Bioeconomy video event will be part of 2021 SXSW conference

ORONO — The University of Maine and Maine’s Forest Products Industry will be featured in a bioeconomy video event with Finland as part of the 2021 South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference. The 2-minute video will be about the innovative possibilities of wood that the University of Maine is working on, and the partnership between the university, the state’s forest products industry, and Finland. 

“South By Southwest is one of this country’s premiere and most recognized festivals,” said Steve Schley, chair of the FOR/Maine steering committee. “Some people know it for music and for film, but it is also incredibly well respected and renowned for highlighting innovation. For example, Twitter wasn’t a big deal until it was presented at South By Southwest. It’s an exciting honor to be included in this year’s festival to highlight our industry’s work with Finland.”

“We really see that this change towards bioeconomy is a global challenge,” said Heli Hyypiä in a media account about the partnership in 2020. Hyypiä is the Trade and Economic Affairs Counselor at the Embassy of Finland in Washington D.C. “If we want to combat climate change, loss of biodiversity, declining natural resources, and we really do want to be at the forefront of that action then we need to develop sustainable bioeconomy that is based on renewable natural resources.”

“Maine is ready for opportunity. We’re ready for investment. We are ready to lead,” said Gov. Janet Mills in the video being presented at SXSW. “Our future, like our past, is inextricably linked to our forests. Partnerships like the one I am developing with Finland will drive innovation at the Forest Bioproducts Research Institute at the University of Maine.”

In October of 2019, Mills and Finland Prime Minister Antti Rinne signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance forest sector collaboration with a focus on forest bioeconomy innovation.

The 2021 edition of South By Southwest is going virtual this year due to the ongoing pandemic. The festival will feature its usual unique blend of music showcases, film screenings, keynote speakers, networking opportunities, and “unexpected discoveries,” although presented online. The Creative Industries Exhibition is new for 2021 and will feature businesses, startups, and industry leaders from around the world for what organizers are calling the “epicenter of business” for this year’s SXSW experience.

The Finland Pavilion Showcase will be presented on Thursday, March 18. “Innovative Wood: Wood Replacing Fossil-Based Materials from Medicine to Fashion” is being keynote by Mr. Ville Skinnari, Finland’s Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade. In addition to the video highlighting Maine’s partnership, the presentation will feature information on various innovative uses for wood products including in the fashion industry, in medicine, and in biofuels. 

This event is only accessible to ticket holders, with tickets and information available at the SXSW website, at SXSW 2021 runs from March 16 – 20. Following the event, the video and additional materials will be available to the general public through Finland’s website.

FOR/Maine is a unique cross-sector collaboration between industry, communities, government, education, and non-profits, with a focus on Maine’s role in the global forest economy. FOR/Maine released an action plan in September of 2018 with a goal of creating actionable steps to grow Maine’s forest-based economy. The plan included a combination of transportation, community outreach, workforce development, and strategic investment attraction.

FOR/Maine also recently announced its own summit on the future of Maine’s Forest Bioeconomy, set Friday, April 9. The half-day virtual summit will feature keynotes, panelists, and presentations on a variety of Forest Products Industry-related topics, including workforce development, woodland owner outreach and engagement, strategic investment attraction, and communicating the opportunity in Maine’s forests.

More details on the FOR/Maine initiative as well as information on the April summit and registration information can be found at