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An Ancient Material Sparks Innovative Ideas Across Europe

The WOODWISDOM-NET project actively seeks ways to make full use of this ancient material by studying and seeking to alter and improve the properties of wood. In doing so, they have devised various ways of improving its sustainability and developed innovative products. But it has also ensured all ideas adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change, and secure biodiversity.

In essence, the project can be counted as a success story which is continuing to evolve. Having started in 2004 with the ERA-NET consortium of five countries, it then increased to twelve countries during the second stage of the project in 2009. European interest continues to increase at a dramatic rate with new countries joining; Austria, Switzerland, Slovakia, and UK as well as new organisations from Germany, France and Sweden.

The first two WOODWISDOM-NET ERA-NETs built a strong community at a European level involving different countries (mainly research agencies and ministries), which was, in itself, a great achievement. This provided the advantage of building a strong community with experts enabling the project to provide faster and better solutions, which allowed for a more effective and efficient utilisation of funding.

Now the project is into its third chapter with WOODWISDOM-NET+ with many countries submitting their proposals to the project for the joint call for funding of their wood-based ideas. The total cost of the 80 proposals is worth an estimated EUR 124.7 million, with the largest number of coordinators coming from Finland (33 in total). Other active project coordinator countries are Germany, Sweden, Slovenia and Austria. But there have also been applicants from 15 third countries, including the USA and New Zealand. Demonstrating that the project has turned from European interest into worldwide interest.

The coordinator of this unique project is Dr Ilmari Absetz from Tekes Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation. He is also qualified in civil engineering and has a research background focused on moisture behaviour of wood and woodbased products. He says, 'The proposals we have received include sustainable management of forest resources, and value added products, for which we have the most applicants. The call for proposals is now closed so now we are checking the eligibility of the pre-proposals and their suitability for national funding. After that we hope the selected proposals can start early next year.'

He adds, 'The project’s success over the last decade is due to working with different countries and organisations and making them all compatible, in other words streamlining. I think what we have achieved so far is quite remarkable, particularly when you look at the fact most of the ERA-NET consortium are busy professionals who work part-time on the project. But we have regular meetings with open discussions, as well as annual seminars where various projects are presented so we can see the progress made. This has been important.'

WOODWISDOM-NET projects in the past have included; a TES-Energy Façade, which used timber to improve the energy efficiency of buildings targeted at the refurbishment of the existing building stock built from 1950's to 1980's. This is a project which the ERA-NET consortium believes could make a huge impact in the future with European building stocks being renovated in the coming decades.

Other projects include refining wood derivatives for high-value medical products, designing new cellulose-base nanostructures for potential high-tech applications like intelligent surfaces, and making more durable window frames.

Project details

  • Project acronym: WOODWISDOM-NET
  • Participants: Finland (Coordinator), France, Slovenia, Germany, Lithuania, United Kingdom, Norway, Slovakia, Austria, Sweden, Ireland, Switzerland
  • Project FP7 321573
  • Total costs: €24 242 425
  • EU contribution: €8 000 000
  • Duration: November 2012 - November 2017

Source: EU Research and Innovation - An Ancient Material Sparks Innovative Ideas Across Europe