Strong bioeconomy and circular economy activities in Kymenlaakso provide a solid foundation for new success stories in the region.

This was noticed in the international webinar Bioeconomy – Made in Kymenlaakso, Finland organized by BUT project at the end of September. The webinar was also a WCEF side event and an event of Year of research-based knowledge.

Strong actors in the region highlighted activities that promote both the bio and circular economy in the region. The real success stories are made together with different actors, which can be seen from the presentations.

The new video, Kymenlaakso, promoter of bio and circular economy, was premiered in the webinar as one of the outcomes of the project. The video shows that bioeconomy in Kymenlaakso have a background of 150 years, and the forest industry and primary production are still important parts of Kymenlaakso`s identity.

Kymenlaakso is a home to many bio and circular economy businesses, as well as several companies that work to advance sustainable development. The links to the videos can be found at the project websites both in English and Finnish: New openings in the bioeconomy (BUT) – XAMK.

SummarY of the webinar presentations

Forewords were given by Acting Mayor of City of Imatra Ari Lindeman, who also moderated the webinar. As a former research manager at Xamk, Lindeman has an extensive international experience.

– Development work often involves expanding networks and maintaining old connections, Lindeman highlighted.

The moderator´s experience on RDI activities combined to his present responsibilities in Imatra created a new bridge for cooperation between Kymenlaakso and South Karelia.

Opening words were given by Regional Mayor of Kymenlaakso, Jaakko Mikkola. Mikkola emphasized the importance of bio and circular economy for Kymenlaakso when moving towards carbon neutrality.

– Bio and circular economy is one of the main three priorities in our smart specialisation strategy (RIS3), Mikkola emphasized. – Smart specialisation is the driving force behind innovation, growth and internationalization to achieve a region that is competitive, attractive and vibrant.

– The choices of Kymenlaakso region for smart specialisation priorities are bioeconomy and circular economy, smart and green logistics, and digitalisation, Mikkola continues.

When all the top priorities of RIS3 meet and they naturally have interfaces, the most innovative and successful results are obtained.

  • For more information about Kymenlaakso’s carbon neutrality, see the emissions table from this link. If you click on the red buttons in the picture you will find even more information.

Forest industry

The webinar provided an overview to development activities in forest industry companies operating in the area. All the globally operating companies have the same starting point for their operations: their business opportunities arise from the global megatrends, which enhances the demand for renewable materials.

– Everything that can be made from fossil-based materials today can be made from a tree tomorrow, Sunila representers Timo Tidenberg and Kari Nikunen explained.

Trees are composed of 20–30 % of lignin, and Sunila Mill is the largest kraft lignin extraction plant in the world. Lignin, that is treated to carbon, can be used as a replacer of graphite: trees can become batteries!

MM Kotkamills has a vision to replace plastics. There are hundreds of billions plastic containing unrecyclable cups, and it’s time to change that.

– Folding boxboard and barrier board offer the transition to plastic-free convenience packaging”, said Saila Kettunen.

MM Kotkamills has an integrated mill pioneering integration for resource efficiency. Working together in three business lines (folding boxboards and barrier boards, core materials for high pressure laminates, sawmills with wood products and providers of the raw material for other businesses) and creating smart relationships, accelerates the circular economy in the sustainable way and with broader impact.

UPM Kymi integrate consists of pulp and paper mills, energy production and production of precipitated calcium carbonate (PCC). It’s using 90 % biofuels in its energy production. The circular economy is a key element of its activities, and pulp is the powerhouse of bioeconomy.

Sustainable wood raw material turns into different fractions and are used e.g. as saw-dust, pulp and crude tail oil. Packaging board can be made of pulp and bioplastic made of residue of pulp production.

– Future beyond fossils can be achieved with sustainable solutions and utilizing the forest in a wise way” stated Jyri Kylmälä.


Juha Helenius from Ruralia Institute, University of Helsinki, clarified the meaning of agroecological symbiosis and its network. He also presented how logistics of biomass define the scale of “local”.

– Rural areas and rural cities can have a significant role in sustainability transformation”, Helenius stated.

Jouni Havukainen from LUT University showed LUT’s sustainable solutions for bio and circular economy through research and development actions. For example, LUT implements the projects related to using side streams to renew the concrete and examines materials and technology needed for sustainable re-materializations.


