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UPM and Central Saint Martins collaborate to prototype a "Fossil-Free Future"

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Credits: Image: UAL, courtesy UPM

UPM Biochemicals, in collaboration with Central Saint Martins (CSM), University of the Arts London (UAL), is embarking on an innovative design partnership aimed at showcasing the transition to renewable and circular materials across various industries.

UPM is actively developing climate-neutral materials derived from sustainably sourced hardwood, poised to replace fossil-based materials in applications ranging from fashion and footwear to automotive and furniture.

A team of 50 Product and Industrial Design students from Central Saint Martins will take on the challenge of utilising these materials in groundbreaking design solutions. Their objective is to demonstrate that industries have no excuse to resist the shift toward renewable circularity, urging them to consume fewer resources, source from renewable origins, and ensure products remain in the value chain even after their useful life.

Martin Ledwon, Vice President Stakeholder Relations at UPM Biorefining & Technology, emphasized the need for revolutionary concepts and for brands to adopt sustainability as a core value while striving for true carbon neutrality. Ledwon called for industry leaders to spearhead the transformation and emphasized the importance of collaborative efforts across value chains to achieve a net-zero circular economy. By partnering with Central Saint Martins, UPM aims to prototype a future beyond fossil-based materials, showcasing the feasibility and scalability of emission reductions throughout supply chains.

The designs created by the students will undergo evaluation by a panel of expert judges who will assess their design quality, contribution to renewable circularity, commercial viability, and potential to disrupt conventional thinking across multiple industries.

Paul De’ATH, Course Leader for BA Product and Industrial Design at Central Saint Martins, expressed the project's ambition to showcase the immense potential when the sustainable creativity of a leading design school meets the innovative sustainability practices of a fossil-free renewable producer. De'ATH believes that design has the power to transform people, products, and enterprises, and through strategic partnerships, they can address critical issues and contribute to a better world.

UPM currently operates a biorefinery in Lappeenranta, Finland, focused on advanced biofuels and renewable naphtha production. Additionally, the company has invested € 750 million euros to construct the world's first industry-scale biorefinery in Leuna, Germany. This facility will convert sustainably sourced, certified hardwood into next-generation biochemicals, facilitating the vital shift from fossil-based to renewable materials across a wide range of industries. The biorefinery is projected to produce a total of 220,000 tonnes annually and is scheduled for start-up by the end of 2023. UPM is also exploring the potential for a second biorefinery at the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands, dedicated to advanced biofuels and renewable materials production.

Central Saint Martins
Sustainable Fashion