From research to innovation: The case of biotechnical pulp bleaching

Reijo Miettinen

Research output: Book/ReportReport

1 Citation (Scopus)


The paper studies the emergence and development of a research-based innovation, enzyme-aided bleaching of kraft pulp. The idea of a new bleaching method was formulated in a meeting at the Biotechnical Laboratory of Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) in January 1984. The method was based on the use of hemicellulases. The Biotechnology Laboratory has actively studied hemicellulases for several years and they were hence immediately available for experiments. The Biotechnology Laboratory collaborated with the Fibre Chemistry Laboratory of the Finnish Pulp and Paper Research Institute (FPPRI), which knew different kinds of pulps and was skilled in the analysis of their paper technical qualities. With this combination of knowledge the results were achieved without delay. In the summer of 1986 the experimental results were published; they indicated that the hemicellulases helped in bleaching the kraft pulp and decreased the need for using environmentally harmful chlorine. However, the experimental result was not immediately or without problems converted into an innovation. The pulp and paper industry was not interested in utilizing the results in 1986 - 1988. The public debate on the environmental effects of chlorine used in pulp bleaching in 1987 - 1989 changed the situation. The markets for chlorine-free pulps were formed and the issue of the environmentally friendly image of the products became important for the Finnish pulp and paper producers. As a result most of them tested and implemented the use of enzymes in the beginnings of the 1990's. The innovation process was not a linear and rationally planned process. The effects of several unanticipated developmental processes and events were timed and accumulated in a way that made the emergence of the innovation possible: fluctuations in oil price, the development of research on dioxin in paper products in 1987 - 1989, changes in the attitudes of paper consumers and the general public, and the formation of chlorine-free pulp markets. Neither was the invention a result of luck or chance. The vision of the researchers of a chlorine- and sulfur-free pulping played an important role in the emergence of the invention. The persistence and ambitiousness of the research program on cellulases and hemicellulases at the VTT Biotechnical Laboratory made possible the formulation of the idea of the new method. The national technology program made continuation of the research on the enzymatic bleaching possible in 1984 - 1989. This underlines the significance of the quality and longevity of research as a criteria in establishing research programs and in fostering innovations.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationEspoo
PublisherVTT Technical Research Centre of Finland
Number of pages58
ISBN (Print)951-38-4928-7
Publication statusPublished - 1996
MoE publication typeNot Eligible

Publication series

SeriesVTT Publications


  • paper industry
  • pulping
  • pulp mills
  • bleaching
  • sulfate pulping
  • enzymes
  • methods
  • cellulase
  • biotechnology
  • innovation


Dive into the research topics of 'From research to innovation: The case of biotechnical pulp bleaching'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this