European research funding has been set aside for a huge consortium of partners who will develop new sustainability ‘impact assessment' tools for the forestry and forest-based sector, reports the lead partner, the Swedish Forestry Research Institute (Skogforsk). The research will help stoke the engines of one of Europe's largest industrial sectors.
Forest-based industries (FBI) provide direct employment and income for up to 3 million people in the European Union and account for close to 10% of the manufacturing industry's total production and value-added, according the European Commission's FBI website. The EU forestry sector's clients are mostly small and medium-sized local and national enterprises. Wealth creation through FBI is significantly above industry averages, the site adds.
|Seeing the wood for the trees: EU research grant to develop sustainability impact assessment for the forestry sector.|
© FBI website
This underscores the importance of making the sector efficient and environmentally sustainable. But to ensure this is the case in Europe, cutting edge research is critical. Research funding schemes, such as the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), provide a platform and the right momentum for researchers and a bevy of different stakeholders to collaborate on major projects of value to Europe's bottom line.
One example of this is the recently announced Eforwood, a four-year integrated project involving a massive 35 organisations in 18 countries, with its estimated total budget of €19 million – of which the Commission could well contribute over two-thirds via its ‘Global change and ecosystems' research activities. Exact figures will not be known until the negotiations are complete, says Kaj Rosén, research director of Skogforsk and project coordinator. But he is hoping to have things up and running by November this year. Bringing all these parties together should be no mean feat, he suggests, but his organisation is proud to be heading the project.
Eforwood's aim is to produce what the team describes as a decision-support tool that can be used to evaluate the contribution made to sustainable economic, environmental and social development by and through the forestry and forest-products sector.
Not pulp fiction
Daily life is replete with forest-based products, from the paper we write on to the milk cartons we drink from, and covers such industries as woodworking, pulp and paper products, and furniture making. What's more, the sector is often made up of family owned businesses employing less than 20 people which are usually excluded from EU statistics, therefore potentially underestating the socio-economic importance of the sector in the Union, the FBI website explains.
“Not only are such industries distributed widely throughout the Member States, but they are often situated in less populated areas close to forested land and, as such, contribute to maintaining economic activity, employment and infrastructure, as well as sustaining living standards in these remote areas of the EU,” it goes on.
Success in Eforwood means a wide cross-section of the ‘enlarged' European Union landscape will benefit. The research institutes, universities and European trade organisations participating in the project will tackle the complete forestry-wood chain: sustainable forest management, harvesting, transport, processing, manufacturing, consumption and recycling of this renewable material. Eforwood will take care of the socio-economic and environmental issues as part of the broader sustainability tasks.
“Another aim of Eforwood,” says Rosén, “is to raise awareness among politicians and the public at large of the important contribution that the forestry and forest-based sector makes to sustainable development and growth.”
Swedish Research Council and Skogforsk