Hail the new golden age of wood

Ali Harlin_edit

When using wood, our forefathers were looking for the perfectly shaped branch for a handle, while spool manufacturers look for wood that is free from knots, paper manufacturers for long fibres and modern, greenhouse emission-conscious engineers are interested in biocarbon. As needs change, we can again look at trees in new ways.

Science can help us understand the structure of wood in greater depth, while technology can translate science into economic success.

Revenue from logging reserve

We have enough sustainable logging reserve to stack a six-meter high pile of logs and trunks along the tracks from Helsinki Railway Station all the way to Kemijärvi station in Lapland. In terms of firewood, the value of this pile equals a stack of 50 Euro banknotes large enough to fill the gaps between the fourteen columns of the Finnish Parliament building. But if we turn the logging residue into value-added materials, the stack could cover the entire building!

By manufacturing textiles that replace cotton, we could free up enough fields to feed 30 million people and prevent the formation of a few deserts the size of Finland.

Fibrils or crystals from cellulose walls

Identifying the cellulose cell wall structure has brought about many significant advances. In the past decade, the nano-view has revealed the fibril level of wood. Fibrils are cable-like strings that form the cellulose cell walls. While this structure was already known, the interest in the manufacture of nano-materials has driven technological development to a point where it is possible to release fibrils with reasonable energy consumption.

Fibrils allow the manufacture of completely new kinds of products and additives, such as plastic-like fine paper or very fine textile-like paper yarn. Even in small amounts, fibrils make plastics harder and more robust. Other uses include preventing paint or juice from separating, and improving the composition of concrete.

The nano-sized crystals in the fibre walls can be released by etching cellulose in a controlled manner. Capable of self-assembly, the crystals can form new materials. They scatter light and form colours. Crystalline materials can be used to improve the insulation properties and strength of different mixtures.

Recyclable textiles from wood

The swelling and dissolution of cellulose is another example of advances in green chemistry. Advanced enzymes have provided the key to a very exact method of destructuring cell walls. What is more, the advances of ionic and eutectic solvents provide a very effective and environmentally friendly way of solvating cellulose. We should consider the use of wood as a material in textile manufacturing. With the new cellulose solvents, it is possible to manufacture 100% recyclable textiles, for example.

Controlled swelling of the cell wall is an effective way of introducing chemicals into and modifying the structure. By bonding acetic acid to the cellulose structure, it is possible to create a thermoplastic material, or cellulose-based plastic. Other chemicals can improve the water-solubility of cellulose, or make cellulose more inclined to bond with other materials, enabling the use of cellulose in place of oil-based auxiliary polymers.

Converting cell walls into sugar

A third example is the use of enzymes to convert the cell wall into sugars, to produce, say, alcohol to power vehicles, without taking resources from food production. The sugars in wood allow the manufacture of molecules with a much higher value. One example is FDCA, or furandicarboxylic acid, which can be used to replace the aromatic oil-based main component in packaging and polyesters. This will also produce plastics that are stronger and have lower gas permeability than the plastics used today.

From forestry to bioeconomy and circular economy

Our forestry sector cannot be sustained by pure volume alone. New processes provide economic methods of refining wood into completely new kinds of high-value-add products. At the same time, there will be a shift in economic structures. We are moving from forestry to bioeconomy. In this context, bioeconomy refers to maximum utilisation of biomaterials in terms of utilisation rate and value. At the same time, our behaviour as consumers may shift towards a circular economy, reducing our footprint to a more sustainable level.

Investing opportunities in the new economy have created vast profits for many, but at the same time, a lot of capital remains tied to old industry, providing shrinking returns. Some companies are starting to see the light, and after a long period of non-investment have announced new investments. As Ensio Miettinen, Ensto company (Finnish company for electrical systems and supplies), founder put it:

“Today, we possess more knowledge and capital than ever before, but we need to have a firmer belief in the future.”

