Research projects

The research projects on the green and digital transition supported with RRF funding were selected in funding calls opened in 2021 and 2022. Below are links to press releases as well as a complete list of supported projects.

@Diversity4Forests

To capture uniqueness of trees and to demonstrate how it could be used to improve wood tracking we will develop laser scanning-based methodologies and solutions that will be also beneficial for biodiversity mapping and monitoring. Based on the past development, we presume that what can be done for tree communities today with laser scanning, can be done at the national level within 10-15 years. Our investigations of structural and functional characteristics of trees and tree communities will lead to applications, technology transfer and dissemination actions including international tests in Belgium, Canada, China and Japan, demonstrations of wood tracking, and development of tools for monitoring forest biodiversity. Our research actions are built on new Measuring Spatiotemporal Changes in Forest Ecosystem (Scan4est) research infrastructure and are in the core of the Forest-Human-Machine Interplay Flagship of Science (UNITE).

  • Principal investigator: Mikko Vastaranta
  • University of Eastern Finland and the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute

ADAPTINFA

Despite measures taken to reduce emission of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, the processes initiated by climate change and their negative consequences cannot be stopped immediately. In the Arctic and sub-Arctic areas, roads are particularly vulnerable and exposed to changes in winter weather conditions caused by climate change. For example, thin snow cover and rapid temperature decrease may cause massive fracturing in the shallow subsurface (frost quakes) and hence mechanical damage to the pavements and roads. The key tool to decrease economic losses due to this damage is to react before the strength and stability of roads and pavements weakens. In our project we shall develop a methodology for monitoring and prediction of seasonal changes of road conditions that uses physics-guided machine learning and artificial intelligence. The results can be used as a tool for proactive maintenance that would give longer lifetimes, savings and better roads and pavements in the long run.

  • Principal investigator: Elena Kozlovskaya
  • University of Oulu and the Geological Survey of Finland

AeroPolis

Solving the challenges of future transportation requires a solid understanding of the megatrends in urbanization, digitalization and energy. Automated vehicles in particular create new zero-carbon services when combined with renewable energy and urban design and attractive opportunities are found in the development of autonomous aerial vehicles, addressing greener last-mile delivery services. Several challenges in this sector are also shared throughout other fields, ideally making the related automation and energy solutions universal. AeroPolis proposes a new take on the aerial logistics ecosystem by defining how autonomous urban-embedded micro-airports and open logistics-ready drones can redefine and advance the current technological possibilities. This is then combined with a digital platform that leverages distributed ledger technologies (DLTs), advanced aerial autonomy and ground-to-air coordination approaches, and integrated hybrid renewable solar+fuel cell energy solutions.

  • Principal investigator: Juha Röning
  • University of Oulu, University of Turku, University of Tampere and Aalto University

AES

To mitigate climate change, we need to fully replace fossil sources as raw materials for future fuels and carbon-based products, such as plastics. As these products are still needed, we must find more sustainable carbon sources. CO2 captured from industrial sources and directly from air provides carbon and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. However, to use the carbon in CO2, it needs to be transformed into fuels and products through hydrogenation, a process that is currently inefficient, and improvements to it are slow. In AIcon we will accelerate the development of better CO2 hydrogenation technology with artificial intelligence (AI). We combine AI-guided exploration and optimization with catalysts synthesis and lab reactors to find better catalysts and optimal processing conditions for CO2 hydrogenation. Our digitized workflow enables us to speed up the technological development process and the CO2 use-case will serve as a template for knowledge transfer to other green technologies.

  • Principal investigator: Annukka Santasalo-Aarnio
  • Aalto University

ARTISDIG

The overall objective of ARTISDIG is to pioneer the science behind a digital twin of the Earth’s forests, capturing their diversity, growth and productivity. New scientific results would enable to integrate forest biodiversity in the Digital Twin Earth, which is being implemented via the Destination Earth (DestinE) initiative as a part of the European Green Deal. ARTISDIG will develop novel methods to quantify and monitor boreal forests’ structural and spectral variation by applying AI-based algorithms to interpret satellite data. The ground-breaking idea is to combine physical and AI models, which has been identified as a significant scientific challenge in the forthcoming years. Our interdisciplinary consortium brings together experts of digital twins and remote sensing (VTT), forest sciences and statistical analyses (Natural Resource Institute Finland), and artificial intelligence and vegetation spectroscopy (Aalto university).

