Metsä Group’s innovation company Metsä Spring leads EUR 1 million seed funding round in Swedish startup FineCell to produce dry cellulose powder and hydrogels for beauty, healthcare, and paint products
The fresh funds will be used to boost material application research, engage with potential customers, and finalise the plan for a demo production facility towards the end of 2024.
Espoo, Finland (December 14th, 2023) Metsä Spring, Metsä Group’s innovation company, today announces its second Swedish investment in FineCell (FineCellOx AB), developer of the FineCell technology and producer of CellOx dry cellulose powder.
Metsä Spring leads a group of investors, including EIT InnoEnergy and the company’s founder. The funds will be used to further develop and plan a demo production facility for the FineCell technology that can turn dry pulp fibre into added-value biomaterial which can be used both as a powder and as a water solution (hydrogel). These can replace fossil-based chemicals in sectors like beauty and healthcare products as well as commercial paint production. FineCell is a spinout of the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden.
The pulp-based materials are made through the novel and innovative FineCell technology, which combines pulp-based cellulose with a natural chemical (oxalic acid found in e.g. rhubarb), producing a new material that can easily be stored in a solid form yet is often applied in a liquid form. CellOx is completely biobased, light to ship, and compared to other similar cellulose products, requires 80–90% less energy to manufacture.
CellOx can easily carry other ingredients, making it an excellent binding agent for products such as sunscreens, skin creams, and paints. It’s also transparent, enabling it to be used in a large variety of products.
“The world is scrambling to replace fossil-based materials with sustainable ones. Our product, based on softwood pulp from sustainably managed Nordic forest, gives many industries an alternative to the components they are currently using,” says Dr. Peter Axegård, CEO and co-owner of FineCell. “Metsä Spring has seen the potential in our innovation, and due to their know-how in planning, constructing and operating production plants, including pilots and demos, and their access to the raw material linked to their ambition to upgrade Nordic wood, they were the perfect choice to support us as we move forward.”
Globally, the race to replace fossil-based ingredients in everyday products is central to many sectors. The chemical complexity of these products means that replacing ingredients requires a clear sustainability impact without compromising performance.
“We’ve been following FineCell for some time and are delighted to now be part of their journey. For us, all technologies that convert softwood pulp into added-value products are of interest. This technology and product clearly stand out, making it especially interesting. The FineCell technology is still young. At this stage, we do not yet know all the directions that this platform might take us,” says Niklas von Weymarn, CEO of Metsä Spring.
In addition to replacing fossil-based ingredients, the FineCell technology can also be used for applications in healthcare. Also, thin, transparent, and flexible films are a key focus area for the company.
Unlike competitors’ offerings, FineCell’s technology provides materials that can be utilised as combinations of many different types of cellulose to produce the desired effect. The patent-protected technology, which allows for constant and very energy-efficient change between liquid and solid state, is also unique to the company’s technology.
FineCell aims to have the design of its demo plant ready for execution by the end of 2024. The company plans to have larger-scale test production underway during 2025, with full commercial production commencing in 2027. The company has had several meetings with some of the world’s largest brands looking for more sustainable solutions for their consumer products.
“Our goal is to bring our biobased material to more and more sectors, thus replacing fossil-based materials and also increasing the performance of the product. This, in turn, would require scaling up production to the point where we are making a large impact on products people use in their everyday lives. Our story has just begun, and we cannot wait to embark on the next stage in our journey,” Axegård concludes.