Utilising new technologies is always risky, but there will be no gain without risks. It is time to move onwards and upwards to a sustainable future!

 

Ali Harlin

Reasearch Professor

Puusta pitkälle

Ali Harlin_edit

Muinaissuomalainen katsoi puuta ja etsi käteen sopivaa oksanhaaran muotoa, lankarullatehtailija oksatonta puuta, paperin tekijä pitkää kuitua ja kasvihuonekaasuja välttelevä insinööri biohiiltä. Tarpeiden muuttuessa voimme katsoa puuta jälleen uudella tavalla.

Tieteen avulla voimme ymmärtää puun rakenteen entistä syvällisemmin. Tekniikan tehtävänä on muuntaa tiede taloudelliseksi menestykseksi.

Hakkuuylijäämä euroiksi

Puun hakkuuylijäämää meillä on niin paljon, että jos ladomme sen kuusi metriä korkeana tukki- ja rankapinona Helsingin rautatieasemalta kiskoille toinen pää ohittaa Kemijärven aseman. Tuon pinon arvo polttopuuksi laskettuna vastaa viidenkympin seteleinä niputettuna kasaa, jolla voidaan tilkitä Eduskuntatalon pilareiden väli. Mutta jos teemme tuosta määrästä lisäarvoisia materiaaleja, voisimme peittää koko talon näkyvistä setelinipuilla.

Lisäksi puuvillaa korvaavia tekstiilejä valmistamalla vapauttaisimme peltoa 30 miljoonan ihmisen ruokkimiseen ja estäisimme parin maamme kokoisen aavikon syntymisen.

Selluloosan seinämät fibriileiksi tai kiteiksi

Selluloosan soluseinän rakenteen selviäminen on johtanut useisiin edistysaskeliin. Viimeisen vuosikymmenen nano-näkökulma avasi puusta fibriilien tason. Ne ovat elementtejä, jotka muodostavat kiertyen selluloosakuidun soluseinän.Rakenne tunnettiin jo aikaisemmin, mutta halu tuottaa nano-materiaaleja johti teknologian kehitykseen niin, että nyt voimme vapauttaa fibriilit mielekkäällä energiamäärällä.

Fibriilit mahdollistavat puusta aivan uudenlaisia tuotteita ja lisäaineita – esimerkiksi hienojakoista ja muovinkaltaista paperia, tai tekstiilikuitua vastaavaa maailman hienointa paperinarua. Pienetkin fibriili-määrät parantavat muovien sitkeyttä ja lujuutta. Ne estävät maalien ja mehujen laskeutumista sekä parantavat sementin koostumusta jne.

Syövyttämällä selluloosaa hallitusti saadaan talteen kuitujen seinämän nano-kokoiset kiteet. Ne osaavat järjestyä toisiinsa nähden ja rakentaa itsenäisesti uusia materiaaleja. Kiteet kääntävät valoa ja muodostavat värejä. Kiteinen materiaali voi parantaa vaikkapa seosten eristyskykyä ja lujuutta.

Puusta kierrätettävää tekstiiliä

Toinen esimerkki vihreän kemian kehityksestä liittyy selluloosan turvottamiseen ja liuottamiseen. Entsyymien kehittyminen on mahdollistanut erittäin tarkan tavan soluseinän rakenteen avaamiseen. Toisaalla ionisten ja eutektisten liuottimien kehitys mahdollistaa selluloosan erittäin tehokkaan ja ympäristöystävällisen muuttamisen juoksevaan muotoon. Tämä johtaa meidät harkitsemaan uudelleen tekstiilien valmistamista puusta. Uudet selluloosaliuottimet mahdollistavat esimerkiksi täysin kierrätettävät tekstiilit.

