3.4 million from the EU to develop a replacement material for concrete

The City of Lappeenranta and the Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) with their partners have acquired significant funding from the EU for the development of a replacement building material for concrete and a new kind of cityscape. The total cost of the Urban Infra Revolution project is EUR 4.2 million, of which 80%, or EUR 3.4 million, will come from the Urban Innovation Action (UIA) programme of the ERDF. The rest will be covered by the organisations participating in the project.

On the Finnish scale, this is a significant three-year circular economy project in which a new sustainable material is developed by combining forest and mining industry side streams. It is intended to replace concrete in the construction industry as the cement industry accounts for 7% of the world's carbon dioxide emissions. The aim is also to develop an entirely new way of building. The best case scenario would be that the material and methods created through the development work are also suitable for other cities in the world, making them part of new urban architecture.

"In addition to technological solutions, we are researching the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and new business models. On-site 3D printing of the new material for construction will also be developed during the project", says Mari Kallioinen, Director of the RE-SOURCE research platform at LUT.

"The new target product is a composite material that can be reinforced with biofibres, for example. Composite products have a long life cycle and can be safely recycled even after use. The side streams utilised include ash, green liquor dregs, tailings as well as construction and fibre waste", says CEO of Apila Group Mervi Matilainen, PhD.

"With concrete and 3D printing of the new material, it may be possible to escape the rigid design language of building and to create curved and even functional shapes. The new material could be used to manufacture, for example, more aesthetically pleasing noise barriers, park benches and skateboard ramps. That is why design companies are involved in our project", say advisors Terhi Jantunen and Eeva Pihlajaniemi from the City of Lappeenranta.

"The EU project acts as a natural continuation for FIMAtec's development path, as new eco-friendly construction materials with superior features will change the world significantly already in the near future. FIMAtec wants to be involved in this development and act as a pioneer", says Antti Korhonen, Director of Business Development at FIMAtec.

A significant business network involved

The project kicks off in early November 2017 and it will continue until 31 October 2020. In addition to the City of Lappeenranta and LUT, the project involves the Saimaa University of Applied Sciences, Imatra Region Development Company (Kehy), Metsäliitto, Apila Group, Outotec, Nordkalk, FIMAtec, UPM, Total Design and Design Reform.

"This project will build Lappeenranta's status as an internationally interesting partner. The city has not previously been involved in a development project of this size that is directly funded by the EU. Our determined development work has paid off", says Kimmo Jarva, Mayor of Lappeenranta.

The City of Lappeenranta acts as the project's leader. Participants from LUT include five research groups that are part of the interdisciplinary RE-SOURCE research platform. LUT researches both the development of material and manufacturing technologies and business models while also performing sustainability assessments.

Apila Group and Outotec work on material development and forest industry companies supply materials, as does Nordkalk, which supplies tailings for working the material. FIMAtec implements the piloting for 3D printing. The Saimaa University of Applied Sciences implements information models containing multi-dimensional built environment information. Modelling is used to make the results of the project visible while also making the design and urban planning expertise of the design companies involved in the project available to designers and city residents.

Further information:

Advisor Terhi Jantunen, City of Lappeenranta, tel. +358 40 530 5958, terhi.jantunen@lappeenranta.fi

Advisor Eeva Pihlajaniemi, City of Lappeenranta, tel. +358 44 052 3056, eeva.pihlajaniemi@lappeenranta.fi

CEO Mervi Matilainen, Apila Group, tel. +358 45 111 3606, mervi.matilainen@apilagroup.fi

Director of the RE-SOURCE research platform Mari Kallioinen, LUT, tel. +358 40 593 9881, mari.kallioinen@lut.fi

Professor Antti Häkkinen, LUT, tel. +358 40 354 3218, antti.hakkinen@lut.fi

Director of Business Development Antti Korhonen, tel. +358 41 431 5837, antti.korhonen@fimatec.fi