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Our approach to innovation combines our capabilities with renewable materials to drive change towards a more sustainable future. We address trends that affect our customers and end-consumers, while advancing solutions to reduce dependence on fossil-based materials.
To meet the challenges of developing new raw materials and products for the circular bio-economy, we bring together cross-disciplinary teams of highly skilled professionals, the latest research and customer insights. The combination of excellent know-how about our current products, how they are used and the processes to produce them in industrial scale is the foundation for creating new solutions. They can be new properties or uses for wood and fiber based materials, new business models or service concepts built around our core knowhow. Additionally, we are constantly looking for ways in which we can improve processes, save energy and use resources efficiently in our operations, for our customers and throughout the value chain.
We are investing for the future to strengthen our own capabilities to innovate and bring new products and solutions to the market. Stora Enso's expenditure on innovation, research and development in 2020 was EUR 146 (141) million, which was equivalent to 1.7% of sales. We have also established internal funds to be used in an agile manner in novel projects with high business potential. Intellectual property is an increasingly important tool to support our strategy. We actively assess the patent landscapes for our growth areas and evaluate where we seek partnerships through licensing IP into or out from Stora Enso.
Innovation is not limited to products; therefore, an integral part of our innovation is commercializing new ideas. The goal is to find fast-tracks towards a/the renewable and sustainable world by exploring new raw materials and solutions and testing their viability for industrial scale production in our top-notch research labs. Longer term research and early phase results are part of our engagements in Science and Research with the aim of supporting current and future Innovation activities as well as building our competence basis for bringing in new fundamental insights into the company. We acknowledge that a strong scientific foundation is essential in making right selections and choices regarding the future renewable materials solutions in terms of product and service performance as well as sustainability.
Innovation themes at Stora Enso include a focus on wooden construction, fiber-based solutions for packaging, hygiene and textile applications, lignin-based breakthrough material and chemical applications, as well as digitalisation and platform business. Addressing broader markets and different areas in the circular bioeconomy, our focus on innovation has resulted in a number of recent launches and communications, which you can read more about below.
What if you could replace graphitic carbon in lithium-ion batteries with something more sustainable? Lignode® by Stora Enso is a hard carbon that is a bio-based alternative made from lignin – an existing by-product in the production of cellulose fiber. Lignin is renewable, traceable and is already being produced in millions of tonnes in Europe – enabling the fast-growing battery business to become more sustainable.
Group Innovation and R&D team is coordinating the long and mid-term research supporting the Stora Enso strategic agenda. The team is connected with research providers and associations as well as innovation initiatives and start-ups.