Soluseinämän hallittu turvottaminen mahdollistaa tehokkaan tavan viedä kemikaaleja rakenteen sisään ja muokata sitä. Esimerkiksi kytkemällä etikkahappo selluloosan runkoon saadaan lämmöllä sulavaa materiaalia eli selluloosapohjaista muovia. Toisilla kemikaaleilla voimme parantaa selluloosan vesiliukoisuutta tai halua sitoutua toisiin aineisiin, mikä mahdollistaa selluloosan käytön öljypohjaisten apuainepolymeerien tilalla.

Puretaan soluseinät sokereiksi

Kolmantena esimerkkinä soluseinä voidaan purkaa entsyymien avulla myös sokereihin, josta voi tuottaa alkoholia vaikkapa autojen polttoaineeksi puuttumatta ruokavarantoon. Puun sokerit mahdollistavat paljon korkeampiarvoistenkin molekyylien valmistuksen. Sellainen on esimerkiksi FDCA eli furaanidikarboksyylihappo, jolla voidaan korvata pakkausten ja tekstiilien polyesterin aromaattinen öljypohjainen pääkomponentti. Samalla saavutetaan muovi, jonka lujuus ja kyky pitää kaasut sisällään ovat nykyisiä parempia.

Metsäteollisuudesta kohti biotaloutta ja kiertotaloutta

Metsäteollisuutemme ei voi jatkaa pelkän volyymin varassa.  Uudet prosessit tarjoavat edullisia menetelmiä jalostaa puuta aivan uusiksi korkean lisäarvon omaaviksi tuotteiksi. Siinä sivussa tulemme muuttaneeksi myös talouden rakenteita. Mielemme on kääntymässä metsäteollisuudesta kohti biotaloutta. Tässä biotalous tarkoittaa bioraaka-aineesta saatavan hyödyn lisäämistä ja sen arvon maksimointia. Samalla myös kulutuskäyttäytymisemme voi muuttua enemmän kohti kiertotaloutta ja kulutuksen jalanjäljet pienentyä kestävämmälle tasolle.

Uuden talouden sijoitusmahdollisuudet ovat toki tuoneet useille suuriakin voittoja, mutta samaan aikaan meillä on vanhassa teollisuudessa kiinni pääomia, joiden tuotto vain heikkenee. Muutama yritys on selvästi jo heräämässä tähän ja ilmoittanut pitkästä aikaa investoinneista.

Lainatakseni Ensio Miettistä:

”Meillä on nyt tietoa ja pääomia enemmän kuin koskaan historiamme aikana, mutta me tarvitsemme vahvemman uskon tulevaisuuteen.”

Uuden teknologian hyödyntäminen on aina riski, mutta ilman riskiä ei ole myöskään voittoa. Nyt on taas aika siirtyä ajassa eteenpäin ja uudistua − kestävästi!

 

Ali Harlin

Tutkimusprofessori

VTT järjestää biotalous-aiheisen keskustelutilaisuuden Porissa 15.7. osana SuomiAreena-tapahtumaa. Miksi annamme maataloustuotteiden parhaat palat possuille? Kannattaako vihreä kulta polttaa poroksi? Miten biotalouden kassavirta käännetään Suomeen? Tule mukaan kuuntelemaan ja keskustelemaan!

Quick tests for water quality making their way to holiday bags

Hakola Liisa

The summer holiday is a good time to think about water quality. Here in Finland we’re in pretty good shape: drinking water comes straight from the tap, and we swim in sea water checked all summer for quality. Finns can trust the authorities to carry out the quality inspections required by law and to maintain the high quality of water for drinking and other uses.

Travellers should nevertheless keep in mind that things are not quite so rosy elsewhere, particularly outside the Nordic countries. Although you can rely on all developed countries having good-quality tap water, the normal bacterial strains are different enough to make bottled water a worthwhile alternative. Bottled water is already essential equipment when holidaying in developing countries.

The appearance of blue-green algae in waters used for swimming is a worldwide phenomenon, and you should be aware that authorities in all countries are not necessarily as active as those in Finland when it comes to monitoring. And those holidaying in Finland must surely be interested in the algae situation at their summer cottages or other lakeside venues before dipping their toes. Not to mention peace of mind over allowing children and pets into the water.

