Metsä Spring is the venture capital arm of Metsä Group, which invests worldwide in promising startups and early-stage companies with a visible path to the Metsä Group business ecosystem. In addition to financing, Metsä Spring also provides access to Metsä Group’s global network and expertise.
Metsä Spring was established two years ago and it has so far familiarised itself with more than 300 startups and other potential innovations. Three of these have already become concrete Metsä Spring projects.
“Our mission is to find and develop early-stage ideas that could introduce new dimensions to Metsä Group’s business ecosystem in the future. All ideas assessed to date have been related to forests or the forest industry in one way or another’’, says Niklas von Weymarn, CEO of Metsä Spring.
Metsä Spring will prove most beneficial to companies which already have an existing, concrete bioproduct. The new financing enables, typically, the startups to scale up the production of their product. Moreover, Metsä Spring is also interested in business ideas that rely on a service product linked to the Metsä Group ecosystem.
The demo plant making textile fibre is ready
At the end of 2018, Metsä Spring established a joint venture with Japanese Itochu Corporation, which began to build a demo plant in Äänekoski, Finland. The demo plant produces a new kind of textile fibre from wood pulp.
The demo plant is starting soon with the aim to demonstrate a direct dissolution method, which takes advantage of a new compound that dissolves pulp and is more environmentally friendly than current manufacturing methods for textile fibre.
“It’s essentially a project, in which we try to demonstrate the function of the new production process. In parallel, we’ll be closely testing the market reactions related to the new textile fibre and naturally feed back the learnings to the development of the production process.. In the best case scenario, we’ll after a successful demonstration decide on building a much bigger textile fibre factory with our sights set on the global market.”
Woodio – an interesting design company
Metsä Spring’s second investment was into Woodio – a startup that utilises waterproof wood composite material to make products such as washbasins for bathrooms and kitchens. The company’s main raw material consists of small chips, which it can procure from the side-streams of Metsä Group’s production units. Woodio has recently released its first design-washbasin produced from chips obtained from a Metsä Group mill.
Woodio is also looking for a bio-based resin, which would replace the resin it uses today. This would make its products entirely bio-based.
“That would be a great step forward,” says von Weymarn, who also sits on Woodio’s Board of Directors.
A new wood-based product as an alternative to plastic
Metsä Spring has started a cooperation with Valmet aiming to develop a new wood-based product and an entirely new kind of production method to obtain this product.
“We’ll use pulp made by the Metsä Group as raw material. If we’re successful, we’ll end up with a new product for the Finnish forest industry with significant added value. Our ambition lies in large-scale markets’’, says Jarkko Tuominen, Project Lead at Metsä Spring.
The primary objective of the cooperation is to replace plastic with pulp-based alternatives. It involves three-dimensional products, such as food packages, that are safe, reduce food waste and are both easily recyclable and biodegradable.
“The product would be made to shape, and would be ready for use as it is. Logistically, it’s important for the products to be light but strong, and for them to allow stacking one inside the other,” says Tuominen.
A pilot plant, in which the technical concept would be tested and developed further, is currently on the drawing boards.
“Replacing plastic on the market is realistic, but naturally it also requires to learn new things and new kinds of agile operating methods.’’