Bringing innovation from an idea to business takes skilled management and complementarity

Curious R&D teams often speak a bit different language than their colleagues in production and sales. These two groups of professionals are also motivated by different factors – and for a good reason. While the task of production and sales is to utilize well-known opportunities and solve known problems, R&D people are professionals in identifying unknown opportunities and defining poorly known problems. This is illustrated in Scheme 1. Said with a pinch of salt, research people get bored as soon as something is well known while their colleagues in production and sales find anything poorly known appalling. A hard fact is, though, that smooth transfer of an R&D project from the former to the latter is often a challenge to the management. A gap between these two groups can kill even a very potent innovation project. In innovation, market research is to to sales what product development is to production. While the need of good communication and close cooperation between these two lines is usually well recognized, the importance of closing the gap discussed in Scheme 1 often gets much less attention. KEY TO SUCCESS To overcome both of the abovementioned managerial challenges, it is important that representatives of production and sales are involved in an innovation project already in its early stage and that R&D people remain in the project team all the way until commercialization. Not only does such practice increase the success rate of individual innovation projects, but it is also excellent training for all participants. Training like this also promotes multidisciplinary skills and talents, thus increasing the company’s intellectual capital. A shared sense of complementarity...

Whether it’s innovation or an investment project, uncertainty and exposure don’t mix well.

As experienced project managers know so well, the key to bringing an industrial investment project successfully to its completion is that the level of uncertainty is brought to a low level before major capital expenditure. The more capital is invested in a project, the larger is the exposure to potential losses, e.g., in the case of delays or failures. This is illustrated in Scheme 1.   Of course, as managers of business operations know all too well, uncertainty in business is never quite at zero, and some risk is always present. Nevertheless, a smoothly operating industrial complex shall hold only a tiny fraction of the uncertainty that an early stage R&D project can happily host.     To be innovative, a company must manage development projects from their embryonic stage of high uncertainty to their commercial stage of high exposure.  Normally, however, such companies don’t have all the necessary expertise and capabilities within it’s own organization, but they use the services of selected partners, instead.   Curiosity for ideas and tolerance of their initial uncertainty is important to innovation, but even more important is the ability of bringing this high initial uncertainty down fast, cost efficiently and in an organized manner. Inability of doing this is the usual cause of failed innovation projects. Quoting Rainer Häggblom, Chairman in Vision Hunters Ltd., formed Chairman and CEO of Jaakko Pöyry Consulting Ltd. and a good friend of mine, “Innovation without commercialization is mere hallucination.”   SciTech-Service has a long history of serving its customers in bringing down uncertainty at all stages of innovation and investment projects (shown along the x-axis of...

How and why did non-printed digital media take over?

That the kingdom of media and communication is ruled by the digital is no news. Some 20 years ago it wasn’t news, yet, but a future vision. How and why did this revolution happen? To analyze this, it’s more useful to divide media into printed and non-printed categories, rather than into printed and digital. This is because the value chains of printed media were first digitalized – and gained hugely from that – and only later were they gradually taken over by the non-printed digital media. The progress of this revolution is illustrated in Scheme 1, where columns represent value-adding chains of media, proceeding from feed stock storage to final end-use – the reception of delivered knowledge by a human consumer. The field of knowledge, again, is divided into four segments; from the lowest value knowledge (data) to that of the highest value (understanding). In the case of understanding, absorption, rather that mere reception may be a more proper term for the end-user’s role.   Digital technology reduced the need of printing first in the upper-left corner of the matrix, i.e, in the beginning of media’s value chain and when data, the simplest form of knowledge was handled.  This started to happen already in the 1970’s, when, e.g., first digital cash registers and inventory systems were launched. (In Finland it was done by Nokia, when the company was still also making rubber boots and sneakers.). However, here the user interface is still usually a printed receipt. Gradually, as digital technologies developed, non-printed media started taking over all four value chains presented in Scheme 1. Today, the market share of...

Shall the gigantic subsidies to fossil fuels cease?

The “Polluter pays” principle is well and widely accepted among policy makers and industries. Applying this principle is the basis on which, e.g., modern waste management and recycling systems are successfully built – and the construction continues. The consumer is increasingly often put in the driver’s seat, when new waste minimization and recycling initiatives are introduced. Maybe the most striking exception to these practices is carbon dioxide from the use of fossil resources – primarily as fuels. Managing carbon dioxide waste by the same principles and practices would mean that the cost of removing carbon dioxide waste from the atmosphere should be added to the consumer prices of fossil fuels, and that the industry should arrange the removal. The same division of responsibilities would hereby be applied to CO2 recycling. Not applying the “polluter pays” principle and good waste management practice to carbon dioxide waste means a huge subsidy to fossil fuels. Based on the rough numbers available, the CO2 collection cost alone would add some 250$ to the price of an oil barrel. Incidentally, the cost of planting forest and growing a corresponding amount of wood to do the collection – and also the first step of recycling – is of similar magnitude. This translates into gigantic (actually even larger, “terantic” or trillions of dollars) annual subsidies to the use of fossil resources, globally. The fact that the subsidies given to the use of renewable fuels and power are marginal when compared to those poured to fossil fuels, doesn’t mean that subsidizing renewables is always a good idea. Subsidies tend to cause forgetfulness in critical thinking. When there...

Welcome to the bioeconomy in 2016 – we´ve saved you a seat!

