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Biotechnology plays a crucial role in the bioeconomy



Pekka Kekki, the chairman of the Finnish Bioindustries Association and the Managing Director of Roal, which specializes in enzyme production, has been closely observing the development of Finnish bioindustry from a window seat for over 30 years. Although Finland has a strong tradition in research and bioindustry innovations are constantly emerging, their industrialization and commercialization remain challenging. Kekki reminds us that transforming high-quality research into commercially viable products requires faith, funding, and patience. The process is often long and demanding, involving significant risks.


Roal's path to international success has not been easy or quick, Kekki shares. For example, the company spent nearly 15 years developing its technology and establishing a solid foundation. The years spent on development work are a prime example of the challenges in the field of biotechnology. Successful research and development activities require long-term commitment and investments before the products can reach the market.

Today, Roal's clientele is international, and its developed enzymes are used in various industrial sectors. Since 2008, Roal has invested over 100 million euros in its production facilities in Rajamäki. This has enabled the expansion of production capacity and made Roal a significant global player in the bioindustry market.


Sustainable development based on science

Biotechnology offers vast opportunities to promote sustainable development, but leveraging these opportunities requires science-based, high-quality discussions on genetic modification, emphasizes Kekki. He argues that genetic modification plays a key role in industrial biotechnology and the development of innovative solutions. Regulations and attitudes should be based on scientific evidence and risk assessment, not ideological views, he reminds.

The bioindustry has significant potential to address global challenges such as the sustainability crisis in the food system or climate change. Kekki uses enzymes as an example, for which there is already much evidence of their benefits. For instance, enzymes have made everyday detergents more effective at lower temperatures, saving energy and reducing their carbon footprint. Another example is the use of enzymes in the food industry. Kekki explains how enzymes can be used to extract more juice from fruits or improve the shelf life of bread. Both methods enhance food production and reduce food waste.


Biotechnology plays a crucial role in the bioeconomy

A topic that Kekki wishes was discussed more in Finland is the relationship between the bioindustry and traditional forestry industry. Although there is much talk about the bioeconomy, the role of biotechnology often receives less attention in these discussions. Biotechnology could offer new innovative solutions for the traditional industry and promote a more sustainable economy, but this requires a new way of thinking and collaboration between different stakeholders, he points out.

According to Kekki, one of the bottlenecks slowing down successes in the field is bioprocess expertise. It is needed to build and operate biotechnological production facilities. For example, Finland has several promising new startups, all of which plan to scale up production to pilot and production scales.


In the history of Finnish bioindustry, there have been several successful inventions, but they have not always led to the strengthening of domestic industry. Many innovations have ended up in foreign hands through corporate acquisitions. Large-scale industrial activity is challenging in a small country like Finland. However, Denmark, for example, has been more successful in this area. Perhaps we should consider what we could learn from the Danes, says Kekki.



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