  • Principal investigator: Matti Mõttus
  • VTT, Aalto University and the Natural Resources Institute Finland
  • Project website

Blue Lakes: Digitizing the carbon sink potential of boreal lakes

Lake sediments provide natural sinks in which organic carbon can accumulate on timescales of thousands of years. This way a part of the carbon is permanently removed from active recycling, and lake sediments represent important nature-based solutions for carbon drawdown and climate change mitigation. To make better use of natural carbon sinks, however, it is important to understand the factors that control their formation. The BlueLakes project will deliver new data, understanding, and a digital model that will enable the water management sector and regulatory bodies to assess carbon burial in boreal lakes and understand the impacts that management decisions and climate change can have on the size of the sink. The development of the open access model will be done in co-creation with endusers, to ensure that the model will respond to their needs, hence enabling the direct uptake and impact of the project.

  • Principal investigator: Karoliina Koho
  • Geological Survey of Finland, Finnish Environment Institute and University of Helsinki
  • Project website

Bright

Healthy forests positively strongly influence the entire ecosystem, which is critical for the EU's climate-neutral aim by 2050. However, climate-changing is increasing the amount and intensity of forest stress agents, such as drought, insect pests, and pathogens. Remote sensing techniques for forestry inventories advanced remarkably in the last decades but are still not enough to efficiently monitor the biotic damage to forests. To fully address the current remote sensing challenges, after combining the complementary skills and expertise (Integrated photonics and high-sensitivity miniaturized spectrometer in Aalto, hyperspectral LiDAR (HSL) technologies in FGI, and forest ecology in UH), this consortium will (1) advance mobile ultrawide HSLs with the integrated photonics, (2) use the advanced HSL to investigate tree health mapping, (3) develop accurate and fast modelling and mapping method assistant with artificial intelligence (AI) for sustainable forest growth.

  • Principal investigator: Yuwei Chen
  • Finnish Geospatial Research Institute, Aalto University and University of Helsinki

CLISHEAT

The health care industry is among the most carbon-intensive service sectors in the industrialized world. 60-80% of the carbon footprint of healthcare is due to clinical care, while current actions on carbon-neutral healthcare aim largely on greening buildings, electricity and gas. CLISHEAT will obtain a detailed breakdown of the footprint of clinical care. With this knowledge, we can focus the development of new health technologies to reduce the carbon footprint. Critically, it is estimated that harmful and low-value treatments compose 32% of the carbon footprint of the health care sector, and increased data may add overdiagnosis. CLISHEAT brings this point to the attention of health technology developers and provide insight how artificial intelligence could be used to prevent overdiagnosis. Finally, climate change is damaging human health. CLISHEAT focuses on developing technologies that will help the healthcare to adapt to the increasing burden caused by the climate change.

  • Principal investigator: Emilia Peltola
  • University of Turku, Finnish Environment Institute, Aalto University and University of Helsinki

C-NEUT

The challenges posed by climate change, biodiversity loss and harmful land-use are deeply interconnected. The overall objective of the project is to provide top-class spatially explicit information on the potential for reaching carbon-neutrality in boreal landscapes and regions, considering sustainability issues. Advanced modelling and remote sensing techniques are developed and utilized. Both anthropogenic and land-use based greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are evaluated. Data from top-class research sites is used. The policy-relevant aim is to provide detailed spatial, scenario-based information at different scales for key end-users (e.g. communities, provinces, ministries). This information can be used for e.g. regional land-use and energy strategy planning/management, and sustainability assessment. The project is carried out by a multidisciplinary team from the Finnish Environment Institute, Finnish Meteorological Institute and the universities of Helsinki and Eastern Finland.

  • Principal investigator: Martin Forsius
  • Finnish Environment Institute, Finnish Meteorological Institute, University of Helsinki and University of Eastern Finland
  • Project website

Digi4CSA

Agriculture is a notable greenhouse gas (GHG) emitter. The European Union has set ambitious emissions reduction goals for this sector. Attempts to improve agriculture’s resilience to climate change and reduce its climate impact are often referred to as climate-smart agriculture (CSA). Despite an impressive start, CSA initiatives remain far from being the industry standard. Digi4CSA will create a digital platform that integrates relevant data streams on CSA farms to facilitate agricultural stakeholders’ decision-making and enable novel business models and market exchanges to foster scaling up CSA initiatives. Digi4CSA will build novel ways of accounting that will holistically capture the climate and other impacts of CSA as it grows in scale. Digi4CSA has an extensive partner network, including Carbon Action, ACCC Flagship, worldwide PEcAn project and Ecological Forecast Initiative, science collaborators, and major companies and foundations working in the food and retail sector.