SciTech-Service has been a leading developer of new solutions for the biomass processing industry for more than 30 years. Admittedly, the first 20+ years we called it the pulp and paper industry, but the aim has always been the same, to produce added value from biomass for our clients. Back around 10 years ago when I was starting my journey at SciTech our senior partner Heikki Hassi put it like this: “mankind is searching for a travelable route towards a biomass driven economy – gradually away from the current fossil driven economy”. That search is not only continuing, it is starting to gain significant momentum and well deserved attention from the surrounding society. For us at SciTech this has meant that the last years we have been working more with questions connected to specialty pulps, lignin recovery and hemicellulose utilization than questions regarding fully bleached paper pulp. Last year I was handed the torch of Managing Partner at SciTech from the company’s founder Panu Tikka, an honor I am most grateful for and a function I will try to fulfill to the best of my ability. Panu will now focus on giving scientific input in our projects and leave bureaucracy to the rest of our growing team. When considering the range of questions we are working on 2016 promises to be an interesting year. So, when Your Company needs a knowledgeable guide to the expanding terrain of the Bioeconomy in the New Year, just send us a message and we can go explore...

Man-Made Cellulosic Conversion Fibre

The Finnish term for Man Made Cellulosic Fibre is ”Selluloosamuuntokuitu”, which better translates into ”Converted Cellulosic Fibre” or “Cellulosic Conversion Fibre”. Either way, it quite nicely describes the essence of viscose fibre and other regenerated cellulose fibres: In an industrial process, the natural cellulose polymer is converted from the form of fibre pulp into the form of textile filament and staple fibre. But there is much more to it. After the filament forming process, conversion continues into the form of either non-woven fabrics or into yarn spinning, dyeing and further into fabric forming by knitting or weaving. Fabrics, again, find their end-uses in numerous applications from technical textiles to branded fashion garments. After all these conversions, the humble fibre may have multiplied its initial value by a factor of several hundred. In this value-adding process, the next conversion step is always the immediate customer of the previous one, and the demanding end-user is the customer of all steps. Performing well in all these conversions and in the end-use application requires carefully defined features and properties of the fibre. Disappointing the customer – either the immediate or the final one – is costly. A strong combination of theoretical knowledge, experience and skill is required from the suppliers to this value chain with consistently well performing cellulosic fibre. In SciTech-Service, we strive to do our part in fulfilling this demand by providing our customers with the necessary expertise and related services. Our expertise extends from biomasses all the way to cellulosic textile fibres, and is supported by laboratories specially designed for trials in pulping, bleaching, viscose dope preparation and fibre spinning....

Congratulations! VTT demonstrates cellulosic innovativeness.

SciTech-Service warmly congratulates VTT for the progress on their cellulose dissolving and spinning technique, which now is entering the demonstration stage. (See: http://www.vttresearch.com/media/news/unique-production-experiment-in-progress-turning-waste-cotton-into-new-fibre-for-the-fashion-industry ) We are glad to provide our demonstration scale spinning line and our expert team to VTT’s service for this purpose. The operational landscape of the textile industry is changing as new regulations for handling textile waste are enforced. For example, starting 2016, organic waste like clothing may no longer be disposed of at landfills. Already for some time, forward looking brand owners, retailers and manufacturers of the textile value chain have been actively searching for means and ways to benefit from this change, rather than taking it as a given burden. Welcome to the circular economy! Cellulose is a versatile polymer, abundant in Nature in the form of fibrous plant cells. These cells are fine composite structures, designed to purpose during millions or billions of years of evolution. One part of this purpose is to integrate the plants life into the biosphere’s carbon cycle. This integration also provides cellulose polymer with its renewability. The recent human initiative of circular economy is a necessary adaptation to Nature’s cycle – which is eternal in human perspective. Developing novel and improved industrial technologies for the manufacture of cellulosic products is one of the key areas of the emerging bioeconomy and circular economy – two overlapping ideas for our future. Getting things from laboratory to industrial scale necessarily involves pilot trials in demonstration scale. With our 100kg/d scale spinning line, the Scitech team is eager to help. Wishing Many Happy Spinnings to VTT, Ethica, Pure Waste, Seppälä, Suez, and...

Experienced pilot can navigate your biomass process to industrial harbor

Having more than 10 000 biomass fractionation trials under its belt, SciTech’s bench scale biomass conversion pilot plant is probably the most experienced player in this field, globally. At the laboratory, various wood species and different annual plants have been converted into cellulose pulps and lignin fractions. Isolating hemicelluloses is also a growing trend. Today, no serious thinker can oppose the general idea of increasing the use of renewable resources to substitute for traditional fossil resources. However, translating this idea into sustainable industrial biomass conversion processes requires in depth understanding of biomass and its behavior in chemical and physical conversion processes. Biorefineries are not, and will never be exactly like oil refineries. In contrast to oil and other mineral resources, lignocellulosic biomass has composite macrostructure and fibrous microstructure, both based on cellulose polymer. Such structure allows for, e.g., the use of wood as construction material, use of pulp in paper and packaging boards and cellulose polymer in textile fibres. The versatile structural properties of lignocellulosic biomass also make it a challenging feedstock for chemical and biochemical conversion processes. As a rule, the progress of biomass conversion reactions is limited by factors rising from this heterogenic structure rather than simply by reaction kinetics observed in homogenous conditions. Furthermore, biomass is not biomass – they vary greatly depending on the source plant specie and growth conditions. Pilot trials in bench scale is the right route to bring an altered or novel biomass fractionation process from laboratory scale to the readiness for industrial plant engineering. This conceptual engineering process is SciTech Service’s specialty. The very successful Super Batch process of Metso as...