Developed by Aalto University and the University of Helsinki, the Ioncell process aims to change the way clothes are made by creating quality textile fibres from a range of raw materials, including wood, recycled newspaper or cardboard, and old cotton textiles. Textile fibres made from wood also bind the carbon stored in the wood throughout the life of the fibre, which can last for a long time if it is recycled. As a cellulose-based fibre, Ioncell is also biodegradable and does not release microplastics, unlike oil-based fibres.
The new company’s CEO and main shareholder is Antti Rönkkö, who transfers from Nanso Group. “The world needs completely new solutions to meet the sustainability challenges of the textile industry. The competitive advantages of Ioncell fibre are its ecological production process, high quality and recyclability. I believe that the company has a promising future in the international market,” says Rönkkö.
Rönkkö estimates that the Ioncell technology will be ready for commercial production in about 5-10 years.
Aalto University became a partner in the company to accelerate the development of the Ioncell technology. “Almost 100 companies are created at Aalto every year, but this is the first time Aalto University has become a founding partner in the company. We want to develop a business that drives sustainability on a global scale,” says Janne Laine, vice president for innovation at Aalto University.
The company’s third founding partner, Professor Herbert Sixta, will continue to develop the Ioncell technology in the company. “We have already proven that the Ioncell technology works on a smaller scale. Next, we will develop the manufacturing process towards the industrial scale,” says Sixta.
Accelerating research-based business is an important task for Aalto University. “We intend to continue to be involved in setting up companies that aim to commercialise promising innovations generated by research at Aalto University,” says Laine.
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Over the next 10 years, Ioncell Oy aims to have a 5-10% share of the international textile fibre market of over EUR200bn, which would bring the company hundreds of millions in licensing revenue, says the University.
The fibre manufacturing process has recently been developed with a pilot line at Aalto University’s premises in Otaniemi. Ioncell Oy continues to develop the technology in Otaniemi. The company aims to build its own demonstration plant within two years.