Thu 04 Feb, 2021
EU|BIC RAIZ - An innovative green-tech BioWEconomy ecosystem rooted in a Forest
EU|BIC RAIZ' offices – Copyright: RAIZ
Jaime de Magalhães Lima (Late 19th century philosopher, poet and writer) converted a property he inherited in the region of Aveiro (Portugal) into a monument to harmony and nature. In this property, he tested several tree species for how well they could adapt to soils and climate, evaluating them for social and economic uses and possibilities. The clear winner was the eucalyptus. Under Jaime de Magalhães Lima, the property was re-named as Quinta de S. Francisco and transformed into one of the largest eucalypti arboreta – housing more than 80 species and some of the tallest trees in Portugal (“living monuments to scientific, ecological and scenic values”).
The estate of Jaime de Magalhães Lima in Quinta de S. Francisco– Copyright: RAIZ
The Roots – Founding story
In the pursuit of reviving the property’s original scientific knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit, RAIZ was created in 1996. Today, RAIZ' mission is to improve forest sustainability and the competitiveness of forest industry resources, through cutting-edge scientific and technological innovation.
EU|BIC RAIZ – Forest and Paper Research Institute – is a privately-owned not-for-profit research institute committed to supporting the competitiveness of the Portuguese Pulp and Paper Industry, through research, consultancy, technology transfer, scaling up and training. It is 97% owned by The Navigator Company, the countries' largest paper and pulp producer and third-biggest exporter. The University of Coimbra, University of Aveiro, and University of Lisbon (ISA) share the other 3% – “From inception, RAIZ invests in synergies and enduring partnerships within its region, involving universities, industry, and civil society together to accomplish mutual goals”, tell us Sara Monteiro.
RAIZ, an Interface Centre recognised by the Portuguese Government, focuses on transformative knowledge in technology, aiming to promote the competitiveness and sustainability of forest and forest-based industry. To improve pulp and paper quality, product diversification, boosting new forest-based bioeconomy, and implementing sustainable forest management practices in Portugal are its mission.
RAIZ is highly competent in forestry, pulp, and paper technology, biorefinery processes and specialised services. In 2017, it was recognised by the OECD as an exemplary success story in knowledge and innovation in the Bioeconomy. A lot of its success is from its work with regional partners. In the same spirit, RAIZ and its parent company developed the ‘inpactus’ Project (Innovative Products and Technologies from Eucalyptus), an ERDF funded project, in 2018: “a success story in Industry-Company-University-Civil Society cooperation and Knowledge co-creation in Eco-innovation and Circular Economy”. It foresaw an investment of around €15M in 4 years for acquiring infrastructure (scientific and technological equipment), and for advanced training of researchers. Its aim is the development of innovative solutions and products, in the context of a forest-based Bioeconomy.
The Fruit – What it means to be a certified EU|BIC
RAIZ is a certified EU|BIC since 2019,
“To be an EU|BIC helps RAIZ ensure European quality standards. We benefit from benchmarking, training & peer-review services, recognition, and from taking part in a global, competitive, innovative network. It was a big challenge!”
The impact assessment of RAIZ’ R&D&I programs started with developing a new monitoring tool patented – Decision Support and Impact Assessment Methodology of Innovation and Knowledge Programs based on Research and Technological Developments in Organisations
“This methodology allows decisions to be made based on the evaluation of indicators such as technological readiness versus the time it takes to enter the market, and the risk involved, thus allowing an objective understanding of the Social. Economical and eco-innovation impact of each research program/project on the activity of The Navigator Company, based on quadruple Helix Model and Innovation Theory”.
To comply with the EU|BIC criteria, RAIZ adapted its programmes to cover key-themes and measures to an EU|BIC innovation support and evolved into a new model-based paradigm based on open innovation with a quadruple helix framework. The new systemic approach to management and evaluation of value-created by innovation activities allows capturing the interconnections between different actors, and the dynamics of innovation life cycles. “It enhances the assessment and communication of the real impact of these projects. It helps to make strategic decisions that were usually supported only by financial return indicators. It is more robust”.
RAIZ developed research, consulting & specialised services, such as technological scouting and scaling up services for its parent company. As an EU|BIC, it boosted actions in its main three axes of development.
In Knowledge co-creation & Valorisation, RAIZ will use its experience to run an innovative intelligence platform, under the project INOV C+, aiming at scouting technology for a better future (creating knowledge and developing literacy about future technologies). It is also a participant in the CoLab’s projects, which aims at developing research, innovation, and technology transfers within Portugal.
For Entrepreneurship, RAIZ will run in 2021, the Scaling up newest Biorefineries Pilot Plant which will allow to test pilot projects, products, and processes, and to make the industrial validation before a company’s creation and before going to market.
In Public Awareness of sustainability, RAIZ develops Floresta do Saber (Forest of Knowledge), a social Bioeconomy Innovation Laboratory open to all civil society with a focus in the Next Generations and Sustainability, funded by Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian. For this project, UNESCO accepted RAIZ as a UNESCO Club, which recognises associations, NGOs, academic institutions, etc… that support UNESCO's mission for Science, Education, and Culture.
EU|BIC RAIZ' Directors – Copyright: RAIZ
EU|BIC RAIZ' Team in Laughing Therapy session – Copyright: RAIZ
New seeds – EU|BIC certification leading to aspirations
Transformation requires working with the Next Generation, considering their capacities to think and speak about the transformation (future literacy). In that, social aspects are of high importance, for which a new term was recently proposed by the European Commission and fully adopted by EU|BIC RAIZ: the BioWEconomy
In the close future, EU|BIC RAIZ aspires to launch an innovative co-creation international program for individuals (e.g., investigators, PhD students) with innovative products, processes and technologies, wanting to test and co-create new solutions on Pulp, Paper and Forest Bio-Based Products; and for worldwide entrepreneurs, with feasible & innovative startups and spinoffs that represent a business opportunity along the value-chain of forest bioresources (including, bio-based and circular economy projects), helping them adapt products, processes or technologies, or to accelerate their growth in the industrial sector, contributing to the emergence of competitive and innovative businesses operating in Forest value-chain.
The long term EU|BIC RAIZ aspiration is to build a strong Forest-based Network of partners, including worldwide entrepreneurs, global companies and Industries, investors, universities, R&D Centres, public authorities, among others contributing to the required European Bioeconomy transformation.
And of course, there is always their fieldwork in Quinta de S. Francisco. RAIZ also enjoys the responsibility and pleasure of preserving the diverse habitats in the property, which combine more than 400 native and exotic plants species that support innumerable animal species (including the 70 bird species observed so far). In this idyllic location, RAIZ hosted 2620 visitors in their activities to increase sensibility to the importance of sustainable forests, biodiversity, and nature conservation. It also set up forest sensibility programmes for schools, reaching around 1000 students in the same year. Following Jaime de Magalhães Lima's footsteps, EU|BIC RAIZ is planting the seeds for a greener future with impact in National and European Bioeconomy.