My hope is that a water quality quick test will form part of the basic equipment of every holidaymaker or traveller, alongside the regulation anti-venom kit, insect repellent and sun-tan lotion. This kind of simple test would allow anyone to find out in minutes whether water is clean enough for drinking, swimming or other uses. Blue-green algae toxins and certain bacteria causing gastric illness can be seriously debilitating, and even fatal. A few euros and a two-minute wait for the results seems a small price to pay. In other words, cheap insurance against a potentially anxious situation.

Blue-green algae bloom is also easy to spot with the naked eye, and normally a sign that you should stay out of the water. Not all blue-green algae appearing in lakes are toxic – roughly speaking this is about half. The quick test will show whether the water is safe enough for swimming, even where bloom is visible. If it turns out the water is safe, there will be no need to explain to your children – who on a hot day are naturally hankering for a swim – why they can’t go. On the other hand, if the test shows the water is unsafe, a ban on swimming will be difficult to argue against!

Many summer cottages have a well nearby intended mainly for drinking water. Here the water quality is always worth checking. And what could be easier than a simple quick test designed with the consumer in mind? The same test could also be used to check drinking water in the more exotic holiday destinations.

VTT has developed quick tests in recent years for the purpose of analysing water quality. The focus has been mainly on detection of blue-green algae toxins and phenolic compounds. A commercialisation project for a blue-green algae test was begun in 2014 in cooperation with the University of Turku, and funded by Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation. The project is set to run until the end of 2015. After that I hope to see the first consumer-friendly blue-green algae tests on the shop shelves within one or two years!

 

Liisa Hakola

Senior Scientist

Vedenlaadun pikatestit lomalaisen laukkuun tulevaisuudessa

Hakola Liisa

Nyt kesälomien aikaan on hyvä aika pohtia vedenlaatua. Meillä Suomessahan asiat ovat hyvässä kunnossa: vesihanasta tulee juomakelpoista vettä ja uimarantojen vedenlaatua tarkkaillaan pitkin kesää. Kansalaiset voivat luottaa siihen, että viranomaiset tekevät lain edellyttämän laaduntarkkailun ja ylläpitävät juoma- ja käyttöveden hyvää laatua.

Lomalaisen on kuitenkin hyvä muistaa matkustaessaan erityisesti Pohjoismaiden ulkopuolelle, että kaikkialla ei tilanne ole yhtä hyvä. Vaikka varmasti jokaisessa kehittyneessä maassa hanavesi on laadukasta, normaali bakteerikanta on ulkomailla kuitenkin sen verran erilainen, että pullovesi on hyvä vaihtoehto. Kehittyvissä maissa pullovesi onkin sitten jo pakollinen matkailijan varuste.

Myös sinilevän esiintyminen vesistöissä on maailmanlaajuinen ilmiö ja ulkomailla uidessa on hyvä muistaa, että sinilevätilannetta ei välttämättä tarkkailla samalla aktiivisuudella kuin Suomessa viranomaisten taholta. Toisaalta myös kotimaan matkaajaa varmasti kiinnostaa mökkirannan tai muun järvimaiseman sinilevätilanne ennen kuin kastaa varpaansa veteen. Puhumattakaan siitä, että lapset ja lemmikit päästetään uimaan turvallisin mielin.

Lomalaisen ja matkailijan perusvarustukseen tulee toivottavasti tulevaisuudessa kuulumaan vedenlaadun pikatestisetti kyypakkauksen, hyttyskarkotteen ja aurinkovoiteen rinnalla. Tällaisen pikatestin avulla voisi jokainen helposti testata saman tien tarjolla olevan juoma-, käyttö- tai uimaveden puhtauden. Koska muun muassa sinilevämyrkyt ja tietyt vatsatauteja aiheuttavat bakteerit voivat aiheuttaa vakavia vaurioita ja jopa kuolemia, on pieni hinta maksaa muutamia euroja testistä ja odotella pari minuuttia vedenlaadun pikatestin tuloksia. Pikatesti olisi näin ollen halpa henkivakuutus epävarmoissa tilanteissa.

