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Wood and Beyond

Wood and Beyond

Rotorua-based Crown Research Institute, Forest Research has recently announced a pivotal refocus of its research effort, with a move into selected areas of science discovery.

These areas will underpin developments in the rapidly emerging global biomaterials market.
With a recent decline in traditional revenue sources, Forest Research embarked on a comprehensive strategic planning process to examine future global scenarios and, within these, the technological responses to changing market and consumer needs.

The overwhelming conclusion was that biomaterials, or non-food materials based on plants, will become a major and continuing influence in global manufacturing over the next decade.

In announcing the company’s plans, Chief Executive, Bryce Heard said “With the growing consumer demand for renewable and biodegradable products, Forest Research will use long-term government funding as well as venture capital, to focus more resources into the key science areas that underpin technology advances in the biomaterials field”.

“Forest Research recognises that the world needs, and is beginning to demand, new high-performance materials based on renewable plant sources. This trend is being driven by growing restrictions on fossil fuels, and increased environmental concerns around waste. Petrochemicals are used as a basis for modern synthetics, but plants provide a renewable source of chemical ‘building blocks’ for almost all materials. With New Zealand’s favourable climate range for plant growth, and our well-established agricultural and plantation forest industry, we foresee huge opportunities for this country in biomaterial development.”

Wood is the most widely used renewable biomaterial in the world today. “Over the past decade, we have extended our expertise into areas beyond the traditional forestry value chain, and discovered new sources of bio-based materials from wood, other plants and waste streams.” Mr Heard says Forest Research is also extending the traditional uses of wood by developing new high-performance composites made from fibre and plastic. These materials can be used for a wide range of specialist products that are both recyclable and biodegradable.

“In widening our biomaterial base, we can help New Zealand industry to seize opportunities in future markets where renewable and biodegradable products will be the norm”, Mr Heard said. “We have carefully segmented our business to cater for the ongoing needs of our existing clients, as well as building for the needs of our future clients. New skill-sets being developed around carefully selected transformation science platforms, coupled with rigorous and systematic new processes for developing good ideas into commercial products, and we have the new look Forest Research.”

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