Fortum has complemented its biorefining value chain by investing in the Finnish start-up Infinited Fiber Company Ltd. (IFC). The company develops and will license technology that is used to manufacture cotton-like fibre for the textile industry from recycled fibre and cellulose. After the investment Fortum has approximately four percent ownership of the company.
One of Fortum’s four strategic priorities is to build options for significant new businesses. Bioeconomy is a natural option due to its synergies with the company’s current business and the mission to improve resource efficiency.
The technology provided by IFC processes fibre from biomass and recycled material in a manner similar to cotton. The resulting fibre is ready for use in the textile industry and can replace environmentally harmful virgin cotton and viscose cost-efficiently and using considerably less water and chemicals in the process. The process can be done repeatedly without compromising the quality of the fibre.
In turn, Fortum has piloted fractioning technologies that separate cellulose and other components from biomass for further refining, resulting in higher purity of fractions than in the traditional pulp and biofuel processes. The investment in IFC offers Fortum natural access to sustainable fibre and also textile manufacturing partners, the next steps in the industry value chain.
“Material efficiency offers a significant means to curb climate change. Fortum is studying possibilities to grow business that is based on the more resource efficient use of biomass. One option is to invest in technology start-ups in the value chain. We believe strongly in biorefining, new technologies and their role in a more sustainably produced textile fibre. In addition, several international brands have announced that they will increase the share of such fibre in their manufacturing processes,” says Heli Antila, the head of Fortum’s business focusing on biobased solutions.
Other new investors in IFC include H&M Group. In total, IFC’s investment round raised 3.7 million euros. The company’s founders and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland remain as the main owners.