Beyond Circularity: Pushing the boundaries together

I had the pleasure of participating in the “High Performance Cellulose-based Composites” (HiPer) project, which was also a part of Valmet’s Beyond Circularity R&D program and ecosystem. In this project, Valmet collaborated with nine other Finnish companies and the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland to study the industrial-scale use of biocomposites. Our aim was to generate a completely new product portfolio based on lightweight sustainable composite materials suitable for several industrial sectors such as construction, automotive, transportation, furniture, and packaging. You can read more about the project here

These two years were an absolute pleasure and a great source of inspiration for me. While I’ve spent many years in research and development, this was my first dive into an ecosystem project with a diverse external partner network. It provided a unique opportunity to collaborate, innovate, and network, showing that one plus one is definitely more than two.  

In general, I find research and development work incredibly inspiring because it always keeps you on the cutting edge of new discoveries. It’s rewarding to work with enthusiastic and open-minded people who share common goals and strive to create innovations. And this was also very much the case in the HiPer project. Our collaboration was energizing, and everyone contributed actively.

Sustainability and the future of our planet are close to my heart, so it was fruitful to participate in this project to develop alternatives to plastics. The development of plastic-free products and the need to decrease CO2 emissions inspired me to rejoin Valmet a couple of years ago after exploring other challenges outside the company. I am thankful for this opportunity, and I feel this is an opportunity for new business.  

Engaged network the key to success 

Our project team had representatives from the entire value chain, which was very educational and eye-opening for me as a representative of an equipment provider. Partners’ insights were invaluable, covering aspects like suitable chemicals and end-product requirements.

We had regular meetings, which I think was the key to success. Steering meetings allowed us to discuss and decide on high-level topics, while industrial tutorial sessions involved a larger participant group from each company. VTT’s suggestion that each participant should host a meeting was great. For example, it allowed me to witness the production of Isku’s chairs – a glimpse into the practical application of our work.

We conducted pilot runs at VTT in Jyväskylä – conveniently close to my location. Being present during these runs allowed me to influence the study and address challenges specific to paper machines. The results were fascinating and immensely helpful for our internal HiPer project at Valmet.

Pushing boundaries for exciting results

In the HiPer project, we truly pushed boundaries and managed to develop and produce high-performance cellulose-based composites to replace plastic-based materials. I was impressed that we were able to achieve tangible outcomes, as two years is quite a short timeframe in R&D work in general:

  • The HiPer Suitcase, made entirely from HiPer biocomposite material
  • The Tutto Active chair by ISKU. Crafted from a cellulose-plastic compound that uses natural annual fibers, polypropylene and wood pulp from Finnish forests as raw materials.


Photo: VTT, Niina Hyry, 2023

You can read more about these products on HiPer project’s home page.

And the journey continues...

As an ecosystem project, HiPer was completed in April 2024. However, this is only a good start. At Valmet, we are continuing our internal R&D project to study how we can modify our processes to better fit the production of cellulose-based composites.

My tips for anyone embarking on an ecosystem innovation project: Be active, participate actively, listen attentively and think beyond conventional boundaries.