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Bioeconomy Arena will make Sweden a world leader in bioeconomy

In June 2022 ground was broken in Örnsköldsvik for what will be a new pilot hall for future biorefinery plants. The hall will serve as a centre for RISE’s biorefinery operations, and it will be fully up and running by the end of 2023. Investments around the country are already in advanced stages. At LignoCity in Bäckhammar outside Kristinehamn, research is being conducted on the production of odourless lignin, and mobile testing facilities will be in place next year for the capture and purification of carbon dioxide for use by the biogas and pulp industries, for example.

– “Everything happening now will undoubtedly make Sweden a world leader in certain aspects of these operations,” says Magnus Hallberg, Head of the Bioeconomy and Health division at RISE. “The pilot hall in Örnsköldsvik will be a national node where operators in research and industry can meet and realise ideas about how biomass can be used for the greatest possible benefit. And when large companies with practicable residual streams meet growing tech companies with ideas about what can be done, completely new business clusters emerge. I believe that this will also be an interesting environment for international companies to identify and connect with research facilities.”

– “The State contribution of SEK 350 million to build up this business naturally plays a big role,” says Johanna Mossberg, Head of the Biorefinery and Energy department at RISE. “But it’s based on the fact that there is great interest in the industry as well. Our facilities have been under a lot of pressure for some time – the transition is something that is happening now.”

Turning good ideas into reality

The initiative is based on a clear approach to bridging the “valley of death” between innovation and finished product. In the flexible pilot hall in Örnsköldsvik, as well as in operations around the country, companies will be able to test their innovations without starting from scratch, with access to steam, sewage, and environmental permits, for example.

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– “There is no shortage of good ideas,” asserts Mossberg. “But turning them into reality requires testbeds, insight into practical applications, and vastly different operators coming together under relatively equal conditions. This is becoming increasingly difficult when both universities and industry – often for cost reasons – cut into the steps needed between idea and finished product. RISE can play a big role in this. Here you can share the costs of building and using infrastructure, and at the same time share expertise in development, processes, and methods. For small and growing companies, it can be difficult to bear the costs of an entire innovation process, but if you share the costs with others in the same situation and make use of our services, the costs become manageable.”

With greater infrastructure and more opportunities for collaboration, much more will also happen

Great potential in refining biomass

There is now great potential for utilising biomass that was previously used in less developed production or from residual streams that were not used at all. By making lignin odourless, it can be used as a component in biobased interiors, such as in cars. Even the carbon dioxide itself from biogas production, for example, can be used to produce electrofuel or other chemical building blocks, and ultimately be turned into biobased plastics.

– “Carbon capture and purification in particular are testing activities where we see that our pilots can be of great benefit,” says Hallberg. “Parts of the industry may not have seen the full value yet, but RISE’s role is to identify needs and clarify benefits before everyone else in the industry.”

– “The amount of biomass is limited, and will be even more limited in the future,” explains Mossberg. “By driving and facilitating testing, we can ensure that its use leads to the greatest possible benefit and resource efficiency, both in the short and long terms. Even the transition to things that become bridges towards a completely biobased economy can make a difference.”

– “It’s going to happen to a greater extent than we think – we don’t have a choice, the transition is here,” says Hallberg. “When RISE has been able to provide support, we have done so based on what we’ve had access to. And we are already seeing how companies in different areas of production processes, sustainable chemicals, and sludge management are emerging around our operations. With greater infrastructure and more opportunities for collaboration, much more will also happen.”

Magnus Hallberg

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Magnus Hallberg

Divisionschef Bioekonomi och hälsa

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