Potential partners for continuing co-operation with regional actors in Kymenlaakso in sustainable development were found in Estonia and Netherlands.

Kaja Peterson from Stockholm Environment Institute Tallinn Centre, Estonia, presented the importance of different matters: innovations in bioeconomy are enabled by linkages, networks and interaction.

– Potential is there, how to make use of it sustainably?, asked Peterson in her presentation.

– Bioeconomy and circular economy demand creativity and cooperation between the actors, Peterson concluded.

Alwin Hoogendoorn from the Centre of Expertise Biobased Economy (CoE BBE), Netherlands, introduced the five different biobased research groups at Dutch Universities of Applied Sciences, as well as many various projects.

Some of the projects are related to materials that are also of interested at Xamk (e.g. biochar), some are otherwise interesting projects such as developing leathery vegan materials.


Regional actors presented what they have done to accelerate bio and circular economy in Kymenlaakso region, and what the possibilities not yet efficiently used are.

Janne Harjunpää, representing Myllykoski Bioethanol and Redeve, showed ideal locations for bio and circular economy business. He told us about the plans for Myllykoski Bioethanol (Mbio) where the main raw material is sustainably harvested cereal straw from the region. The procurement brings steady long-term further cash flow to farmers and makes the cereal growing a major carbon sink and returns the nutrition components back to cultivation.

Another suitable site for new bio and circular economy businesses, with fully furnished office and large industrial space in Kouvola, is Voikkaa business park. Both sites have available infrastructure due to former paper mill located in the area.

Veli Hyyryläinen from Elementit-E showed us some facts about company: this family business in timber construction is one of the leading suppliers of modular buildings in Finland. Buildings are 100 % technologically recyclable and movable.

The company has taken several actions to promote bio and circular economy: sorting, recycling, training personnel and producing renewable energy with wood chips and solar panels. Elementit-E is actively fighting against climate change by further developing timber construction.

Virpi Leppälä, representing Kymenlaakson Jäte Ltd, 100 % communities-owned company, explained that the company has waste treatment center in Kouvola area, 10 waste stations and 70 eco-collection points mostly in the region of Kymenlaakso.

The waste company promotes bio and circular economy by producing biogas from garden waste and collecting landfill gas and turning them into energy (heat and electricity). The power plant using wood waste as a fuel has started heat production for district heating. The unrecyclable waste is used as a fuel in waste-to-energy power plant.

– In Kymenlaakso we utilize about 97 % of household waste, almost half as material and more than half as energy”, Leppälä emphasized. Company also has solar panels, geothermal heating in office building, and garbage trucks are using biogas as their fuel.

– Hyötyvirta concept is a network of environmentally focused businesses”, told Mika Penttilä from Kouvola Innovation through video.

Because the demand for green and innovative bio-circular solutions and technology is growing, there is a need for Hyötyvirta concept, business park and circular economy centre in Kouvola.

– Circular economy concerns all companies, and gives opportunities to create new business”, he continued.

The business park is to be built close to waste treatment center, with good logistics connections, to enable as effective and versatile material treatment and utilization as possible.

– Logistics, the location between east and west, was Mika’s answer for question about the biggest advantage for businesses locating in Kymenlaakso.

Petteri Jernström, representing KymiLabs of South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences (Xamk), presented how Xamk can serve companies via environmental testing and RDI activities with focus area of forest, the environment and energy.

In Kymenlaakso region there are diverse RDI projects carried out in the fields of e.g. energy efficiency, fraction technology and carbon-curing of concrete. Environmental testings are Xamk’s KymiLabs main themes related to emission measurements, also testing of fuels and concrete.


The moderator Ari Lindeman summed up the topic of the day well:

– We need closely knit ecosystems around bioeconomy innovation and business for our regions to prosper and meet the climate challenge, he stated.

This is what we wanted to do in our webinar: knit different actors together and thus accelerate the development work.

We had over 100 registrants from 11 different countries, so not only we had great presentations, but very versatile audience as well. From the feedback we got merely positive comments, and especially the videos was said to be very interesting.

On the behalf of the BUT project I wish to thank all the presenters and participants!

Kirsi Tallinen
Project Manager, Xamk