Sinileväkukinnothan on helppo huomata silmämääräisesti ja tällöin tyypillisesti vältetään veden käyttöä. Kuitenkin erityisesti järvissä esiintyvistä sinilevistä kaikki eivät ole myrkyllisiä – karkeasti ottaen vain noin puolet. Tällöin pikatestin avulla voidaan arvioida, onko esimerkiksi uiminen kuitenkin turvallista, vaikka vedessä esiintyy kukintoja. Jos vesi onkin turvallista käyttää, ei tarvitse selittää uimista hinkuville lapsille hellepäivänä, miksi veteen ei nyt saisi mennä. Ja toisaalta sitten ei mennä veteen ollenkaan silloin, kun testi osoittaa, että nyt ei ole turvallista uida.

Monilla kesämökeillä on pääasiallisena juomaveden lähteenä kaivo, jonka tarjoaman veden laatua on syytä tarkkailla. Ja mikäs olisikaan parempi keino kuin kuluttajille suunnattu helppokäyttöinen pikatesti. Samaa testiä voisi sitten käyttää tarjolla olevan juomaveden laadun pikaiseen tarkistamiseen eksoottisessa lomakohteessa.

VTT on viime vuosina kehittänyt pikatestejä vedenlaadun analysointiin. Erityisesti on keskitytty sinilevämyrkkyjen ja fenoliyhdisteiden havainnoimiseen. Sinilevätestistä on käynnistynyt heinäkuussa 2014 Tekesin rahoittama kaupallistamishanke yhteistyössä Turun yliopiston kanssa. Hanke kestää vuoden 2015 loppuun asti. Toivottavasti jo vuoden parin sisällä hankkeen päättymisestä ensimmäinen kuluttajille suunnattu sinilevätesti löytyy kauppojen hyllyltä!

 

Liisa Hakola

Erikoistutkija

From mindless high-carbon transport to intelligent low-carbon transport

Nils-Olof Nylund Galleria

Travel and transport in Finland won’t be finishing any time soon. Society functions on the basis of movement of people and goods. One thing is clear, though: in future this will have to be handled in a smarter way, and with less burden on the environment. Intelligent transport and electric cars are one part of this reasoning.  In construction we are closing in on all new houses being zero energy. Zero energy for cars, though, is sadly out of reach; anybody claiming otherwise will need to have invented the perpetual motion machine.

Intelligent low-carbon transport

This is a highly topical theme.  In the second week of June the Ministry of Employment and the Economy organised a seminar in connection with preparation for the “Energy and Climate Roadmap 2050”. The following week a sizeable group of intelligent transport experts gathered in Helsinki for the 10th ITS European Congress (2014 ITS Europe).

The background material to the ministry’s energy and climate roadmap sets a target for emission reduction of 80–95% by 2050. Where transport is concerned, this is some challenge.  Here we need to make special mention of sustainable biofuels and the shift to more efficient modes of mobility and transport. Any further growth in the number of private cars in urban areas is also out.  People in areas covered by public transport will have to be tempted out of their cars and into public vehicles. Bicycles spring to mind as an obvious alternative, either in traditional or electrically aided high-tech mode.

How are climate targets linked to intelligent transport then? In many ways, as a matter of fact. Intelligent transport and logistics services allow the mobility machine to work at maximum efficiency. Intelligent services also increase the appeal of public transport, and simplify the planning  of travel chains and ticket purchase. Little by little, we begin to acquire real-time information on traffic. No longer are we tied to information on printed timetables: our mobile device tells us when the bus we want will actually arrive.

