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Published: 2009-09-15

SEK 25 million for ‘strong research environment’ at UPSC

NEWS A research group at Umeå Plant Science Centre (UPSC) had been chosen by the Swedish Research Council Formas has chosen as one of the seven new "Strong Research Environments". The research consortium will share SEK 25 million during a five year period from 2010-2014 to create a sustainable biomass and bioprocessing properties of wood.

“This is an incredibly gratifying announcement, and further evidence of the research excellence that takes place Umeå Plant Science Centre,” says Åsa Rasmuson-Lestander, Dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology at Umeå University.

A total of seven strong research environments in Sweden will receive SEK 175 million in funding. The areas have been chosen due their significant scientific quality with the purpose of developing a more sustainable society.
“This is a very important initiative. We want to create a new research environment in which wood biologists, wood chemists and ecologists work together to create a sustainable production of trees with new and enhanced properties, "says Hannele Tuominen, Associate Professor at Umeå Plant Science Centre.

Forest raw material has again become an attractive source of energy because of its easy availability, low cost and minimal climate impact. Scientists in this strong research environment will focus on improving forest raw materials using bioprocessing techniques.“We will now develop genetically modified hybrid aspen trees with improved growth and biomass production, and then test them in field conditions. Our preliminary results from the greenhouse show that there is tremendous potential,” says Hannele TuominenShe also points out that they have new ideas about how the tree raw material can be used in biorefineries to produce chemicals, materials and various forms of biofuels.
“These "ancillary products" from the pulp production may be critical to raise the added value of the Swedish forest raw materials and increasing the profitability of processing industries, "says Hannele Tuominen.

The scientists will study how the chemistry and structure of wood and its major components, cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin, is controlled at the molecular level. By changing these components, the scientists hope to improve the usability of wood in biorefineries.

The strong research environment is titled ”Bioimprove – Improved biomass and bioprocessing properties of wood” and is a continuation of the leading research carried out at Umeå Plant Science Centre, a collaboration between Umeå University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Umeå. Scientists at the Department of Chemistry at Umeå University are included in this new research consortium

High-resolution press photo of Hannele Tuominen
Photo credit: Mattias Pettersson

Umeå Plant Science Centre homepage
For further information contact:Hannele Tuominen, Assistant Professor, Umea Plant Science Centre, Umeå UniversityPhone: +46 (0)90-786 96 93
E-mail: hannele.tuominen@plantphys.umu.se

Editor: Karin Wikman