Efficient use of natural resources

Activities to foster resource efficiency have resulted in significant improvements in energyefficiency, specific raw material input and specific water use in the forest-based industries.This contributes to the provision of high added value products with a drastically reduced environmental footprint.


Reducing energy consumption in biorefineries, including pulp and paper mills

Despite having highly efficient production facilities, forest industries need to reduce energy consumption in order to stay  competitive and fulfil new ambitious energy-efficiency targets. Breakthrough innovations are needed in fibre industry technologies, pulping, water use and re-use, and process control. The greatest potential for energy reduction is in reducing the amount of process water used, since process water is first heated to the process temperature and later extracted or evaporated to form the final product.

Examples of research and innovation activities

  • Develop production processes that reduce the amount of process water needed
  • Develop pulping processes and control strategies that reduce energy consumption
  • Develop technologies for efficient heat transfer between different processes


Optimizing the use of raw materials by exact control of natural variations

The qualitative characteristics of wood vary greatly between and within different stand locations, but also within the stem wood of individual trees. This is due to differences in climate, fertility rates, growth competition, maintenance, genetics, structural variations, age and other factors. These variations need to be fully exploited to ensure efficient utilization of the forest raw material, and so that effective, market and knowledge-driven production systems can be developed. Increased use of IT, such as digital twins, IoT, big data analytics and AI, can support the industry in this much-needed development.

Examples of research and innovation activities

  • Develop methods to determine forest raw materials characteristics as early as possible within the supply chain
  • Develop processes that exploit and make good use of natural variations in wood quality
  • Develop IT-based methods that exploit raw material variations in ways that meet market demands


Improving raw material efficiency and production value in wood-based manufacturing

Sawmills need to improve process efficiency, rawmaterial efficiency and storage turnaround. To develop more advanced wood drying techniques, in terms of control and scheduling, a better understanding of the interplay between process settings and variations in the wood material is needed, for instance when refining the control and scheduling of wood drying. New wood decomposition technologies and customer order-controlled production are also required to further increase productivity and stock turnover. New technology and business models should be developed to use side-streams, e.g. sawdust, to create higher added value products and maximize carbon binding in products with a longer life cycle. The carpentry and furniture industries also need to develop a higher degree of automation and by implementing new technologies to manage natural variations in wood material quality, they can replace fossil-based materials and appeal to a new customer base. Digitalization and 3D measurement technologies can further increase the already high added value offered by carpentry and furniture.

Examples of research and innovation activities

  • Develop efficient wood decomposition and wood drying strategies
  • Develop technology and business models to valorize side-streams from wood manufacturing
  • Develop automation and digitalization methods for the carpentry and furniture industries


Empowering small-scale forest owners

An unprecedented diversity of private individuals and organizations owns the majority of EU forests, often in small-sized holdings. This results in differing ownership rights, management objectives and behavior, and organizational support, which in turn poses challenges on meeting future demand for forest biomass and other ecosystem services. Collaboration between forest owners, use of traditional/local knowledge, and targeted assistance with planning tools, operational support and knowledge by owner associations and advisory services will be needed. Research is also needed on the drivers for decision-making, the design of effective supporting instruments and incentives for active forest management, and improved co-operation. Innovative approaches for better co-operation between all participants of the value chain are required, such as IT solutions that can meet the needs of such a diverse target group.

Examples of research and innovation activities

  • Tools and approaches to encourage behavioral changes amongst forest owners and managers
  • Design digital tools to foster co-operation and knowledge transfer