Metsä Group leads the way in the bioeconomy by investing in growth, developing bioproducts, and a fossil-free future. The raw material for its products is renewable wood from sustainably managed forests in northern Europe. The international Group has its roots in the Finnish forests as the parent company Metsäliitto Cooperative is owned by over 100,000 forest owners.
Innovation company Metsä Spring invests expertise and financial resources into initiatives with the ambition to reshape the forest-based bioeconomy, aiming to increase the value for Metsä Group’s stakeholders in the long-term.
Montinutra converts Forest Industry Side Streams into valuable Bioactive Ingredients
Metsä Spring’s most recent investment, Montinutra, is a Finnish startup company dedicated to converting forest industry side streams into valuable bioactive ingredients for the cosmetics, food and beverage, and pharmaceutical industries with its scalable technology. With two spruce sawmills in Finland, which may provide sawdust for the production, Metsä Spring supports Montinutra beyond the financial investment.
Montinutra has several product ideas in its R&D pipeline. However, a first focus is clearly set on Sprucegum™, an extract obtained from spruce sawdust. Sprucegum™ has potential for personal care, cosmetics, and foodstuffs as an emulsifying and stabilizing ingredient, for example. In addition, the health beneficial Qusitol®, also obtained from spruce sawdust, has shown potential for the treatment of lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS).
“In 2021, Montinutra will install a pilot-scale production facility and continue to develop bioactive products and customer applications. We are aiming to work very closely with few potential customers in commercializing the product applications. We are excited about the opportunity to have Metsä Spring on board as an industrial anchor investor. On top of the investment, Metsä Spring brings access to their skills and capabilities, their partner network and all in all a lot of credibility that will be required in executing our business plan”, says Jukka Mäkelä, Managing Director at Montinutra.
Metsä Spring was established in May 2018 with the aim of strengthening Metsä Group’s business ecosystem in the long run. Converting Metsä Group’s own side stream into a versatile range of higher added-value products is thus a perfect fit. “Spruce extracts have been studied scientifically for decades. We are thrilled to support Montinutra’s efforts, which aim to make commercial successes of spruce extracts and later, other new wood-based products. The link to Metsä Group’s business ecosystem is strong, because our industrial side stream, spruce sawdust, is used as the raw material for making the extracts. The Sprucegum™ concept is a prime example of the circular economy in the making,” says Katariina Kemppainen, Investment Manager at Metsä Spring and new Board member of Montinutra.
Metsä Spring invests in initiatives that reshape the Forest-based Bioeconomy
Other projects in Metsä Spring’s portfolio include a project developing textile fibers and 3D packaging products from wood pulp as well as an equity investment in the startup Woodio Ltd. Moreover, Metsä Spring is also coordinating ExpandFibre, an innovation ecosystem development. ExpandFibre is a strategic collaboration with Fortum Plc.
Most recently, Woodio has been selected for funding by the European Innovation Council (EIC), more precisely by its EIC Accelerator program. The funding comprises a EUR 2.5 million grant and an option for further EUR 5 million equity financing. The competition to become part of the program was very stringent with less than 1% of applicants (38 companies) finally winning the funding.
“For us, the nomination by the EIC Accelerator program is yet another proof that the business idea of Woodio is unique in a very positive way. We knew this, but second opinions are always good to have”, says Niklas von Weymarn, CEO of Metsä Spring and Board member of Woodio.
Woodio’s business idea is based on material innovation, a composite consisting of wood chips and resins. This material mix is then molded to various end products, like for instance washbasins, bathtubs, toilets, and panels. Woodio is using wood chips from a Metsä Group mill side-stream in one of its products (Natural Birch). The new funding accelerates Woodio’s strive to develop and scale-up the production process, as well as to broaden further its product portfolio.
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