  • Principal investigator: Jari Liski
  • Finnish Meteorological Institute, University of Helsinki, Häme University of Applied Sciences and Aalto University

DigiDecarbon

The “demand side” of the market, actions by citizens as consumers and producers of to low carbon energy now plays an increasing role in the decarbonization of energy and built environment that are the largest carbon polluters in EU. The synergies between energy and digital technologies open new opportunities for novel forms of citizen and community action. We investigate the new digitally mediated energy communities in Finland: the forms and dynamics of digitally enabled citizen energy communities; the presently emerging collaborative business ecosystems related to them; the recent policy reforms and policy coherence related to energy communities as well as the role of public sector; and potential of wide digitalized participation arenas for elaborating the future pathways of energy communities. DigiDecarbon is part of a networked competence cluster that is comprised of academic, policy, industry and practitioner actors who focus on the demand side of the energy transition.

  • Principal investigator: Sampsa Hyysalo
  • Aalto University, University of Vaasa and the Finnish Environment Insitute
  • Project website

EasyDR

De-carbonizing energy system is the main avenue to mitigate climate change. This project attempts to enable large scale flexibility of electricity consumption at the residential scale, which in turn will allow more variable power generation, such as wind power and photovoltaics, to be cost effectively integrated in the energy system. The project will use existing low cost components combined with open source software, since cost has so far been a major barrier for successful residential demand response. We are also taking behavioral barriers very seriously and designing the system from the user perspective advised by lessons from research. However, under the hood, the control system will use state-of-the-art stochastic energy weather forecasts, energy system optimization and control systems. While the system is tested in the Finnish context, it will be generic and allows customization for other regions and purposes.

  • Principal investigator: Anders Lindfors
  • Finnish Meteorological Institute, VTT, Aalto University and the Finnish Environment Insitute

ENZYFUNC

ENZYFUNC project will focus on developing sustainable and scalable surface functionalization methods for cellulosic surfaces by enzymatic means. The aim is to gain superhydrophobicity, UV-resistance and antimicrobial activity on surfaces. Enzymes will be used for covalent attachment of fatty acid molecules and natural wax and lignin particles onto surfaces to improve the durability of coatings. The coatings can later on be removed selectively by enzymes, which in turn improves the recyclability of the materials. Our approach will combine enzymatic methods with computational modelling and environmental impact estimation that will result in biobased hydrophobic coatings that are durable, but easy to remove, and a coating technology that will increase the use of cellulose in textiles and packaging.

  • Principal investigator: Monika Österberg
  • Aalto University, VTT and the Natural Resources Institute Finland

FireMan

Wildfires are one of the major global environmental threats posed by climate change. The objective of the FireMan consortium is to develop novel, disruptive AI-based technology for a fast detection of wildfires and for creating situational awareness during the wildfire event using unmanned aerial systems (UASs, drones). The research will consider aspects of autonomous flying using beyond visual line of sight drones and drone swarms, connectivity, and autonomous extraction of situational awareness using remote sensing and develop a DigitalTwin based decision support system for wildfire management. The multidisciplinary consortium is formed by researchers from the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute, Universities of Jyväskylä and Oulu and VTT and an extensive collaboration network. FireMan will create scientific breakthroughs and societal impacts by developing digital and low-emission technologies that will greatly support the objectives of adapting and mitigating climate change.

  • Principal investigator: Eija Honkavaara
  • Finnish Geospatial Research Institute, University of Oulu, University of Jyväskylä and VTT

FlowXAI

The electrical energy storage is the key problem to be solved to realize green transition in electricity generation. Redox flow batteries (RFBs) offer promise for large scale energy storage, but current technology requires critical materials like vanadium and therefore remain too expensive . Instead, affordable RFBs based on renewable or abundant raw materials are needed. The potential molecules need to fulfil several criteria, including a reasonable high energy density, stability, and production at an affordable cost, but no such molecules have been discovered yet. FlowXAI will develop procedures to screen a vast number of molecules, utilizing both computational chemistry and machine learning, complemented with targeted molecular synthesis and automated synthesis and testing of flow battery chemical.

