A close partner of Holmen’s, researcher Per-Olof Syrén from the Royal Institute of Technology, KTH, was recently awarded the Gunnar Sundblad Research Foundation’s prestigious Skills Development Prize. The prize was awarded by His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.
Congratulations! How does it feel to have won the award – and half a million kronor?
“Thank you! It feels amazing and it’s also a really positive thing to see attention being paid to a new research field that hasn’t yet geared up to industrial scale.”
How would you describe your research?
“I’ve founded a research field called polymer retrobiosynthesis. To put it simply, it means that you start by thinking of an end product which usually consists of oil-based substances such as plastic, and investigate whether these can be replaced with building blocks from the forest or with waste products from pulp production.”
Tell us about your partnership with Holmen.
“We’re working together to produce a pilot product with a renewable barrier for paperboard. It will be a completely forest-based Holmen product; the paperboard from the forest and the barrier from turpentine, a waste product from Holmen’s own industry. The aim is to have it ready by the end of the year.”
What happens to the turpentine today?
“It’s incinerated and goes back into the production process in the form of energy. This is a good start but it’s possible to go a step further down the value chain. With the help of biotechnology, turpentine can become a component in barriers that can be used for Iggesund Paperboard’s food packaging. But our research concept doesn’t necessarily only have to be about turpentine. It could just as well be used with lignin or hemicellulose, for example.”
How are you going to spend the prize money?
“On skills development, networking and research visits to Holmen and to leading academic and industrial actors in biotechnology in Germany and the US. I would like to thank Holmen for giving me the chance. A number of years ago I got in touch with Jörg Brücher (at Holmen Development) on an informal basis to present my ideas. Our collaboration has only grown since then.”
Good luck with it. Let’s hope our collaboration will result in more green products for a more sustainable future!
“Thank you! Yes, we’re definitely on the right track, and with more collaborations across the boundaries between industry and academia we’re making great strides ahead all the time.”
The Gunnar Sundblad Research Foundation’s annual Skills Development Prize has been awarded since 2007. The aim is to promote the development of the Swedish pulp and paper industry’s transition to improved and new products and services. Read more at www.sundbladsfonden.se. The foundation’s board is appointed by the Swedish Forest Industries Federation.