Jump to content

New funding and R&D collaboration to accelerate Vapo’s development of high added value products

Vapo has started a new EUR 5 million multi-year Refinery R&D programme. The programme will accelerate the development of high added value products from organic wetland biomass and other natural materials for the international market. The launch of the project is enabled by significant funding from Business Finland, which will support research collaboration with an extensive domestic network and the University of Jyväskylä in particular.

Energy peat now accounts for only just over one-fifth of Vapo’s turnover. The company’s strategy is to further reduce its dependence on energy peat and increase the share of turnover represented by high added value products. As part of this strategy, Vapo is currently building an internally funded activated carbon production facility in Ilomantsi.

The Refinery R&D programme has been granted significant financial support by Business Finland. The funding enables Vapo to allocate additional research resources to the chemical refining of organic wetland biomass to produce humic acids, resins, waxes and other valuable materials. The partners in the ecosystem include Finnish universities, research institutes and SMEs as well as domestic and international customers. The development efforts will be carried out in collaboration with customers to ensure that the products are compatible with market needs.

Mia Suominen, Director of the Vapo Ventures business area, says the funding from Business Finland makes it possible to build a scientific foundation for new businesses. “We need in-depth expertise on the attributes and functionalities of organic wetland biomass in order to develop new and innovative products. Our R&D activities in this area are related to the Vapo Refinery concept, which aims to produce new high added value products from organic wetland biomass and other natural raw materials with minimal energy consumption and emissions, in line with the principles of the circular economy,” Mia Suominen explains.

New professorship at the University of Jyväskylä

The funding from Business Finland enables us to deepen our research collaboration with the Faculty of Mathematics and Science at the University of Jyväskylä. One concrete example of this collaboration is the creation of a professorship (tenure track) to promote the circular economy ecosystem to refine organic wetland biomass and other natural materials into high added value products. The application period for the professorship will begin in March. According to dean Mikko Mönkkönen, the circular economy in chemistry is at the core of the University of Jyväskylä’s strategy, and the new professorship is nicely linked to the objectives of the Refinery programme by being at the interface between product development and basic research.

Mia Suominen notes that the Business Finland-supported collaboration with Finnish research institutes and the University of Jyväskylä, among others, will accelerate product development by several years. “Our target is that, 10 years from now, we will earn nearly EUR 100 million in annual turnover from new high added value products developed under the Refinery concept. We also believe that our partners will double that turnover, which would mean hundreds of new jobs rather than tens of new jobs,” Suominen points out.

According to Senior Adviser Mikko Kiiskinen from Business Finland, the collaboration is a great example of the change in the overall value chain of businesses, where the combination of public and private resources helps accelerate and enhance product development. This represents an exceptionally broad renewal of business operations that creates a research-based foundation for new high added value products. The project is part of Business Finland’s Bio and Circular Finland programme. “Vapo’s project will contribute to the achievement of the goals of our programme in many ways. The project will build a diverse scientific foundation for the use of organic wetland biomass while also supporting the renewal of the potential uses of peatland-based raw materials and changes in business models. The project will create a organic wetland biomass ecosystem deserving of international interest that will open up new markets for Finnish producers of raw materials and end products in the bioeconomy,” says Jutta Kauppi, Head of the Bio and Circular Finland programme.

For further information, please contact:

  • Mia Suominen, Business Area Director, Vapo Ventures, tel. +358 40 848 3148, mia.suominen@vapo.fi
  • Mikko Kiiskinen, Senior Adviser, Business Finland, tel. +358 50 557 7676, mikko.kiiskinen@businessfinland.fi