TransSmart vision

In 2013, VTT launched the TransSmart spearhead programme on intelligent transport. TransSmart is a free-flowing, cost-efficient and environmentally friendly cooperation and development platform for transport systems. We launched a publication for the programme at the beginning of 2014 concerning the vision and roadmap http://www.vtt.fi/inf/pdf/technology/2013/T146.pdf(in Finnish only). This is accompanied by the Visions publication in which we spread the good news on intelligent low-carbon transport to a wide audience in an informal and approachable manner, while at the same time illustrating its potential to Finnish actors.

Electric cars and the intelligent transport system

I would argue that where an intelligent transport system might manage without electric cars, electric cars will certainly need to be supported by an intelligent transport system. If nothing else, drivers of electric cars will need up-to-date information on where they can recharge.

VTT’s primary development focus concerning electric vehicles is on the electrification of bus traffic, in cooperation with the Helsinki Regional Transport Authority (HRT). HRT is responsible for over 60% of Finland’s public transport. Both the promotion of public transport and the path to sustainability are closely synchronised with energy and climate roadmap policies. I’m nevertheless a little surprised why the electric car should generally be favoured as private transport. Also, why we should encourage the purchase of electric cars, among other things by allowing them to use bus lanes.

And all this while the roadmap is saying there should be an end to growth of private transport in urban areas. The electric car will no doubt have its place, but this can’t be at the expense of public transport.  And tell me this, if you can, where’s the sense in the latest incentive for electric cars that appeared just last week: “electric cars should be allowed to reach 160 km/h in Finland”. At that rate we’ll end up either with batteries flattened mid-journey or the terminal crash of all electric motoring.

 

Nils-Olof Nylund

Research Professor and Programme Manager of the TransSmart spearhead programme

Renewal with human-driven design?

Kaasinen Eija

Technical solutions should fit for human lives and promote well-being. This requires thorough understanding of user values, needs and preferences as well as user involvement in design activities. Even if the importance of user viewpoint in the design is widely accepted, human well-being, values and actual needs are too seldom the driving forces of development.

In-depth empathic insight to users and their lives

Usability-focused approaches tend to focus on already agreed technology solutions by identifying and fixing main problems in use. This is of course important but I think that human viewpoint could and should influence also what will be designed, not only how the design is implemented. To increase the impact of human-driven design, it should be more future-oriented – targeting to radical rather than incremental changes.

It is often claimed that users are fixed on familiar solutions and they cannot help in creating radically new solutions: “asking the horsemen, cars would never have been invented”. Human-driven design does not mean gathering wish lists from users and giving the responsibility of creating new ideas to users. Human-driven design requires designers engaging with users and their life in rich ways: stepping to the user’s shoes with empathy.

Human viewpoint in radical renewals

In addition to empathy, scientific knowledge of people’s values, capabilities and ways to act is needed. When empathy and scientific knowledge of people is combined with understanding of technology trends, societal trends and business trends, we have the right ingredients to create radically new systems and services. In the FIMECC UXUS Programme we have gained evidence of this in developing new operational concepts to different work environments. In-depth empathic understanding of the users’ work has helped to design concepts that renew the work tasks improving both productivity and attractiveness of the work.

Future visions are still too often technology-driven: the focus is on seeking sensible usage for new technologies rather than figuring out how people’s everyday lives and work could benefit and change with new technological solutions. The technology visions often present people with “plastic smiles”: happy families whose life is optimally efficient and supervised with intelligent technology. Children and grandparents are in minor roles, most often present only via video connections. I think I am not the only one who has difficulties in seeing this as my future life.

Robots set challenges for human-driven visions

As technology is increasingly involved in our lives, human viewpoint should be strengthened in the design. By now intelligent technology has mostly been embedded in separate devices such as smart phones and computers.

