SPIRIT highlights its co-innovation projects at the programme’s first annual event in Porvoo

The first annual event of the SPIRIT programme brought together 100 participants from research organizations and companies to discuss the ongoing co-innovation projects. Keynote speaker Mirjam Mayer emphasized the importance of sustainability and the circular economy. Zero Ink, Forest CUMP, and ReMatCh took the stage to share the latest news. The panel discussion focused on challenges of plastic recycling and the role of consumers. 

After the welcoming words by SPIRIT Programme Manager Jari Lehtinen from Borealis, the stage at Porvoo Art Factory was taken by keynote speaker Mirjam Mayer, Vice President, Transformation,  at Borealis AG (in photo below). Mirjam  reflected on the future of the plastics industry, reminding the audience of the extraordinary long-term growth of plastics, serving a wide range of applications. However, the race is now on for the sustainability of plastics. The polymer value chain can offer significant opportunities in this circularity race. Borealis’ approach to circular economy starts with A/B/C: Atmosphere, Biomass and Circular Tech. These  aspects are well represented in the R&D themes of the SPIRIT  programme.

Mayer concluded that the EU regulations for plastics recycling and renewables will set the standard for the rest of the world, but in the meanwhile, we cannot wait for them to come into force — actions must be taken now. The consumption of polymers is projected to continue its growth, but it is, as the SPIRIT participants well know, undergoing a fundamental transformation from fossil-based to post-consumer recycled and bio-based/bio-attributed plastics.

SPIRIT R&D themes have already given birth to 11 co-innovation projects

Jari Lehtinen and the R&D theme leaders provided overviews of the SPIRIT themes and the related co-innovation projects. Currently there are 11 approved partnership projects with about 40 partners — a great achievement for any Business Finland Veturi programme for leading companies!

The Renewable feedstock theme  introduced by Antti Ilves has two partnership projects (Forest CUMP and Green ARO). The Circular plastics theme driven by Jaakko Tuomainen has 2 partnership projects (Urban Mill and MSW Plast) The CO2 reduction theme  led by Mikko Rönkä has one partnership project (CO2 capture  by superbases), whilst the theme focusing on Enablers for green transition driven by Auli Nummila-Pakarinen has six projects (DREAM, SULKI, Plastex, Zero Ink, ReMatCh and Circular Plastic Pipes). Most of the projects represented themselves either on dedicated stands or in presentations, attracting high interest among the participants.

Co-innovation projects and ideas  look at the plastics transformation from various angles

The Zero Ink project, introduced by Janne Mäkelä from Cajo Technologies, aims to develop additive-free laser marking technology for polymer materials, enhancing recyclability and product quality. It has potential applications in the medical, cable, and food industries.

Forest CUMP focuses on sustainable feedstocks for polyolefins, aiming to produce light olefins from CO2 emissions and hydrogen. The project shows promising results in lab trials with VTT catalyst and is planning to move towards scale-up and demo site preparations. The project was introduced by Alexander Reznichenko from VTT.

The ReMatCh ecosystem project, presented by Jalliina Järvinen from Stora Enso, aims to improve the circularity of polymer-barrier coated materials by separating fibres and polymers for more efficient recycling. It focuses on developing an improved material cascading concept within the SPIRIT programme.

Also the remaining challenges and required further work was elaborated. Some new project ideas were presented, including biomass-to-chemicals, biotechnology possibilities, a reuse project, and the STAR project presented by Valmet, Tampere University, VTT, and SYKE, respectively.

Panelists see strength in open and transparent collaboration

During the panel discussion moderated by Markku Heino from Spinverse, representatives from the Finnish Plastics Industry (Vesa Kärhä, in photo above), the Finnish Environmental Institute (Helena Dahlbo), and Borealis (Mirjam Mayer) discussed the need for change and challenges in plastic recycling and sustainability.

Mirjam Meyer stressed the importance of being open to change and highlighted Borealis’  commitment to collaboration. The availability of renewable feedstock  from biomass raised concerns. Increasing the plastics recycling rates and  carbon capture and utilization (CCU) were seen as a potential solutions. Helena Dahlbo from the Finnish Environment Institute emphasized the implementation of a plastic roadmap, efficient recycling processes and data transparency. The panelists recognized a strong market for recycled plastics, particularly in the packaging industry, and highlighted the role of consumers in making sustainable choices and having access to information. The panelists agreed on the importance of cooperation, openness, transparency, and trust for successful ecosystem collaboration.

Jari Lehtinen reflects on the first annual event: “We got very positive feedback from the event participants. It was delightful to see how active and positive the SPIRIT ecosystem is: there were many examples of ongoing co-innovation projects and ideas for new projects. This kind of collaboration covering the whole value chain and all stakeholders is extremely important to make the grand transformation of plastics industry a success. This event gave us excellent motivation to continue this exciting journey called SPIRIT.”


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