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New biomaterials and their market potential are at the centre of interest in the United States

How can bio-based materials be adopted as an alternative to synthetic plastics on an industrial scale? Is it possible for environmentally friendly textile production to be profitable?
New York_June 2019

Aalto University management and researchers met with influencers interested in biomaterials from the American fashion and textile industries, foundations and research centres. The events took place at the end of June, and they were organised in co-operation with Finland’s Consulate General in New York and Embassy in Washington, D.C

The American audience showed great interest in environmentally friendly materials and Ioncell, an excellent example of a prime Finnish technology that is used to turn used textiles, pulp, and recycled cardboard and newspapers into regenerated textile yarns. At the same time, fashion and textile professionals are considering how to create a profitable business from such types of new materials.

Professor Orlando Rojas from Aalto University emphasised the importance of combining technology and design to advance material innovations. He also highlighted FinnCERES, the joint project of Aalto University and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, which aims to develop new bio-based materials that will address the needs of everyday life and industry. These materials include next-generation light-weight materials, composites and wearables, household goods, systems for air and water purification, next-generation electrochemical and optical devices, and green solutions for energy harvesting.

As a vision for textile production, Rojas suggested possibilities of producing materials for wearables and textiles at home by methods that mimic synthetic biology.

The Ocean Foundation’s Redesigning Plastics Initiative aims to shift the conversation from why plastics are made, to how plastics are made and what we make from plastic. 'The aim is to guide manufacturers toward a production-based solution to this global problem. We are encouraged by the innovative work of the faculty and students at Aalto University as they merge design thinking and technology to develop alternative materials for traditionally petroleum based products, which is a critical piece of this global challenge,’ says Kate Killerlain Morrison, Strategic Partnerships Director at The Ocean Foundation.

The market is gradually maturing

While consumers typically choose clothes based on look and feel, they are increasingly aware of the environmental impact that their purchases can make, showing significant market potential for the use of new textile materials.

‘NYC has more fashion-related companies than London, Paris and Milan combined. We welcome innovative solutions and circular economy ideas to ensure the industry, as well as our broader economy, is growing sustainably,’ says Loren Nadres, Director of Economic Development, City of New York, Mayor's Office for International Affairs.

Since Finland has already gained a reputation as a model country of the circular economy in the United States, Aalto University is recognised as a leader in the field.

‘Cooperation with the Finnish missions and the New York City Mayor Office shows that there is demand for Aalto University's circular economy expertise,’ says Aalto University president Ilkka Niemelä.

Students as pioneers

Environmental awareness is very high among students, ‘At Aalto University, the students’ concern about the environment is evident in their need for sustainable development as part of their education,’ says Janne Laine, Vice President of Innovation.

‘We strive to respond in a versatile way to students' needs and want to ensure that students can also develop solutions themselves. A good example of this is the ChemArts program, where students combine biomaterials and design to develop new, bold and creative ways to utilise natural raw materials’.

Text: Annika Linna

Read also: The next material revolution will start in the forest

Further information:

Teppo Heiskanen
Director, Advancement and Corporate Engagement
[email protected]
Tel. +358 50 363 3223

Janne Laine
Vice President, Innovations
[email protected]
Tel. +358 50 465 6835

Orlando Rojas
Professor, Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems
[email protected]
Tel. +358 50 512 4227

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