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News, 10/31/2018

Michigan-Finland Forest Bioproduct Summit – Start of New Cooperation

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is one of the most forested regions in the United States, but forestry in U.P. is mostly of the traditional kind. In October, eight representatives from Finland arrived in Houghton County to take part in the Michigan-Finland Forest Bioproduct Summit to share with many local organizations their know-how regarding bioproducts.

Summit participants visited beautiful Brockway Mountain, located close to Copper Harbor.

The one-and-a-half day summit was a cooperative effort between Business Finland and FinnZone, a Houghton County-based commercial launchpad that assists Finnish companies entering or expanding in North American markets, and the Michigan Forest Biomaterials Institute, a non-profit corporation that provides education and services in the field of forest bioeconomy.

The summit was developed to show Finnish companies the research and commercialization opportunities in the Upper Peninsula, as well as to help local organizers determine the needs of Finnish companies looking to expand into the region.

“We achieved pretty much, considering that it was our first meeting,” said Patrick Visser, summit organizer and a co-director of FinnZone.

Photo: Kristin Ojaniemi
CEO of MTEC SmartZone Marilyn Clark gives a speech in the summit's welcome reception in the Finnish American Heritage Center.

The Finnish participants included companies like Stora Enso and Xport and organizations like VTT and the Finnish Consulate General from New York. The participants learned from each other by showing presentations. The participants were also offered a chance to engage in extra activities.

“The day before the summit the group had a welcome reception and the opportunity to go to the Quincy Mine. After the summit we showed them area and did a trip to Copper Harbor,” Visser said.

According to Visser, the Finnish companies were especially interested in replacing plastic — a product that Michigan makes more than any other state — with biomaterials. Organizers are trying to figure out what topics might be appropriate for future summits.

“Companies asked for a ‘matchmaking’ event where the corporations and customers could meet. We are going to explore that possibility further,” Visser said.

Photo: Kristin Ojaniemi
Co-director of FinnZone Patrick Visser shakes hands with Diana Olkowski in the welcome reception. Kevin Manninen, Professor of Management and Marketing in the Finlandia University, and the President of the Finlandia University Philip Johnson followed along.

In the future there might be more opportunities for American organizations and companies to work with Finnish equivalents in the field of bioproducts. Visser explained that Business Finland, which helps Finnish companies expand abroad, is going to include bioproduct companies under wider term called “circular economy.” That will add more potential companies to enter the discussions.

Before that, the conversation between the participants of the October summit is expected to move further.

“We received positive feedback from the companies and Business Finland,” Visser said. “There is an interest in continuing.”

Text by: Riina Rastas, Intern,The Finnish American Heritage Center 

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Updated 10/31/2018

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