Working together to strengthen science

Wallenberg Wood Science Center has spent the last eight years connecting researchers at Chalmers and KTH. The collaborations have promoted advanced research on materials from trees. Next step: a national research platform.

​Sweden is immensely rich on forests. But with modern digitalization, pulp is no longer a big seller and the forest industry is in need of new areas to target. At the same time, there’s an increasing need for sustainable solutions and alternatives to oil based products. Intense research is made to find efficient ways of producing materials from wood, thus replacing oil based materials like conventional plastic.

Wallenberg Wood Science Center (WWSC) is a joint research center involving Chalmers and KTH. WWSC was started in 2009, with 120 million SEK from Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, which had made a specific call for research on raw materials from Swedish forests.

– All the universities got to apply and in the end there were just two left, Chalmers and KTH. And then the foundation announced they wanted to support a joint research center instead, says Lisbeth Olsson, Professor at the Department of Biology and Biological Engineering and one of the leading forces behind WWSC.
– In this way, we got a gathering of scientists that would not have come together otherwise. WWSC is a unique collaboration within our field, and we have created an interdisciplinary research environment.

At present, WWSC also gathers researchers from other universities, as well as industry. PhD students from KTH and Chalmers get together twice a year for a week-long research school, where they network and build a community as well as work interdisciplinary.
– The PhD students get to know other active scientists and meet different competences. They also get access to research infrastructures at the different facilities involved. Our PhD’s frequently go to Stockholm to do analyzes, Lisbeth Olsson says.

Plans for the next step – a new researcher platform that will continue the work of WWCS – was announced earlier this fall. Swedish forest industries and the government are planning to finance the platform, when it is up and running, with 250-300 million SEK each year. The goal is to create a long-term powerful research platform with focus in biobased materials and chemicals from wood, with focus on unique research as well as new competences and education.
– The national platform will be open and accessible, an interdisciplinary venue that will gather both academia and industry, Lisbeth Olsson concludes.

Read more about the new research platform here (in Swedish only).
Read more about the research made in Wallenberg Wood Science Center here.
Link to article in Ny teknik (Swedish). 

Text: Mia Malmstedt
Photo: Anna-Lena Lundqvist

Published: Thu 01 Dec 2016.