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Papermaking Towards the Future – our latest Global Outlook Report

Published 28/01/2015

Papermaking Towards the Future

What will the paper products of the future look like? Who will produce them, and how? And what role will the paper industry play over the next ten to twenty years? These are highly topical questions, as both the industry and the world around us face dramatic changes. We have taken a closer look at these questions in our Global Outlook Report: Papermaking Towards the Future, which was released in March 2014.

The first question we asked ourselves was “What exactly is paper?” This may sound like a basic question, but it is actually very relevant. It is well known that demand for printing and writing paper has fallen in recent years. However, the pulp and paper industry has developed new products and new materials with almost unlimited opportunities. We soon reached the conclusion that paper is so much more.

Paul Krochak, project managerWe then carried out hundreds of interviews with people who work with paper in one way or another. We also carried out an expert survey involving more than 150 people in 21 different countries. In order to find out what has shaped today’s paper industry, we also took a look back at historical driving forces. Here, we noted the importance of natural resources, a skilled workforce, innovations and government support. Perhaps the most important factor of all was demand, particularly local demand.

Innventia Global OutlookBut before we were able to make any predictions about the future, we had to take a look at the world around us, and what drives social change. What are the factors that actually influence business structures and consumer trends?

The result was a mapping of five global driving forces which we believe to be the most important for our industry. We have called one of these driving forces “from static to smart”. The products of the future need to be interactive, intelligent and customised. And if they are not, they need to be able to interact with products that are. How many of us rely on our smartphones?

The growth of a global middle class is another driving force. More and more well educated people are moving to the cities and have enormous spending power. These people place new demands as they strive to achieve a better life, with a focus on both recycling and sustainability. This is, perhaps, where we find the market segment with the greatest growth for the future.

We also identified a number of major trends, which can already be seen today. As mentioned, we are seeing growth in products other than printing and writing materials. People are looking for intelligent, interactive media sources and niche products. At the same time, there is also a growing demand for resource-efficient production with increasing environmental consideration. Our experts believe that the most profitable products will be those within bioplastics, biochemicals, bioenergy and biotextiles. In short, there is a clear trend from paper towards pulp for biobusiness.

Survey Papermaking Towards the FutureThe most interesting trend is, perhaps, the shift in industrial thinking: a sharper focus on requested innovation. The companies that will reap the biggest benefits are the ones that develop new products themselves and sell them direct to customers. Bold companies that do not shy away from risks.

One trend is, however, troubling – and even downright alarming. After all, expertise should be top of the agenda for an industry undergoing change. But there may be a shortage of innovators and highly trained people. We therefore need a new generation with the necessary expertise to deal with new challenges.

Based on all the above, we then created a base scenario for the future and three possible scenarios. We wanted to identify the key factors for success in the future, but we also wanted to take a critical approach. For example, what would happen if recycling became mandatory? Or if we had to design each individual product from scratch, working together with the customer? And just imagine if energy were to be completely free?

Taking a journey like this into the future is a dizzying prospect. It may seem meaningless, but it is actually essential. As Barack Obama said: “We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it.” We do not know what lies ahead of us, but we can prepare ourselves. By imagining extreme scenarios and analysing them, we can prepare business strategies. Then we can also have an influence.

We believe that the paper industry will be entirely digital by 2030. Even paper will be electronic. Smart packaging with built-in sensors will be a reality, as will products that interact with computers. We believe that there will be greater demand for renewable energy, from the wind, from the sun and from forestry biomass. Product safety will be high on the agenda, and the industry will take full responsibility for its production.

Cellulose-based society by InnventiaWe currently talk about a paper industry. But in 20 years’ time, we might talk about the forestry fibre industry or the biorefining industry. What we do today with our infrastructure, our knowledge and our experience is therefore extremely important.

Whatever the future brings, we believe that the paper industry is very well placed for the bioeconomy we are heading towards. We will be in a position to drive and support it, and even to form the foundation for it. Perhaps paper will one day be remembered for having created a biobased world in which everything is sustainable and recyclable.

The important thing now is to dare to take risks and to take on new challenges, such as securing new expertise and eliminating market segments in which we cannot compete. We must dare to invest in requested innovations. Learning to do this is essential for both development and profitability.

Would you like to find out more? You can order a copy of our report, Papermaking Towards the Future, here.

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  • Postat av: Marco Lucisano

    We can look back to the past year since the launch of "Papermaking Towards the Future" and reflect on the many opportunities we have had to present and to discuss the report in interviews, workshops and seminars. We are delighted to have been invited to meetings and conferences outside our usual network and that these issues engage so many people. Just recently we visited the brand development consultancy GROW and they shared their thoughts on their blog http://www.grow.eu/blog/thinking-outside-paper-box.

    2015-01-28 17:47

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Innventia Paper Blog

There are currently all manner of exciting developments going on within papermaking. Both the industry and the world around us face dramatic changes – an evolution towards a bioeconomy in which more and more materials can be replaced with forest products.

Innventia's papermaking blog will keep you updated on current activities and discuss future possibilities.

Contact: papermaking@innventia.com

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