History of Wallenberg Wood Science Center

The forest industry in Sweden

The Swedish forest industry has a strong position internationally, and Sweden is the world’s second-largest exporter of pulp, paper, and sawn wood products. Finland and Sweden are leading in technology and product development in Europe. Yet, the Eucalyptus-based industries worldwide show strong competitive advantages, e.g., Eucalyptus being a fast-growing resource. In addition, the strongest market developments are taking place far away from the locations of Swedish forests. 

The Swedish forest industry is thus facing challenges, and in this scenario, gradual improvements of existing products and technologies are no longer sufficient. As compensation for potential losses of wood utilization in “old” products, a substantial part of our future wood production will instead be utilized in new products where they can offer sustainable bio-based alternatives to today’s fossil-based materials in applications such as packaging, automotive, and general industrial applications.

The start of WWSC

WWSC was inaugurated in 2009, enabled by a generous donation from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation. The funding from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation for 2009 – 2018 was 450 MSEK: the largest Swedish research effort ever in this field. 

WWSC was established as a joint research center at KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Chalmers University of Technology with the aim of building a strong materials research program that could support the development of products using the Swedish forests. The center launched a strategic research program, where the general objective was to underpin research to stimulate innovations and new products in the long-term perspective. A focus was on new processing and material concepts, and their development. 

WWSC combined the best resources from KTH and Chalmers and the program formulation generated considerable enthusiasm. The reason was that unexpected synergies and competences were identified.

WWSC 2019 –

In 2019, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation decided to continue the support to this field of research. Together with support from the industry via the platform Treesearch, the funding for WWSC was expanded to 72 MSEK per year until 2022, with a possible extension until 2026, and potentially until 2028. To take full advantage of the knowledge and skills acquired during the first 10 years and to unleash potential cross-disciplinary breakthroughs, WWSC was expanded with a strong research group focusing on electronics based on cellulose at Linköping University.