Published 2018-11-22

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Programme for more efficient forestry

Digitised forestry is the focus of a new Mistra programme. The hope is for more efficient forestry and, by extension, a carbon-neutral Sweden.
The programme, named Mistra Digital Forest, engages the whole forest industry and a number of researchers.

For a long time, there was disagreement about which forest raw materials should be cooked to a pulp and which should be sawn for timber.

Today, this battle is over, but not resolved: rather, it is more complex. Now, besides traditional products, forests are also intended to contribute a wide range of resources, including energy and new advanced materials.

Requirements have also increased since Sweden bound the country to become carbon-neutral by 2045. To achieve this, forestry must be streamlined.

To join in and encourage this trend, Mistra has decided to launch a programme focusing on digitisation of forest production.

The initiative, which will have a four-year budget totalling SEK 83 million, including SEK 58m from Mistra, has been named Mistra Digital Forest. In October, Mistra’s Board decided to entrust responsibility for the programme to a consortium led by the Swedish Forest Industries Federation (Skogsindustrierna).

‘As soon as it became apparent that Mistra was to launch a programme for digitising forest production, we realised this was a great opportunity for the industry to forge a consensus on the subject,’ says Torgny Persson, Research and Innovation Director of Swedish Forest Industries Federation and Coordinator of the winning application.

The programme will therefore involve collaboration among several large forestry companies in Sweden: BillerudKorsnäs, Holmen, SCA, Stora Enso, Sveaskog and Södra. Their efforts will be boosted by researchers at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), the Forestry Research Institute of Sweden (Skogforsk), Umeå University, IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute and KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

‘This is an area in which industry has no problems cooperating. Rather, they’re all glad to share their experience.’

The research will be carried out by the participating companies, higher education institutions and research institutes, while the programme will be directed from a secretariat headquartered at the Swedish Forest Industries Federation.

According to Persson, digital data on forests already exist in profusion. The problem is that there are no working solutions that link all the sources together.

‘If we could make better use of the knowledge available we’d know already, when we’re out and about in the woods, the exact best way to fell each tree and how to use it. If the programme could help us keep track of the entire chain, forest production would be optimised.’

The programme will also develop existing innovative materials and create new ones. In addition, it will generate opportunities for circular systems of new and existing materials. Future biorefineries will play a central role.

‘Within these areas, we’ll collaborate with Wallenberg Wood Science Center. Our role will be to develop systems, while they’ll concentrate more on materials.’

In the forestry industry, there is great interest and the hope is that the programme will contribute to a breakthrough in digitising forestry production.

‘Many companies are already working on these challenges, but we hope the programme will give us an opportunity to link all the previous initiatives,’ Persson says.

There is also optimism at Mistra about what the programme will bring.

‘We hope the programme will help to make forestry more efficient and thus able to contribute significantly to sustainability, while funding of biorefineries opens up for bioenergy and new advanced biobased materials,’ says Christopher Folkeson Welch, Programmes Director at Mistra.

Facts about the programme

Programme period: 2018–2022
Budget: SEK 83 million in total, of which SEK 58m is from Mistra.
Participating partners in the programme: all the major forestry companies in Sweden and the research providers SLU, Skogforsk, Umeå University, IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute and KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

The programme secretariat will be based at the Swedish Forest Industries Federation’s premises.

Text: Per Westergård