At the end of September, Forest 4.0 partners from Lithuania and Sweden came together to refine their plan to create a significant organization: a Centre of Excellence to help digitize forestry. The working session in Sweden emphasized the EU-wide importance of a technologically advanced and sustainable forest ecosystem. According to the experts, the good practices of a leading country in the field only confirm that cross-sectoral dialogue is the key to a new era of forestry innovation.

The meeting of representatives of Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas University of Technology, Linnaeus University (Sweden), Interior Cluster Sweden, AgriFood Lithuania DIH, and ART21 was held in the framework of the Möbelriksdagen, the country’s largest annual event for the furniture and interior design industry. It allowed for an even closer partnership between academia and industry, forming the basis for the future Center of Excellence.

Björn Nordin, Director of Architecture and Design at Swedish Wood, a member of the Swedish cluster, presented trends in the furniture and interior design industry in the leading country in the forest sector. Among the highlights was Interior Cluster Sweden, which focused on the potential of the latest technologies to drive change in the global wood industry ecosystem.

“The pandemic and the war caused by Russia will continue to increase the challenges related to the lack of raw materials, including wood products. It is therefore becoming increasingly important to get the most out of every cubic meter of timber: in the forest, in the sawmill, and in other value chains.

Forest 4.0 demonstrates that opportunities exist, but it requires synergy across sectors and all value chains. We are ready for this because the forestry industry is not only facing the problems of exporting wood but also those of climate change and other issues. Together, we need to tackle them with all possible means, with digitization of the sector at the forefront”, B. Nordin said.

The researchers’ focus on high-tech solutions was echoed by Professor Arianit Kurti of Linnaeus University: “Artificial intelligence will definitely be one of the core competencies of the project. Its application to forestry and the whole Forest 4.0 value chain is one of the areas where we think the most innovation will be generated, and a number of start-ups are likely to emerge.”

The project, implemented by academics, clusters, and business stakeholders, was initiated with the aim of growing a center that will add economic value to the forestry sector and interested parties in the long term.

Prof. Dr. Tomas Krilavičius, Dean of the Faculty of Informatics of Vytautas Magnus University, who leads the project, shared the team’s plans to return from the meeting having learned the best practices from Sweden. After an intensive agenda, a different vision emerged: in Forest 4.0, we will work together with the Swedes to develop new forestry models for the whole of Europe.

“However, data collection and analysis, as well as the ambition to use this information in a meaningful way to deliver pragmatic innovations that support a sustainable ecosystem, are only a stop in a complex process. We first need to identify what specific answers we expect to improve forestry processes,” commented Prof. Dr. T. Krilavičius on the upcoming tasks and deliverables.

In addition to discussions on the future of the Centre of Excellence and the allocation of further responsibilities, the participants also benefited from study visits. This included a tour of the upcoming “Wisdome Stockholm” centre. The project is characterized by its innovative use of wood raw materials for a complex building structure, in line with its commitment to industrial sustainability.

The meeting with Treesearch served as another good example of how to push the boundaries of future forestry potential through the engagement of all stakeholders, from academia to private foundations and public authorities. The Treesearch platform at the Royal Technical University in Stockholm paves the ground for the development of new materials from forests and contributes to Sweden’s ambition to become a leader in the bioeconomy.