When intelligent technology starts to be part of autonomous vehicles (such as Google driverless car) as well as walking, wheeling and flying robots, we really need to think how these should be designed so that they benefit people  and that people can and will adopt them to their living and working environments. Current robot visions of human-like companions should be complemented with more human-driven visions that are based on understanding what kind of human-robot interaction would be accepted and beneficial to people and what kinds of roles we want to give to robots in our society.

User role: from victim to contributor

The role of people as technology users is changing from victims to be protected to active contributors who want to shape technology to their own needs. This should be made possible so that future systems and services support “design-in-use”, i.e. finalising the design when people create and share fluent usage practises and shape the technology accordingly.

Solving big societal challenges such as aging population, climate change and need for sustainable development requires developing parallel human practises and technical enablers. The potential of all users as innovators and co-designers should be utilised in developing the solutions.

VTT’s Design for life innovation programme aims to strengthen human viewpoint in technology research and development. We intend to increase the influence of human-driven design by making it more future oriented.

 

Eija Kaasinen

Principal Scientist

Design for life innovation programme manager 

South Africa’s roadmap to digital health care

Myllyoja Jouko

We are at the Daspoort Clinic in a suburb of Johannesburg. We are told that due to thunderstorms, for example, network connections can sometimes be unavailable even for a week. The key driving force of the clinic are students, who come here to work and learn. 

In spring 2014, VTT initiated two-year long research project ”Digital Health Future – Roadmapping South African Strategy”.  It is an ICI project funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, aimed at supporting the development of the South African health care system. Long-term impacts of the project are intended to take place through competence building at research partner CSIR-Meraka.

I travelled to South Africa with Torsti Loikkanen and Hannes Toivanen. During our trip, we visited Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT)RLabs, and the Daspoort Clinic. Our visit to CPUT focused on the innovation centre, where students develop their ideas with the support of the staff and together with other students. We paid special attention to how multidisciplinary the activities were, to the powerful hands-on approach of the innovation schemes, and the way the improvement of entrepreneurial skills was supported. Rlabs opened up the dimensions of social innovation in local communities − on the Internet course for women, for example, the most important impact of all might be the opportunity to escape from everyday life and share the challenges it presents with other women. Our visit to the clinic revealed various practical problems of a technological nature, such as the unreliability of Internet connections. Other types of challenges include the ever-changing mobile numbers of local residents and their attitude towards seeking medical treatment.

In addition to meeting local, regional and national challenges, the project involved methodological development work, because the coming together of Foresight and Pro-poor/Inclusive innovation approaches requires the development of a mutual interface. New thinking is also required to address the contents of the Roadmap created under the project – the drivers of change, bottlenecks, technologies or solutions relevant in Western environments may take on a completely different meaning in the context of a developing country. The difference is amplified the closer we get to the local operating environment; for individual clinics, the needs are very concrete and immediate. Talking about megatrends or ten-year plans in such an environment may sound rather hollow.

The local reality, in which history, the political environment, practices, values and practical challenges are different from ours, questions the approaches that are familiar to us, but at the same time provides an opportunity to enrich the way we act and think. We must seize this opportunity, whilst also remembering that the ultimate goal is not to “export” some unique forms of expertise, which will automatically generate new know-how to the recipient. Instead, the purpose is to maintain our ability to stay open to different realities and approaches, share our own know-how, and accept the know-how of our co-operation partners. This mutually beneficial learning process leads to new understanding and competencies that can be applied in various ways – together and separately.

Communication and transparency are also important factors in research when we are operating in a global environment, creating new opportunities for co-operation and aiming for social impact. We will be compiling workshop proposals, research results and other materials generated under the project on the project website at: http://futureshealth.wordpress.com/

Jouko Myllyoja

Senior Scientist 

According to an article in Helsingin Sanomat on 2 June 2014, more than half of the exports of Finnish high technology industry were health-related, making health technology the top field in high technology exports. The same article also noted that the annual growth rate of health technology has remained steady at 6% for the past six years. Health technology is also among the fastest growing industries globally.