Forest Friends Forever – towards deeper Finnish-Swedish cooperation in Hanaholmen
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry organised a Finnish-Swedish Forest Friends Forever conference in Hanaholmen Cultural Centre, Esbo on 17-18 April. On the agenda at the conference were topical forest research and innovation projects, bioeconomy and forest policy, also discussed by the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland Jari Leppä and Minister for Rural Affairs of Sweden Sven-Erik Bucht.
The conference was a follow-up to the Tandem Forest Values research programme launched in 2017 to deepen research cooperation and promote the development of new bioeconomy products. By organising the event Finland also thanked Sweden for donating 12 two-year post-doctoral positions to honour the centenary of Finland’s independence.
Investments in bioeconomy innovations
Many of the inspiring presentations stressed the importance of research and innovation in promoting forest industry. A joint exhibition of the New Wood Project and Aalto University presented new products made from wood, including wood fibre clothing and ecological alternatives to plastic bags. Innovations were also among the key themes raised in interviews with the ministers.
“We can significantly boost the creation of new innovations by bringing together the most skilled people in Finland and Sweden and giving them ambitious challenges to be solved. This requires sufficient financial inputs from both countries as well as from the private sector”, Minister Leppä said at the discussions between the ministers on Wednesday.
At the conference venue an exhibition of the New Wood Project and Aalto University showcased new wood-based solutions. The materials on display included biodegradable packages for cosmetics.
“Finland suggests a joint innovation programme to be launched in 2019. The funding for the five-year programme would total EUR 150 million, half of this public support”, Minister Leppä said.
“Work on innovation requires significant resources, which is why it is wise to share the effort. We will consider the proposal and see how we can respond to it in the best possible way”, Minister Bucht said.
Ministers Jari Leppä and Sven-Erik Bucht told how excited they are about collaborating in forest policy issues. The most recently Finland and Sweden joined their forces to influence the European Commission’s proposal concerning forest carbon sinks.
Two is stronger than one
Put together Finland and Sweden are truly powerful actors in forest industry. One of the key messages in the presentations was that by continuing and further improving the cooperation between the countries we will achieve more than alone. Common rules of the game must be created in respect of forestry and forest policy to make sure that the operations run even more smoothly.
During the whole conference Finnish and Swedish flags flew high above the Hanaholmen Cultural Centre.
“What is very important is that we now have closer forest cooperation among the public servants as well. Last year the Prime Ministers Sipilä and Löfven agreed on closer Finnish-Swedish cooperation in the bioeconomy, and there are also many forest-related issues on their agenda. Our aim is to increase cooperation in the biorefinery, wood building, forest research, and national forest policy sectors. We have decided to organise Forest Academy courses for policy-makers in Brussels, with a field trip to be held in alternating years in Finland and Sweden”, Minister Leppä said.
The aim of the Forest Academy for Decision Makers programme is to promote discussion on the opportunities offered by the sustainable use of forests.
The conference brought together almost a hundred participants from Finnish and Swedish government organisations, research institutes and forest companies. The next follow-up in the process will be in Lund in 2019.
The conference culminated with two excursions, one to Bioruukki pilot centre of the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland in Esbo and one to forests owned by the forest company Tornator, where the visitors had the opportunity to learn something new and enjoy the sunny spring weather. Photo: Vilma Häkkinen
Inquiries at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry:
Liisa Saarenmaa, Deputy Director General, [email protected], tel. +358 29 516 2429
Photos: Sari Gustafsson