These projects may progress all the way to patents. Jukka Rantamäki began working in his new job in September 2019.
"This is unnoticeable but highly important work. We get to be at the cutting edge of development, and that's something."
The monitoring includes keeping an eye on any patent applications filed by competitors which may pose a challenge to Metsä Fibre's business operations. During the opposition period, a patent can be challenged by showing that the idea has already been presented elsewhere at an earlier date.
Right now, Metsä Fibre is particularly focused on the development of biocomposites.
"There's potential for new opportunities on that front. The global market is rather big."
One of the companies engaged in the industry is Aqvacomp, which makes a biocomposite from pulp at Metsä Fibre's Rauma mill.
The bioplastic polyactide, or PLA, could also be used as a binding agent in composites.
Other plastic replacements are also being studied. Superabsorbents are used in nappies, for example, and while these absorb a large amount of liquid in proportion to their weight, they can also be unecological.
"Perhaps we'll be able to make something nearly as efficient out of fibre."
Metsä Spring's textile product mill aims to produce pulp-based fabrics for the fabric industry. Rantamäki would also like to study lignin, which is used as an energy source for mills.
"We're kind of heading back to the 1970s, when stores mostly provided paper bags to their customers. These degrade in the ocean and do not end up in fish or mammals. Paper and paperboard are good packaging materials. We also have premium sawn timber, which can replace plastic and concrete."
These new applications of pulp secure the continuity of Metsä Fibre's business. "It's also reasonable to foster a better, greener lifestyle to pre- serve the environment."