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Innovation essential to realize the potential of wood

Visible and invisible products from forests take centre stage at Geneva seminar

24 April 2013

It’s nothing less than astounding to see the many ways that wood is being used today. Who would imagine that wood products are used in things like beauty products, gels for back pain, hip replacement material, and spacecraft? 

Bioproducts and biochemicals produced from wood are the most promising wood-based products of the future, experts claim. For example different types of nanocelluloses produced from wood can be used in biocompatible materials as for instance in gels to reduce back pain, or to improve performance of high value-added products such as cosmetics or filters to capture CO2, or in super hard coatings for the aerospace industry. Intelligent paper is revolutionizing packaging in the medical and food sectors with personalised, changing messages and up-to-date information about the products. 

Wood is everywhere, but we are not always aware of it. A group of experts gathered on 22 April 2013 in Geneva to discuss innovation in the forest-based sector, to showcase success stories, and to exchange views on the challenges and opportunities of the sector. The seminar was hosted by the UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber section in collaboration with InnovaWood.

Wood based polymers - renewable and biodegradable - can be used to replace materials from non-renewable resources in a wide range of products, but education and marketing is still needed to support the understanding and the image of wood with end-users. Certification is one of the most powerful tools to guide consumer choices. Furthermore, the policy and legal framework conditions are crucial to create enabling environment with the help of research and innovation strategies, action plans or financial tools to facilitate innovation. New building codes for construction now allow the use of wood in multi-storey buildings and a greater variety of applications in several countries. For example Switzerland is moving from passive to active sustainable wooden buildings, which produce energy with solar panels. Green insulation is also developed by using wood cellulose.

Forest sector innovation plays a key role in the transformation towards a green bio-based economy. UNECE/FAO work, including its contribution to the Action Plan for the Forest Sector in a Green Economy, supports countries and other stakeholders in the transition towards a sustainable future. 

“Both process innovation and product innovation are a must for the transition of the forest sector towards a green economy”, concluded Ewa Ratajczak, the president of InnovaWood at the end of the seminar.

For more information, please click here or contact Elina Warsta

Photo:  Source- Stora Enso