Top-quality bioeconomy research, teaching and corporate collaboration under the same roof
Opened in Otaniemi in May 2017, Aalto Bioproduct Centre is a research centre that combines top-quality research and teaching with corporate collaboration. This collaboration promotes bioeconomy teaching, research and development, in addition to developing products and services in the field. At Aalto Bioproduct Centre, also known as ABio, companies have the opportunity to utilise high-quality equipment and laboratory facilities that are priced according to usage.
One of the companies operating at ABio is Toihan Oy, which helps forest industry companies treat wastewater more efficiently. Toihan’s activities at ABio focus mainly on product and service development work, which ensures that the company provides high-quality expert services.
"Our office is located in the Munkkivuori district, which has good connections to Otaniemi and ABio. ABio gives us the chance to apply academic research in our own customer projects, thus helping us develop as a company. Research and producing new knowledge and implementing it in the industry are a key element in the activities of expert organisations like ours," says Sakari Toivakainen, who founded Toihan Oy with Heikki Hannukainen in 2014.
Toivakainen and Hannukainen met while they were both working in Professor Olli Dahl’s Clean Technologies research group in the Department of Forest Products Technology at Helsinki University of Technology (which is now Aalto University). They founded Toihan Oy in order to meet a forest industry need to improve the operational efficiency of existing wastewater treatment plants. Stricter environmental requirements have created a demand for this work.
Aalto University and ABio encourage and support start-up activities
Over the past few years, Toihan’s business has developed from problem solving towards service business, the goal of which is to prevent problem situations from occurring at wastewater treatment plants in the forest industry. The company’s main market area is still clearly in Finland, but there is also demand for this service in growing pulp industry markets outside Finland. "We carried out our first international project this year. A particular area of interest lately has been the opportunities that South America’s pulp industry offers for developing service business," explains Hannukainen.
Aalto University and ABio support an operating model that combines aspects of research and entrepreneurship, in which teaching, students, research and companies work together. Students and researchers are encouraged to develop their ideas in the direction of commercial application and utilisation. "Right from the beginning, our start-up activities received positive and open-minded feedback and encouragement," say Toivakainen and Hannukainen.
ABio also provides facilities for research on the Ioncell-F fibre manufacturing method. This project, which is run by Professor Herbert Sixta, uses the Ioncell-F technology to make fabric from wood. It can also give textile waste a new lease on life. The Ioncell-F method has been used to make thread and fabric from materials like newspapers for the first time ever. The research centre is also home to the CHEMARTS project, which combines teaching and research in the areas of biomaterials and design. A unique ‘factory of the future’ learning environment also operates at ABio. In addition to 5G, it utilises cloud technology and virtualisation as well as technology provided by partner ABB. The centre provides companies, such as Toihan Oy, with an excellent environment for developing their activities and for collaboration.
Professor, Deputy Head of the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems
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