Bioeconomy research ecosystem

The research interests in Bioecomony are diverse and tackling many aspects of this field. Here we're presenting a few, the most relevant research projects of Aalto University and VTT that are showcasing the interest in Bioeconomy and Biotechnology adaptation and development for our sustainable future.

Major bioeconomy research projects in FinnCERES Competence Center

Ongoing projects


Field-driven materials for functions, dissipation, and mimicking Pavlovian adaptation 

‘Biomimetics is a broad research area that has stimulated the development of new materials that are strong, tough, biocompatible, dirt repellent, or that have glowing colors or reduced friction. Up to now, research in this area has mostly focused on either materials’ passive properties or properties that can be continually changed in the same way, for example by modifying the temperature. 

‘More recently, material scientists have been inspired by signaling in biological systems, energy dissipation and managing non-equilibrium systems. In the new ERC project, I want to delve into new kinds of biomimetic materials that are active and that interact with their environment in new ways.  The materials can change their state when energy is fed into them, and they can also learn new characteristics.’ - Prof. Olli Ikkala. 

ERC, Prof. Olli Ikkala


Bio-derived HIgh-Value polymers through novel Enzyme function

The project aims to accelerate benefits of the genomic era, by finding novel proteins and enzymes with totally new and useful properties in the modification and processing of renewable resources (e.g. lignocellulose). These will be discovered using most modern techniques of biotechnology for protein selection and functional characterization, and by concentrating on less characterized enzyme families with potential applications in the field. One of the key parts of the project will be the development of new methods to increase the efficiency in finding proteins and enzymes with desired properties within extremely varied and numerous protein candidates.

ERC, Associate Professor  Emma Master


Superslippery Liquid-Repellent Surfaces 

Superhydrophobic surfaces have tremendous application potential because of their anti-icing and anti-bio-fouling properties. For example, clothes, camera lenses, and phones could be kept dry and clean, as well as cars, ships, airplanes, and solar cells could stay clean of contamination and ice. 

'In this ERC project, I aim to substantially progress the development of new types of enhanced non-wetting surfaces. Additionally, I will advance characterization techniques and explore new applications for such surfaces.' 'Besides further developing and fabricating new surfaces, we intend to create new methods to evaluate water-repellency. With this ERC project, I am very excited to contribute to the rapidly growing field of science and technology of non-wetting surfaces', - Prof. Robin Ras.

ERC, Prof. Robin Ras


Unlocking the Entire Wood Matrix for the Next Generation of Carbon Fibers

WoCaFi envisions a game-changing approach for the production of bio-based carbon fibers in which the drawbacks of traditional cellulose and lignin fibers are entirely bypassed by a new type of hybrid precursor fibers containing simultaneously all wood biopolymers cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin. 

 These bio-based, low-cost carbon fibers will reduce the dependency on non-renewable petroleum-based feedstocks and are highly suitable for lightweight applications in the automotive, sports and leisure sectors.

ERC, Staff Scientist Michael Hummel


New fibres from pre-consumer and post-consumer waste 

One resource that’s becoming more abundant is waste. The idea of recycling textile waste has been popular for decades, but current mechanical methods give poor quality fabrics suitable only for industrial applications like insulation, and upcycling of pre-consumer textile waste into products is impossible to scale. 

Trash-2-Cash (T2C) proposes a new model where paper and textile waste is recycled chemically—resulting in fabrics that are the same quality as new materials—to make products that are industrially replicable and infinitely recyclable.

EU Horizon 2020, Staff Scientist Michael Hummel

Completed Projects


Design Driven Value Chains in the World of Cellulose

This project was initially inspired by the CHEMARTS summer project carried out at Aalto University in 2012, where a multidisciplinary team of technology and design students created, for example, the concepts of ‘World of Cellulose’ and ‘Luxurious Cellulose Finland’. The ideas were further developed with professors and scientists from VTT and Aalto University, and the joint research program on cellulose was initiated. The DWoC concept is based on combining design thinking and design-driven prototyping with a strong technology development competence. DWoC aims to facilitate and support the development of the Finnish cellulose ecosystem.

TEKES, Aalto University, VTT, TUT


Investigating production of second generation biofuels from forestry, agriculture and wood-based waste.

Bioethanol from plant material is a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels because the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted is balanced out by the CO2 taken up by the plants as they grow. The densely compacted structure of lignocellulose is extremely resistant to being broken down by enzymes, presenting difficulties for use in bioethanol production. The DISCO project investigated new enzymes for breaking down lignocelluloses and how these enzymes work. The project successfully developed effective and cost-efficient tools for the total hydrolysis of lignocellulosic biomass, thereby maintaining Europe's lead in industrial enzyme production.

European Commission FP7, Prof.Kristiina Kruus


Biomimetics for Functions and Responses

To meet the demands for energy saving and to reduce dependence on petroleum-based products, materials scientists quest for ever more tunable, functional, lightweight and sustainable materials. Nature offers inspiration based on several concepts, ranging from excellent mechanical properties to dynamic and responsive properties. However, biological materials involve major challenges due to their inherent complexity and technical applicability. In Mimefun, we developed nacre-mimetic materials based on commodity clays and polymers based on nature's model of self-assembly and showed for the first time that high toughness can be obtained with self-assembly of nanoscale reinforcing sheets for nacre-mimics. The findings pave the way for optimizing the material for applications. We also developed characterization methods to study the early stages of fracture by using laser speckle imaging. The diagnostic method is foreseen to optimize the biomimetic materials. Self-assembled materials were developed based on nanocellulose, resulting in toughened nanocomposites with molecularly engineered sacrificial bonds.

ERC, Prof. Olli Ikkala


Development of Sustainable Composite Materials, planning for a sustainable plastic future 

The overall aim of the project was to develop new types of sustainable composite materials for a wide range of applications, and it had the ambition to integrate today’s large enterprises on the raw material and end-use sides (e.g. pulp mills and packaging manufacturers) and small and medium-sized enterprises on the composite processing side (e.g. compounders and composite manufacturers). This four-year project started on September 1, 2008, and had a total budget of 9.4 million Euro of which the funding from the European Commission was 6.5 million Euro. 

European Commission FP7, Marjo Kettunen


Polymer-based protection for electrical equipment 

Electromagnetic interference causes problems for electrical devices. European researchers sought to enhance the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) working in the plastics sector by developing sustainable plastic-based products for protection against EMI and electrostatic discharge.  Scientists focused on composites (blends) of engineering polymers and inherently conductive polymers (ICPs) as well as hybrid systems of ICPs with conductive nanotubes. Results suggest the potential for a wide range of materials with tailor-made electrical and physical properties at reasonable cost.

European Commission FP6, Marjo Kettunen

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