Future infrastructure for advanced research in circular forest bioeconomy well on track

The efforts of the project ERIFORE aim to design a dedicated open access research infrastructure for the circular forest bioeconomy

The transition to a circular economy in which resources are used in a more sustainable way became a top priority for EU Member States since the adoption of the new Circular Economy Package by the European Commission in December 2015. The Package sets up measures that intend to “close the loop” of product life cycles for more recycling and re-use, thus benefitting society and the environment. Walking hand in hand with this policy objective is the project European Research Infrastructure for Circular Forest Bioeconomy (ERIFORE) that aims at consolidating the EU’s global leadership in forest biomass-based research and innovation. 

ERIFORE will enhance the integration of circular forest biomass-based research fields and technology areas and will stimulate the development of scientific and technological advancements. Ultimately, the project will deliver a roadmap to establish an open access distributed research infrastructure (RI) to facilitate the development of enabling technologies, foster research and develop the competence of new value-added products from forest biomass.

With a grant of over € 2.6 millionfrom the European Union’s Research and Innovation Framework Programme Horizon 2020, ERIFORE is aligned with the sector’s Vision for 2030 and will significantly contribute to the sector’s Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda, mainly in the research and innovation areas (RIA) of Biorefinery concepts (RIA 3.4) and Policy and good governance (RIA 1.3).

During the 2nd open ERIFORE Workshop that takes place today, 27 March 2017, in Stockholm, the initial results of the project will be released. A thorough mapping of Europe’s current forest-based RI capabilities and bottlenecks will be presented in the workshop. “The planned distributed research infrastructure will comprise all the required equipment, laboratories, pilot plant facilities, scientific data, as well as electronic infrastructures and communication networks that are used by the R&D community. The target is to have a common access policy and provide a single point of access for all users of the RI”, explains Mika Härkönen, ERIFORE coordinator. 

ERIFORE’s initial analysis found various complementary capabilities among the partners of the project in the form of knowledge, skills and infrastructure in forest biorefinery value chains. “But we want to go further and solve the bottlenecks in coordination and cooperation in using and developing these facilities”, he affirms. 

Circular forest bioeconomy: high potential in energy products, chemicals, new materials and more.

With a participatory approach, the workshop opens up the opportunity for stakeholders to be involved in the project and contribute to the dialogue on RI capabilities and future development needs for a strong collaboration network in Europe. The next step for the project will be to develop RI business plans, governance model proposals and alternative arrangements for RI cooperation. “Our ambition is that RIs for circular forest bioeconomy become a flagship in the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI)”, reveals Härkönen. “This would bring research on forest bioeconomy to a whole new level”, he adds.

ERIFORE partners attending the project’s internal workshop in San Sebastian, December 2016. 

“We are glad to see that strengthening the European Research Area is the very essence of ERIFORE”, says the Managing Director of FTP Johan Elvnert. In his view this kind of initiative provides tools to enhance the links between open access RIs and industry. “The industrial stakeholders of the forest-based sector are eager to explore new innovation possibilities of by-products of wood processing. Improvements in dedicated forest-based RIs will stimulate more innovation initiatives”, he continues.

ERIFORE – European Research Infrastructure for Circular Forest Bioeconomy – is a 25-month infrastructure development research project under the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme of the European Union. The project aim is to establish an open access research infrastructure to facilitate the development of technologies enabling research and commercialization of new value-added products from forest biomass.

Download ERIFORE’s Newsletter