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IPST Executive Conference Focuses on Industry Transformation for Future Success

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Transformation strategies will be required for the forest bioproducts industry to thrive 20 years from now, according to the outcome of an annual Executive Conference of the Institute of Paper Science and Technology at Georgia Tech (IPST) , Atlanta, Ga., USA, in April. The industry will be facing an emerging global middle class, a burgeoning population, and higher demand for critical resources, based on futurists' forecasts.

"IPST research is playing several roles in looking toward the future," said Norman Marsolan, director of IPST at Georgia Tech. "We are focused on improving the pulp and paper processes for the existing industry, while searching for innovative new products that will meet consumer demands in the future."

Dr. Ron Brown, president of the Agenda 2020 Technology Alliance, presented a series of predictions based on his recent study of existing industry forecasts, commissioned by IPST. While global demand for traditional paper products could increase 1.5% a year over the next 40 years, the industry may see a global pulp shortage by 2020, and wood removals by 2050 may occur at three times the current rate. The forecasts call for mills to become host platforms for new bioproducts, and they will be pressured to show significant reductions in emissions, waste, and use of energy and water.

"Today's technologies are not sufficient," Brown said. "Sustainable manufacturing will require new technologies." There was significant support among the 25 participating organizations for research that advances the manufacturing capabilities of today's pulp and paper companies.

Sten Nilsson, CEO of Forest Sector Insights, Sweden, said that "only systematic change will keep pace in the rapidly changing world. The U.S. is not alone—the entire Northern hemisphere is in the same situation." He cited a 15% net loss of U.S. capacity for paper and paperboard since 2000, and said another study shows U.S. capacity may be down 50% by 2020, which means that only the lowest-cost producers will survive.

"Through IPST, your industry has access to the full range of our research and expertise," Georgia Tech President G.P. "Bud" Peterson told the conference participants. "More importantly, our experts across Georgia Tech have a portal into the industry with expertise on cellulose and its practically unlimited potential.

"We also want to continue to listen to you, the experts in the field, as we move forward with new innovations and solutions for the industry," Peterson said. "As a world-class educational and research institution, we can offer even more to progressive companies like yours, companies willing to look 20 years into the future to evaluate the implications, opportunities, and challenges that most certainly will be different from those we face today."

IPST is a forest bioproducts research organization that funds 50 students a year in forest bioproducts research. IPST research today involves the pulp and paper industry and future developments in sustainable energy (biofuels), sustainable chemicals, advanced packaging, pharmaceuticals, electronics, advanced materials, and others. The Institute, dedicated to supporting the pulp and paper and related industries, has produced more than 1,500 graduates with advanced degrees since 1929. More information is available online.


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