scientific discoveries may result in new products, processes and services. The interaction between science and society goes both ways; business and trade, and society in an even broader sense, offer a pathway for practical applications of research results and scientific expertise.
Finland has a long history of conducting internationally high-quality research related to forests and forest bioeconomy, and this research remains one of our scientific strengths even today. Forests have served as the foundation of well-being and economic growth in Finland, which is why our country has invested in forest research. The National Forest Inventory, for example, was launched back in 1921 when Finland had only recently gained its independence and was still in its infancy in terms of the economy. The information provided by the National Forest Inventory plays a crucial role in monitoring the health of the forests and forming the basis for our forest, climate and environmental policy.
Over more than a century of conducting the National Forest Inventory, the Finnish tree stand, as well as the carbon stock sequestered by the forests, have increased by about 70%. Furthermore, the annual growth of trees has more than doubled. Forest management took a major turn after the wars when a group of forest researchers and educators raised their concern over the impaired growth of forests as a result of selection felling. This also gave the push for forest improvement, the systematic development of which started in 1947.
The traditional improvement methods, such as selecting seed trees, hybridising specimens and testing the progeny will be increasingly supported by genomic and biotechnological methods that have recently seen rapid development. The development efforts are backed by increased information concerning topics such as the genetic material of tree species. For example, the full genomic analysis of the silver birch, our national tree, was completed in 2017, coordinated by the University of Helsinki. Researchers from the universities of Eastern Finland, Oulu, Turku, Tartu and Umeå as well as the Natural Resources Institute Finland also participated in the study.
Timber has an incredibly wide range of applications. In addition to the traditional paperboard, paper and wood products, it can be used in the manufacture of goods such as battery materials, biofuels, chemicals, cosmetics and textile fibres. All of these applications, expected to be expanded even further in the future, stem from the high-quality research conducted by Finnish higher education institutions, research institutes and businesses. One of the materials under active research is the nanocellulose refined from pulp. The innovation can be used for binding wounds and other biomedicine applications as well as for water purification. One of the interesting applications of nanocellulose is wood-based electronics, currently being researched at the University of Oulu.
Great scientific cooperation between operators in the public and private sectors is one of the strengths of our country. This should be further promoted by, for example, enhancing the significance of corporate cooperation in the university funding model which is currently being reformed.
The Finnish Forest Industries Federation emphasises the significance of science-driven advocacy and find the scientific community an important stakeholder group. For example, the biodiversity roadmap for the wood processing industry, published in September in cooperation with the Finnish Sawmills Association, was based on research conducted by the University of Eastern Finland, the Natural Resources Institute Finland, Metsäteho and the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute. Moreover, at the end of this month, we will participate in the Slush Side Event Y Science focusing on science and its commercialisation where researchers from Aalto University and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland will discuss their research concerning forest bioeconomy.
As a conclusion, we want to extend our warmest thanks to scientists of the past and present who conduct research in the forests, in laboratories and at a computer. Your work is valuable and forms the foundation for the green growth provided by our forests.