The conference will start the process of facilitating inter-business relationships that will help drive future projects in 3 key focus areas:
- Wood fiber innovation: Wood conversion and refining technologies can produce a myriad of bioproducts including biofuels and lubricants, bioplastics, biofabrics, resins, platform chemicals and polymers, composites, and carbon fibers and films. These bioproducts are of interest to various manufacturing industries, and may be served with existing facilities and waste streams, such as automotive and automotive suppliers, furniture, and medicines. Research and development is important in facilitating the transition from petroleum to bio-based alternatives, and in discovering new applications that are environmentally benign. Linkages to residual re-use and recycling operations will be important in optimizing value-added options, developing new markets, and closing the loop in the bioeconomy.
- Mass timber buildings: Mass timber buildings are currently resurging around the world – particularly the use of mass timber in tall buildings. New engineered wood products such as CLT (Cross Laminated Timber) is enabling the construction of mid-rise and high-rise buildings. Since building with mass timber displaces the use of concrete and steel (and offsets the associated carbon emissions) and stores carbon for a long period, it is seen as a very advantageous in the transition to the bioeconomy. The establishment of a tall, mass timber building (CLT) market in Michigan, should begin with concentrated effort to support and to build the first tall, mass timber building in Michigan.
- Wood recycling: For the bioeconomy to be efficient and enduring it should be organized and operated as a closed-loop or “circular economy”. This requires business models and supply chains to transition from linear (raw materials through to landfills), to circular, reducing waste and pollution. Forest biomaterials are conducive to re-use, recycling and safe re-entry into the ecosystem and lend themselves to a circular system. A successful transition to this sustainable future relies on collaborating across sectors of industry and indeed, across sectors of society. The use of residual and waste woody debris from forest, farm or city is vital to the transition to a bioeconomy and can be sourced from the harvesting process, manufacturing processes, and post consumer use. These various sources of wood fiber feedstocks can be recycled or captured as solid wood (e.g. housing deconstruction) for re-use. While many wood residuals are already being utilized for renewable energy, or re-use in construction, there is opportunity to upcycle these lower value materials into higher value bioproducts and avoid their expensive and unnecessary landfilling.