Story | 09/21/2023 11:03:58 | 4 min Read time

The SUSBINCO project enables co-creating packaging innovation Beyond Fossils

The step from mainly fossil-based plastic packaging to fiber-based materials is a big one for which research and development is needed in numerous areas. For example, packaging papers that offer protection against external moisture or grease typically include a coating containing polymers. One project working on finding alternatives for fossil-based binders and coatings is SUBSINCO: formulated from the words “Sustainable Binders and Coatings”. The project supports UPM’s purpose of creating a future beyond fossils by responding to global megatrends and the growing demand for renewable products. Senior Researcher in UPM R&D, Product Development Support Team and Chairperson of the SUSBINCO project Christiane Laine gave her insights into the ongoing project.

What is the purpose of the SUSBINCO project’s research?

Consumers and brand owners are increasingly asking for renewable, biodegradable, and recyclable packaging solutions. Fiber-based packaging answers the challenge. The project studies performance of bio-based coated paper and board on packaging lines and recycling in existing fibre-recycling streams. Development is also needed in the raw material extraction and processing of bio-based binders for the coatings.

Susbinco steering group leaders at the Biofore House.
The leaders of the steering group of the Susbinco Project. From the left Christiane Laine (UPM), Aila Maijanen (CLIC), Chunlin Xu (Åbo Akademi), Tuomas Lehtinen (Business Finland) and Tiina Witikkala (CLIC).

The importance of pre-commercial research in projects and co-creation

The SUSBINCO project focuses on pre-commercial research, which is more academic than traditional product development. In pre-commercial development of this nature the whole value network is included, and it is possible to study more academic and risky areas yielding more radical innovations. The project also creates generic know-how that is applicable for coatings in several application areas.  Thus, a strong knowledge network is created between the universities, research organizations and the industry. Eventually the project’s pre-commercial work will help brands in replacing non-renewable materials and understanding the complete lifecycle of products.

SUSBINCO was born through a mutual interest during 2020 and early 2021 and will continue until spring 2024. The SUSBINCO project is a Business Finland supported and funded Consortium of 7 research partners and 11 industrial partners ranging from raw material and chemical producers to machine suppliers. CLIC Innovation, a Non-Profit company working with strategic research areas in Finland is responsible for coordinating the SUSBINCO project.

The partners work together, doing parts of the project at one partner and delivering the outcomes to another for the next phase. This way, also methods to evaluate and visualize products and processes become known in the project community. Interested industrial partners have also built in parallel their own R&D projects.

Susbinco consortium steering group member Chunlin Xu.
Director of the public project and Professor at Åbo Akademi University Chunlin Xu during the Susbinco consortium on September 5th.

Second steering group meeting and consortium held at the Biofore House in Helsinki on September 5th

The Biofore house filled with partners on September 5th 2023 for the second in-person consortium meeting. The meeting included the steering group meeting, followed by wider presentations of the project’s progress as well as a small workshop for the whole consortium. The importance of learning and sharing insights face-to-face was highlighted, which is why UPM happily offered its premises for the event. It is worth mentioning that this subject has not been studied in such a big consortium in Finland for more than a decade.

“Together, we have shared the highlights from all five work packages. A lot of achievements and new innovations were reported during the day. Everyone knows that it is not an easy task to bring 18 partners to one table, but we have taken the challenge and made a great mark on the way for people to collaborate.” - states professor Chunlin Xu, Director of the public project and Professor at Åbo Akademi University.

The SUSBINCO consortium partners offered presentations on each Work Package and smaller group conversations during a workshop exercise.
The SUSBINCO consortium partners offered presentations on each Work Package and smaller group conversations during a workshop exercise.

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