“We’re hoping to gain a great deal from the hours we put into Mistra REES, and it’s looking very promising,” says Annika Fernlund, board member of Polyplank, a company based in the southern Swedish county of Småland.

The company is not only participating in several research projects within Mistra REES; it has also taken on a student from Lund University for a degree project. A further three student groups at Linköping University are also working on projects.

“The students visited our factory on Öland, and we showed them the production process. We also held workshops to discuss plans, who should do what, and what information they needed to be able to progress. The time we spent together was stimulating and very productive, and I’ve had positive feedback from both the students and my colleagues,” says Annika Fernlund.

Polyplank develops and markets products – such as environmentally friendly sheds, noise shielding and balcony screens – manufactured from a patented composite material. The material consists of recycled thermoplastic resins mixed with organic fibres.

Working in the circular economy

“We are already working in the circular economy, and our knowledge will benefit the REES programme. But it is difficult for companies of our size to invest major resources in research and development. We aspire to continuous development and the programme will be a great help for us,” says Annika Fernlund.

The degree project will involve an analysis of potential markets in Africa, and the company hopes that it will lead to a business model suitable for use in developing countries.
“The conclusions will be really interesting,” says Annika Fernlund, who is co-supervisor and following the project work closely.

Three student groups

The student groups at Linköping University are to get to grips with life cycle analysis. One group of students working in industrial design will examine the design development of one of Polyplank’s products, and possibly also some supplementary products. The two other groups will carry out life cycle analyses of a small shed and Polyplank’s highly popular noise shielding screens.

“This is time-consuming work, and we’re happy that the groups are willing to take it on. Their results will be highly valuable for us,” says Annika Fernlund.

She is also hoping for useful results from the actual research projects, and from the interviews, workshops and seminars that the company representatives will participate in.

“The tools and reports produced within the programme will be extremely useful for us. Industry and the academic world are two completely different worlds, but exciting things happen when the two worlds finally meet.”