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VTT's vision of life in the era of a bioeconomy in Finland in 2044

What might life be like in Finland after the era of oil in a bioeconomy? How is the transition made? VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland brought together experts of various fields to consider these questions. The results were compiled in the publication People in the bioeconomy 2044. It contains three descriptions of everyday life, which VTT hope will inspire and encourage discussions on solutions for the future.

Ageing, population growth, climate change, and lack or resources are challenges that world leaders are expected find global solutions for. In addition to challenges and risks, this is also an opportunity to develop a new kind of society a sensible society with respect for environmental values.

According to researchers at VTT, the future will look brighter in Finland if serious attention is given to the development of a new kind of society. A transition period of 20 to 30 years to the bioeconomy requires that consumers are willing to adjust, enterprises make significant investments and take risks, and government decision-makers provide strong, long-term support.

The bioeconomy is based on the reasonable, sustainable use of natural resources, and in the future, it will be connected to almost everything we do. The concept of a bioeconomy is somewhat controversial. VTT sees it as an extensive socio-technical system that combines various technologies, markets, people and procedures. In the future, it will connect different branches of industry in ways we have never seen before. It will also combine the idea of sustainable development to business operations, and introduce consumer products made of biomass.

The bioeconomy is an opportunity for Finland, thanks to its vast forest resources. The processing degree of wood can be increased by turning it into plastic-like products for manufacturing composites, packaging materials, textiles and even ingredients of foodstuffs and medications. The use of other raw materials will also change dramatically in the future. Information technology will also play a more significant role in the future. It will become key in making manufacturing, energy production and transport more efficient.

"The transition to a bioeconomy requires us to learn how to use our natural resources in a wise and sparing manner. The efficient industrial use of biomass does not solve all the problems and other sources of raw material are also needed. One of them is the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and combustion gas. However, we are still at the very early stages of this process", says Anne-Christine Ritschkoff, Executive Vice President of Strategic Research at VTT.

Helmi, the Anderson family and Jonas "Brad" Salmi in the era of a bioecenomy

The fictional characters of the VTT publication live in the era of a bioeconomy in 2044: Helmi lives in Taavetti in Eastern Finland with her family, the Anderson family live on the outskirts of the Helsinki metropolitan area, and international inventor Jonas "Brad" Salmi lives in Oulu.

Agriculture is booming in Finland because some of the traditional farming areas of the world have been destroyed as a result of various catastrophes. There is not enough work for everyone as robots are doing some of the work. Living conditions elsewhere in the world are deteriorating, and immigration to Finland is on the increase. Significant progress has been made in medical science and the onset of illnesses can be predicted based on the data on the individuals' vital functions. Medication is personalised. Sensors monitor the vital functions of individuals and send the data to doctors. People are still flying to their holiday destinations: bioenergy resources were introduced widely 20 years earlier and this has meant that the carbon footprint of air traffic is no longer an issue. Information technology is used to serve society in a variety of ways. 3D printing is an everyday thing. Food is almost entirely based on vegetables.

Once again, the broad bean has become a key source of protein. Thanks to advanced processing methods, the valuable and health-promoting ingredients of vegetables are being utilised more efficiently than today. Food products are packaged in bio-based materials. By foaming the substances of wood it is possible to manufacture textiles and materials to replace plastic, among others.

Country living with robots

Helmi's family live in the countryside and earn their living from, highly processed farm products: they sell berry-based deli products to Russians, flux fibres to the textile industry, and wood fibre from forests grown with enzymes for the industrial production of fibre materials. They use bio-based fertilisers on their farm, along with stored solar energy and biogas-produced electricity. The work on the farm is highly automatised and robots take care of routine tasks.

The Andersons live in a zero-energy house and wear clothes made of willow

The Anderson family live in a zero-energy house in the metropolitan area of Helsinki. Every year, they fly to Thailand on a plane using fuel manufactured with microbes. In Thailand, they are used to eating insects. The father is a specialist in prolonging life, and the mother works at the technology hub of Otaniemi developing textile fibres from wood biomass. The family have cut down on eating meat and avoid buying expensive synthetic meat. Their grandmother lives far away and she keeps in touch with her grandchildren with the help of hologram technology. The children are able to stroke her cat from their own home using special touch gloves.

Multitalented Jonas "Brad" Salmi puts new technologies to test

Having studied technology, philosophy, design and marketing, Jonas is always among the first to try out new technologies. He has been involved in starting up businesses all over the world. His business ideas vary from resin-based medications to hologram services. Jonas spends a lot of time in his home laboratory in Oulu. His latest hit idea is a plant that reacts to light and nutrients, and produces tomatoes in different colours and flavours. His hobbies include increased production, in other words making things with a 3D printer. With Jonas being able to turn the guest bed that was needed last week into a set of dining table and chairs next week, he can save a lot of space, too.


Contact: Anne-Christine Ritschkoff
VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

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