  • Principal investigator: Pekka Peljo
  • University of Turku, Aalto University and University of Jyväskylä

ForClimate

The aim of the project is to resolve efficient forest management strategies to strengthen the ability of forests to mitigate climate change. We analyze the impacts of forest management and changing climate on forest carbon sink and radiative forcing by combining comprehensive long-term data sets on boreal forests and the atmosphere with diverse forest growth modelling. We develop a synthesis model MottiC+ and a stand simulation tool available online for public use. The model will allow assessing forest–atmosphere interactions in different management and climate scenarios at various scales accounting not only for carbon sink, but also other forest climate impacts (other GHG’s, albedo and aerosols). We will also produce an open online MOOC course on forest use and climate impacts. The interdisciplinary consortium includes scientists from the University of Helsinki, the Natural Resources Institute Finland and the Finnish Meteorological Institute as well as forest sector collaborators.

  • Principal investigator: Markku Kulmala
  • University of Helsinki, Natural Resources Institute Finland and the Finnish Meteorological Institute

GEOMEASURE

The project will investigate seabed structures in the Finnish Baltic Sea. The investigations will consist of remote sensing methods and on-site tests. As the on-site tests do not give accurate enough results about the seabed structures, the project will develop new methods of interpretation of this digital data. The project will also collect and test samples from the seabed, investigating and modelling their behaviour both in the initial condition and after cycles of loads, corresponding to those induced by wind and waves. The project will also help to assess the risk of underwater landslides in a given area. The project will advance the digital methods and allow for the economical design of green energy offshore structures, such as wind turbines. The project will also help in designing infrastructure such as pipes or cables linking the structures with land, as such infrastructure is sensitive to underwater landslides.

  • Principal investigator: Wojciech Solowski
  • Aalto University and the Geological Survey of Finland

Green-Digi-Basin

In Green-Digi-Basin, we will use multidisciplinary approaches, novel technologies and smart solution in close collaboration with different stakeholders and end-users to provide crucial information for sustainable and resilient water resources management. The project is strongly connected to the existing competence center a.k.a. HYDRO-RDI-Network. We are aiming to find the most effective green solutions for the boreal-subarctic river basins and improve current calculations for river connectivity, nutrient and carbon loads to surface water systems from different land use. We further consider land use scenarios including various types of green solutions (e.g.peatland restoration, wetland, gypsum treatment) for predicting water volume and quality in the river basin scale.

GYROSCOPE

Digital smart concepts and services are claimed to have a significant role in introducing cleaner, safer, and more efficient logistics. Putting new devices and tools into operation by numerous actors in different parts of the operational environment may, however, increase the risk of technical issues and human errors. Focus of the green transition is in reducing GHG emissions, but to ensure the sustainability of the transition, it is important to also work proactively on identifying the potential risks the new digital solutions can create. Acknowledging this, GYROSCOPE aims, through participatory processes and modern risk analytical methods, to produce a comprehensive picture of sustainable transition to low-carbon marine logistics in Finland, and potential pathways to achieve it. GYROSCOPE aims to understand the nature and preconditions of sustainable green transition in general, as well as the development picture of the digitalisation as part of it.

  • Principal investigator: Toni Ahlqvist
  • University of Turku, Kotka Maritime Research Centre, University of Helsinki and Aalto University
  • Project website

UTOPIA

The objective of the UTOPIA project is to develop methods to support stakeholders in implementing climate smart forestry, which advances carbon neutrality but also considers financial objectives. In the analysis, a landscape is composed of holdings and holdings are composed of stands. Holdings have typically different owners that have different preferences about what kind of management is practiced in their stands. We focus on supporting decision making in this setting and finding the most preferred solution among multiple conflicting objectives. The research is implemented in the Natural Resources Institute Finland, University of Helsinki and University of Jyväskylä.

