Long-term research collaborations behind billion-dollar investment in bio-based adhesives

Sweden will become a world leader in research on bio-based adhesives. In 2024, the BioGlue Centre will open, a multi-billion euro initiative involving universities and companies. This competence centre is the result of many years of research initiatives and, with the support of BioInnovation and others, it aims to replace fossil-based adhesives with more environmentally and climate-friendly alternatives.

The BioGlue Centre will open in 2024, making Sweden a world leader in the development of bio-based adhesives. The adhesives that are currently fossil-based and serve as binders in wood-based products in furniture and in construction, account for a significant part of the climate impact of several industries. Within paper packaging, which already uses bio-based adhesives, there is also a request for improvement, something that the BioGlue Centre will address.

Over a five-year period, with the possibility of a further five year extension, the competence centre will receive SEK 36 million from the Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems, Vinnova. Here, SLU, Linnaeus University and KTH will lead the development work, in close cooperation with twelve companies in the furniture, packaging and construction industries.

Stergios Adamopoulos

Stergios Adamopoulos, professor at the Swedish Agricultural University.

The companies, which include suppliers of bio-based raw materials and manufacturers of binders as well as wood and paper products, will finance the remainder of the total budget of SEK 110 million. The main Swedish funders include IKEA, AkzoNobel, Stora Enso, Tetra Pak and Södra.

– The BioGlue Centre addresses an urgent need for increased sustainability by replacing fossil-based adhesives with bio-based alternatives. The furniture, construction and packaging industry accounts for 25 percent of the adhesives consumed globally, this is a unique initiative and a unique opportunity to make a significant difference, says Stergios Adamopoulos, Professor of Wood Science and Technology at SLU, and director of the centre.

A result of previous research initiatives

The initiative is a further development of the years of collaboration between academia and companies, which has fuelled the development of fossil-free adhesives through projects such as BioInnovation. One of the projects within BioInnovation, which is showing very promising results, aimed to develop and validate starch-based adhesives for circular fibreboards, both in laboratory and in industrial environments.

The main partners in the project were IKEA, Lantmännen and Akzo Nobel, and together with SLU and Linnaeus University they have now progressed to a follow-up project funded by Vinnova, in order to demonstrate industrial manufacturing and subsequent recycling processes.

– The BioGlue Centre is a further development of previous research activities. With this long-term support, we are ensuring research in the field and creating an environment where academia, research institutes and companies learn from each other. Achieving continuity is incredibly important in order to meet the sectors’ shared challenge of replacing fossil-based adhesives, says Stergios Adamopoulos.

“The initiative will have a major impact”

The BioGlue Centre will focus on research that can be widely used, rather than targeting the development of products and materials for specific industries or needs. KTH will be responsible for the understanding of raw materials and for studying of green chemistries and formulations.

SLU is the coordinator of the centre, and will create an understanding of the interactions between bioadhesives and the substrates to which the adhesives are to be applied, and of the performance of the bio-based adhesives. Linnaeus University is developing know-how about application technology for bioadhesives in different products, the properties of the end products, and their environmental impact.

–The goal of the BioGlue Centre is to become a world-leading research environment for bio-based adhesives. Sweden’s competitive advantage is that we have universities with extensive expertise in the field, as well as major international players along the entire value chain. There is nothing like this anywhere else, and this initiative will have a major impact, concludes Stergios Adamopoulos.