4 Minutes with…Petri Vasara, Head of Biofutures, Poyry Management Consulting

September 6, 2015 |

VasaraTell us about your company and it’s role in the Advanced Bioeconomy.

Poyry is the only Finnish knowledge company to become no 1 in a global industry sector (pulp and paper), and it has always been an enormously good observation post and global laboratory for trends, new technologies and natural resources. Expanding our focus to the full bioeconomy spectrum was a natural progress.

Tell us about your role and what you are focused on in the next 12 months.

In this fruitful environment, I am currently head of the BioFutures team. We cover everything “bio”€ but focus primarily on:

– The full value chain from forests, algae, agri and waste via chemicals, petrochemicals and forest industry to converters, brand owners and the consumer

– The full spectrum of bio from bioenergy and biofuels to bio-based chemicals and biomaterials

– The full spectrum of superb people and expertise in the global team, with complementary backgrounds from social sciences to engineering, and a shared passion to solve problems

What do you feel are the most important milestones the industry must achieve in the next 5 years?   

In the last two years or so the concept of full-value-chain/full-bio-spectrum was created while these things were quite fragmented. They still are, but now companies in all parts of the value chain are active in the same biosphere, seeking their their “sweet spot” in bio. This is now a CEO-level topic ” things have really changed fast.

If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the Advanced Bioeconomy, what would you change? 

Constant worrying about oil price fluctuations: one period of low prices isn’€™t going to change the fundamentals.

Of all the reasons that influenced you to join the Advanced Bioeconomy industry, what single reason stands out for you as still being compelling and important to you?   

Well, we Finns are pretty much steeped in forests and other biomass – combining this with an utterly fascinating array of possibilities, technologies and saving the world seems like a good deal.

Where are you from?

Born in the Netherlands, but a Finn.

What was your undergraduate major in college, and where did you attend? Why did you choose that school and that pathway?   

I studied artificial intelligence and data mining at Helsinki University of Technology – what’s now popularized as Big Data€. It was simply the most interesting thing. However, learning on the job in Poyry I then completed a doctorate thesis for the Chemical Engineering department, applying maths to sustainability issues in the process industry.

Who do you consider your mentors – could be personal, business, or just people you have read about and admire. What have you learned from them?  

The company I work has been fortunate in having both a visionary founder (Dr. Jaakko Poyry) and Chairman (Mr. Henrik Ehrnrooth). Not shying away from any challenge would be one of the lessons learnt. Otherwise, history is full of obscure interesting figures to admire, from less-known Roman statesmen to the pantheon of physicists.

What’s the biggest lesson you ever learned during a period of adversity?   

Just stick it out.

What hobbies do you pursue, away from your work in the industry?   

No exciting hobbies like hang-gliding over volcanoes, I’€™m afraid: reading, composing utterly amateurish computer music and graphics.

What are 3 books you’d want to have with you, if you were stranded on a desert island?

The Bible, a full printout of Wikipedia bound in leather, and the collected Calvin and Hobbes.

What books or articles (excluding The Digest) are on your reading list right now, or you just completed and really enjoyed?   

I have a buffer of 40-50 books to multitask, but picking some (actually true choices!): ‘The Maya’€ by Michael D.Coe (new edition, best of all Maya histories), ‘The Legions of Rome’€ by Stephen Dando-Collins and ‘Collected works of C.S.Lewis’€ (re-reading).

What’s your favorite city or place to visit, for a holiday?  

I travel a lot, so on a holiday, just being in Helsinki is enough. Boring, I know.

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