Research agenda sets out to define the ambitions of the European forest industry

Swedish researchers and key players from the forest-based sector have drawn up a joint research agenda that sets out the investments needed to support sustainable societal development, according to Swedish Forest Industries.

Two priority areas for this agenda are the need for forestry management practices that protect biodiversity and steps to ensure that forests are a source of competitive fossil-free products.

Hundreds of people from the research community and business have worked on the new Swedish forest-based sector’s research agenda for a circular bio-based society. The research agenda aligns with the joint work of the European forest-based sector within the Forest-based Sector Technology Platform (FTP) and includes an important regional aspect. Johan Elvnert, FTP Secretary General, says: “The Swedish forest-based sector’s research agenda complements the FTP’s European agenda well, and it also focuses on specific Swedish interests and needs. National research agendas are important to define the work and ambitions of the European forest-based sector, where our common agenda is reflected in countries’ specific circumstances.”

Within Horizon Europe, the European framework programme for research and innovation, Elvnert expects that biological diversity will continue to be a high-priority area in relation to forests.

He says: “FTP has a key role in showing how the preservation of biodiversity and other societal challenges can be tackled in different ways and ensuring that research resources are directed towards more relevant areas. We highlight the less obvious but important connections in which research often includes more aspects of the forest-based value chain.”

Elvnert takes research on forest land and the development of new digital tools in forestry as examples of one of many unknown areas that could promote biodiversity. Such areas optimise the role of forest machinery in forests and can thus reduce soil damage, protect biodiversity, and strengthen the competitiveness of sustainable forest management.

Elvnert believes that the forest-based sector has good opportunities to implement relevant projects as part of Horizon Europe.

Statistics show that the European Union spent 300 million euros on research and development in the forest-based sector in 2021 – and that amount is growing steadily. Large and small businesses have equal access to funding under Horizon Europe, and in most cases actors must co-operate with other organisations or universities within the EU.

The EU highlights collaboration as being central to achieving Horizon Europe’s goal of contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through research and innovation.

Elvnert says: “The relationship to the forest is not as obvious in Europe as it is in Nordic countries. It’s vital that the EU’s forest-rich nations understand that difference and realise what an important mission the forest-based sector has to share its knowledge. Even though it’s sometimes easier to participate in national research projects, forest industry actors need to participate in research at EU level. Just by being there, it’s possible to make visible how the forest sector contributes to the SDGs.”