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Report, 2008

WURC - Wood Ultrastructure Research Centre 1996-2007 Final report

Daniel, Geoffrey


The Wood Ultrastructure Research Centre (WURC) ( at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) was established July 1st 1996. The partners in the initial framework of WURC were STFI-Packforsk (STFI-Packforsk), the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) and Chalmers University of Technology (CTH) together with seven forest industry-related companies including: AssiDomän, Korsnäs, Mo och Domsjö, SCA, StoraEnso Södra Cell and Eka Chemicals. Through various divisions and mergers two further companies (Holmen, KappaKraftliner) joined WURC in phase 3 making a total of 9 supporting industries that remained with the Centre throughout its duration. The number of Universities involved in WURC´s activities expanded during later phases and members from the Departments of Biochemistry and Quantum Chemistry, Uppsala University as well from the Division of Chemistry, Karlstad University and Department of Natural Sciences, Örebro University also participated in the Centre’s activities. WURC´s mission has been to significantly increase the basic knowledge on wood and pulp fibres regarding their morphological ultrastructure, chemical structure and physical properties and to determine how these properties change after different chemical, mechanical and enzymatic treatments. The research conducted has been primarily fundamental in character and long-term and based on cooperation between Universities, industrial research Institutes and the R & D units of forest industry-related industries. During phases 3 and 4, WURC added more applied projects in-line with the industries request and began applying the knowledge gathered and the experimental toolbox developed from the more fundamental projects to specific industrial problems associated with Strength Delivery and Mechanical pulps). The establishment of WURC in Sweden has provided the opportunity for specialists from a number of widely different disciplines to cooperate and build a united body to carry out research on wood fibre structure mainly at the micro- and nano-levels; a research area which at the start of WURC was insignificantly developed in the country, but also elsewhere in comparison to the economic importance of the industry. During later phases, the nucleus of WURC´s activities between the University partners was concentrated to the UppsalaStockholm area. During phase 3, the number of projects in WURC´s portfolio was twenty reflecting a quadrupling from phases 1 - 2 and the interest in this type of research from both academia and industry alike. During phase 4, the number of projects was progressively reduced in-line with the running down and completing of the Centre´s activities. WURC has attained a high level of competence in the area of wood fibre ultrastructure during its ca 11 years existence. It has become internationally recognized (e.g. by annual international conferences, involvement in European COST actions, peer reviewed publications and symposium presentations, exchange of guest researchers etc) as a major Centre of Excellence interacting with the Swedish pulp and paper industry. By nature of its research, competence and critical mass (e.g. 50-60 people were involved wholly or part-time in WURC´s activities during years 2003/4) (phase 3), WURC was quite unique in the world. During the last 11 years, WURC scientists have been involved in over 300 scientific papers and symposia presentations and at closing, 17 PhD and 7 Licentiate graduates (wholly or partly financed) had successfully defended their theses within the Centre. The Centre has further organized 10 international, 11 major internal industry/academia interactive seminars and numerous other industry-academia project-group meetings through its era. The Centre has had an international advisory group of leading scientists that have further been active in advising WURC´s management, vetting project developments and directions during annual seminars. WURC has used a working model based on interactions between industry and academia at all levels throughout its phases. Initially WURC´s board was comprised of representatives from member companies, VINNOVA, SLU and later on STFI-Packforsk. The chairman has been from STFI-Packforsk and the directors from StoraEnso (1996-1998), SLU (1998-2007) and vice-director from Sveaskog (2001-2007). WURC has had an Industrial Advisory (Reference) Group (IRG) comprised of representatives from all the supporting companies and together with WURC´s management team used to vet all project proposals for both academic and industrial possibilities. During phases 3/4, the group was very active in the establishment and running of industry orientated projects involving industry project leaders. The group has monitored the progress of the WURC projects and provided specialized fibre materials (e.g. chemical/mechanical pulps, wood samples) for the different projects. WURC has had a primary focus on fundamental research on fibre ultrastructure, thus the major major added benefits of the Centre has been the creation and development of interdisciplinary interactions between the Swedish pulp and paper industry and WURC scientists in a research area of common interest. During its later phases, WURC revised its major research focus to include industrial orientated projects concerning Pulp 2000, Strength Delivery and Mechanical pulps. Research of the more applied nature comprised ca 35 % of WURC´s total budget in phases 3/4 and within this group; the majority of the in-kind contributions from WURC´s industrial partners (ca 36 %) were located. During later phases, the in kind contributions from industry/University also exceeded that contracted. The challenge for WURC´s future has been to retain its academic standard at international level and at the same time further develop the industrial applications and significance of its knowledge. Great efforts were made to secure financing for continuation of the Centre after the VINNOVA Competence Centre era in 2007. This process was initiated already Autumn 05 and progressed through board activities, numerous management meetings, a writing of gaps in our knowledge document by WURC´s scientists and areas of research priority given by WURC´s member companies. This culminated in a successful application to VINNOVAs “Branschforsknings fund” February 08 for program entitled Process and product developments through unique knowledge of wood fibre ultrastructure (2008- 2011) (WURC INNOVATION). The program will include strong collaboration between University/Institute partners SLU, STFI-Packforsk, KTH and Mid-Sweden University with member companies EkaChemicals, Holmen, SCA, SmurfitKraftliner, StoraEnso and Södra Cell. Securement of the new grant with continued industry support is a testimony to the success WURC has achieved.

Published in

Publisher: Wood Ultrastructure Research Centre, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Products

UKÄ Subject classification

Wood Science

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