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Funding for partnership networks in research, development and innovation

The Academy of Finland funding to Aalto University supports the development of nanocellulose-based scaffolds as well as the knowledge base and operating methods of the circular economy.
Vaaleanpunertavia ja läpikuultavia nanoselluloosa- ja agaroosikiteitä laboratoriomaljassa. Kuva Valeria Azovskaya

Among the funded research projects, Aalto University is involved in the NanOrganoid project, which is based on nanocellulose and combines materials science and medicine, and in the Circular Design Network project, which develops the knowledge base and solutions for the circular economy.

Sustainable nanocellulose-based solutions for biomedical research

In the NanOrganoid project, the University of Tampere, Aalto University and the University of Helsinki are developing nanocellulose-based scaffolds for preclinical organoid models. The network connects experts from materials science, molecular and cell biology, clinical medicine and healthcare as well as businesses.

Organoids are sort of organ models that are usually developed from a stem cell. Organoids and 3D tissue models are powerful research tools that have potential applications in human tissue and organ biology and disease modelling, drug screening and toxicology research, as well as in regenerative medicine and personalized therapy. When growing organoids, a suitable growth medium is needed, which in this case is nanocellulose made from Finnish wood. Together with water, nanocellulose forms a gel that serves as a growth medium. Aalto University's task in the project is to regulate the properties of this gel so that it suits as the growth media for organoids, in other words, the properties of the gel should correspond to the organ being modeled. The developed models serve as a platform for development of new treatments or screening of new drug candidates. Therefore, they reduce the number of animal studies required and offer sustainable, environmentally sustainable solutions for biomedical research. For Aalto University, Associate Professor Eero Kontturi from the Department of Bioproducts is responsible for the project.

From information flows of circular economy to new ecosystems

Urgent environmental issues like climate change and marine plastics call for rapid responses. In addition to the on-going stepwise development, we need more radical new solutions that have the potential to change our mode of operation more rapidly and at the system level. At the same time, new ways of collecting, validating and refining circular data – which at the moment is scattered and cannot be easily utilized – are needed.

In the CircDNet project, Aalto University, the Geological Survey of Finland, the Natural Resources Center of Finland, the Finnish Environment Institute and the Technology Research Center VTT are compiling and developing the knowledge base for the circular economy and creating new ways to improve the circular economy as a system. The actors also demonstrate solution proposals in application areas related to research and development. Aalto University's task in the project is to compile a comprehensive picture of the information flows and business ecosystem of circular economy, as well as how the circular economy system can be developed from a design perspective. Several experts from the School of Chemical Engineering, the School of Business and the School of Arts, Design and Architecture are involved, and for Aalto University's part, Kristiina Kruus, Dean of the School of Chemical Technology, is responsible for the project.

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Circular Design InnovationFunding decisions by the Academy of Finland 8 December 2020 (> aka.fi)

Photo by Valeria Azovskaya

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