Niklas Von Weymarn

In our December interview we have Niklas Von Weymarn, the CEO of Metsä Spring Ltd. He has also been selected as the first Alumnus of the Year of the School of Chemical Engineering in 2017.
Niklas von Weymarn

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your career path.

After graduating from upper secondary school, I had my mind set on a career in the hotel and restaurant industry, and I even worked at a hotel in Germany for a year.

I came back to Finland for military service and during that year, I changed my mind about my field of study. I chose Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) and its Department of Chemical Technology.

After earning a Master of Science (Technology), I started working at the research centre of Cultor in Kirkkonummi. However, I soon started thinking about earning a doctorate, and returned to Helsinki University of Technology to do so.

At TKK, I also worked as a teaching researcher and project manager, and even as the CEO of a small spinout company. My major, both during my master’s degree and the doctorate, was biotechnology. I earned my doctorate in 2002 and moved on to the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland where I first worked as team leader in fermentation technology, and later on as a programme manager in the Biorefinery Theme and as technology manager. In the latter position, I had up to 90 people working under me, although only seven of them were my direct reports.

In 2012, Metsä Fibre, which is part of Metsä Group, asked me to become their vice president for research. I had the pleasure of being involved in the Äänekoski bioproduct mill project almost from the start, and in June 2018, I moved on to lead a new investment company, Metsä Spring.

In addition, I am involved in research and development matters also at the EU level in Brussels, where I am doing my share to push things forward. I have also had a role in the Forest-Based Sector Technology Platform FTP, and currently I am a member of the board of the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC), which is the private partner in Bio-Based Industries, a public-private partnership (PPP) with the European Commission.

How did you end up studying your chosen field?

Although I had always liked chemistry in upper secondary school, it was not until the third-year biotechnology courses started that I really got enthusiastic about it as an academic subject.

At the time, there was no separate bachelor’s degree phase, which meant that everyone earned a master’s degree.

At the start of my VTT career, my perspective was still clearly limited to biotechnology, but thanks to my programme manager positions in the Biorefinery Theme and later on in the FuBio research programme, I broadened my perspective to cover all technologies used to refine biomass. As the objective of the FuBio programme was to develop new products specifically for the forest industry, it was my gateway to a career in that sector.

What is your best memory from your student years?

There are plenty of good memories to choose from, but the first thing that comes to mind is a company management game we designed as a group assignment. We used a very elementary computer program for it and it kept crashing, but we had fun all the same.

What is the most valuable thing you learned at university, which has helped you in your professional life?

I think a master’s degree in technology gives you the following essential skills: systematic problem solving, group work and knowledge in applying some key techniques.

Tell us something surprising about yourself.

Although I chose a career in technology, I was actually quite good at my job in the hotel, and learnt a great deal from it.

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