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Technology Summit II targets 'the challenge of deployment'.

The recently concluded Technology Summit II reflected the word "summit" in more ways than one. As the organizers intended, Summit II was true to this definition: "A conference or meeting of high-level leaders, usually called to shape a program of action." Summit II included some of the most accomplished technology leaders, developers and practitioners in the forest products industry, called together to refine the industry's research agenda.

But the conference also reflected an alternate definition of the word summit: "The highest level or degree that can be attained." Technology Summit II demonstrated that the industry is making progress in scaling its research "summit," a climb that could generate enormous economic and societal benefits for the industry and its stakeholders. Technology Summit II included leaders representing manufacturing, government, and academia, all focused on how the industry can bring the Agenda 2020 research vision to the technology deployment stage. Agenda 2020 is a slate of research pathways for the forest products industry designed to improve competitiveness, reduce energy use, and improve environmental performance.

For the forest products industry, an increasing amount of new technology is being developed through "pre-competitive" basic research and development (R&D) shared by many different partners. It is expected that this R&D effort will lead to technologies that improve--and even transform--the forest products industry. Technology Summit II, held in Peachtree City, Georgia, USA, March 29-April 1, was designed to refine the industry's research agenda and move specific projects forward.

The conference was sponsored by: American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA); USDA Forest Service; U.S. Department of Energy; TAPPI; National Science Foundation; Center for Paper Business Industry Studies (CPBIS); Institute for Paper Science Technology (IPST) at Georgia Tech; and USDA Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES).


The event built on progress made at the first Technology Summit, held three years earlier in the same location. That Summit focused on developing workable research ideas. Summit II was devoted to "Meeting the Challenge of Deployment"--choosing the best projects in development and determining how they can be deployed. Summit II working groups met for three days, then concluded the meeting by reporting their progress to the entire group.


Results from the working groups include the following:

* Positively Impacting the Environment considered options for communicating the industry's environmental performance.

* Increasing Fiber Yield examined several options and determined that the best opportunity for increasing fiber yield lies in Borate Autocausticizing. This novel approach offers the possibility of capital equipment elimination, energy savings, and yield improvement.

* Reducing the Complexity of Drying: Paper dewatering is an obstacle to energy self-sufficiency. The industry has not fully realized the potential of press technology (identified at Summit I). The goal is to use better understanding of sheet dewatering to increase press solids 10%.

* Retaining and Improving Fiber Functionality supported a process that uses novel calcium and silica-based fibrous fillers to increase filler levels, lower basis weight and reduce costs while maintaining or improving quality. The technology may lower production costs by US$ 50 per ton of paper while maintaining physical properties, brightness, opacity, strength, and bulk, and allowing basis weight reduction.

* Durability in Wood Products promoted the development of highly durable wood products, systems, and buildings. Researchers and industry representatives developed a plan to create durability performance methods and design tools. Damage due to moisture costs approximately US$ 10 billion annually to remediate. The group focused on plans to conduct research for new products as well as development of computer models, construction standards, and training.

* VOC/HAP Destruction: Control of volatile organic compound (VOC) and hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions with current technology will cost the wood products industry US$ 1.3 billion between now and 2009. While process modifications promise the greatest near term benefits at a cost of US$ 65 million, non-thermal plasma technology promises longer-term benefits.

* Sustainable Forest Productivity: Clonal softwood forestry is a key for keeping North American fiber globally competitive. This group recommended starting in the U.S. South with basic research in loblolly pine embyrogenesis and whole-genome sequencing.

* Extracting Value Prior to Pulping focused on commercializing enhancements to selected pulp mills that would, in effect, make them "Forest Biorefineries." This plan would lead to development of an industry based on underutilized components of wood to produce ethanol, polymers and basic chemicals, primarily through extraction and fermentation of hemicellulose.

* Creating New Value Streams from Residuals and Spent Pulping Liquors targeted the production of renewable transportation fuels from forest products industry residuals. Of the multiple alternatives, the working group selected the Fischer Tropsch (FT) process as a case study to illustrate overall economics. Renewable fuel standards will create premium prices for green fuels, the group said.

* Technologically Advanced Workforce identified the National Network for Pulp and Paper Technology Training as the alliance of community colleges, universities and regional industry to address the workforce development needs of the pulp and paper sector. This network, led by Alabama Southern Community College and Auburn University, has been designated as a National Center by the National Science Foundation and awarded US $5 million for further development. This session also focused on promoting a "grass roots renaissance" in wood products education through concepts such as the WoodLinks partnership.

* A Societal Assessment of the Agenda 2020 Vision focused on designing a process to assess pre-competitive investments, the deployment of which will create a portfolio of break-through technologies that potentially can deliver highly improved industry economics, high societal values, and a high likelihood of industry adoption.

* Nanotechnology: This concept--being used successfully in other industries--is beginning to be used by the forest products industry. Currently, most nanotechnology applications are expensive, but price is coming down as experience increases.


Del Raymond, director, strategic energy alternatives for Weyerhaeuser Co. and a leader of Technology Summit II, noted that the United States spends US$ 300 billion in R&D per year, but that the forest product industry's share of that spending is declining. "We have to work together in partnerships--it is the only way to get where we want to be," he said. "We have an unusual, unique raw material (fiber) to do this, and we can address economic and environmental sustainability. We must create a new and better model for collaboration. The industry's leadership has been challenged to deliver breakthrough technology--projects no single company can or will do alone."

A.D. "Pete" Correll, chairman and CEO of Georgia-Pacific Corp., Atlanta, was the keynote speaker for Technology Summit II and offered these words of advice: "Our industry is not spending enough on R&D ... We need to take a close look at projects that are ready for development, put together deals, and drive them to deployment. These projects must satisfy many different constituencies and drive financial results to the bottom line while creating partnerships with society to grow and compete in a productive environment.

"Traditionally, this industry has been afraid to let other people in the tent," he continued. "The Cluster Rule (new federal water and air regulations) changed that, because we had no choice but to work with government agencies to create the regulatory environment for the decade ahead. What came out of that was a sense of trust and an agreement to work cooperatively."

Correll challenged Paper Summit II to create a new research road map. "We must communicate the way ahead. A few successes will help build support for moving the ball forward. We are a small industry, so we have to work together if we are to provide the goods and serves society expects us to deliver."



* The purpose and goals of Technology Summit II.

* Initial results from 12 working groups.

* Why "pre-competitive" research is essential for forest products.


* For information on the initial results from Technology Summit II, please go to:

* "Setting the Industry Technology Agenda," edited by Gerard Closset, ISBN: 0898523664. TAPPI Product Code: 0101R307 (Enter product code in search engine on

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Title Annotation:Conferences
Author:Rooks, Alan
Publication:Solutions - for People, Processes and Paper
Date:Jun 1, 2004
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