  • Principal investigator: Petteri Packalen
  • Natural Resources Institute Finland, University of Eastern Finland and University of Jyväskylä

MIDAS

Microalgae are photosynthetic organisms that can sequester carbon dioxide from industrial emissions as well as nutrients from wastewater while producing large amounts of valuable biomass and compounds. The aim of the MIDAS consortium is to develop the use of microalgae cultivations for carbon sequestration from typical industrial gas mixtures as well as carbon dioxide emissions and nutrient discharge from recirculating aquaculture and, at the same time, concatenate microalgae-based services and processes, including production of biomass, valuable biomolecules and hydrogen gas. Efficient integration of processes through spectroscopy-based monitoring and process modeling is at the core of this research project. The MIDAS consortium combines expertise from microalgae biotechnology, recirculating aquaculture, sensorics and computational sciences to enhance the process integration and control and therefore promote microalgae technology’s contribution to the green and digital transition.

  • Principal investigator: Pauliina Salmi
  • University of Jyväskylä and VTT

MIMIC

Lignocellulosic materials, the essential components of plant matter, are organized in complex three-dimensional structures, where detailed understanding of the interactions between the different polymer components is still an unresolved challenge. In this proposal, a novel microscopy imaging and artificial intelligence infrastructure is used to visualize individual lignocellulosic building blocks and their assembled structures at an unprecedented resolution. The application potential is in gaining information to improve biorefinery processes - serving in the development of selective dissolution processes for producing purified streams of cellulose, lignin and hemicelluloses. It can also be applied in new technologies for producing natural textile fibers and to reveal the detailed surface structure of lignocellulosic materials, essential for  enzyme-aided or chemical modification in biorefineries.

  • Principal investigator: Adam Foster
  • Aalto University and VTT

MULTIRISK

Climate change induces multiple risks to forests and forestry. Our overarching goal is to provide advanced digital technologies and risk management solutions and tools for mitigating forest disturbances caused by spruce bark beetles and storms. We will develop: 1) advanced geospatial technologies for detecting and monitoring forest disturbances, and 2) efficient solutions and tools for sustainable risk management at different spatial and temporal scales. We will also demonstrate, co-develop, and communicate efficient digital technologies, risk management solutions and tools with key stakeholders in the society, to enhance their utilization potential in practical forestry. Our ambitious research provides a significant renewal in the science-based risk management under a changing operative environment and valuable support for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

  • Principal investigator: Jari Holopainen
  • University of Helsinki, University of Eastern Finland and Finnish Geospatial Research Institute

OptStorage

Heating in buildings and industry accounts for half of the EU’s energy consumption, making it the biggest energy end-use sector. Approximately 75% of heating is still generated from fossil fuels. A major current challenge for utilizing renewable energy resources is their intermittency in time, causing gaps between the supply and demand. Furthermore, effective reuse of industrial waste heat would reduce emissions of industry. Therefore, a key enabler in improving the overall output of renewable heating technologies is an efficient thermal energy storage. The development of new materials and systems that can store thermal energy effectively for long periods, from weeks to months, is thus desired. Based on industrial and communal energy system optimization, material development and artificial intelligence, we study what environmental, economic and energy efficiency effects new thermal energy storages can have to reach the paradigm shift towards the carbon-neutral energy use.

  • Principal investigator: Ari Seppälä
  • Aalto University

SIUC

Fouling of heat exchangers and pipes reduces energy efficiency of numerous industrial processes and is globally a major contributor to CO2 emissions. Regular cleaning is required to restore the original performance. Nowadays, this requires either dangerous chemicals or the mechanical removal of the fouling by halting the operations. This is not a sustainable practice. In recent years external ultrasonic cleaning became market-ready as a green and economical alternative. It allows cleaning and fouling prevention without stopping the operation. While it reduces the mechanical and chemical wear and tear of the equipment, long-term high-power sonication may cause harm, such as fatigue. Our project develops methods for identification and prevention of such damage, and aims at creating safety-assured and sustainable industrial ultrasonic cleaning solutions by combining advanced artificial intelligence methods and fundamental ultrasonics research.

  • Principal investigator: Arto Klami
  • University of Helsinki

Transformative Cities

To enable rapid transformations towards carbon neutrality and climate resilience in urban areas of Finland, a much deeper understanding is needed about how people actually live in urban settings and how this local knowledge can be combined with urban policy, law and planning practice. Transformative Cities aims to create an integrated set of mobility modelling, participatory mapping and governance methods for enabling sustainable urban lifestyles. This includes transport mode shifts from car use to more sustainable transportation options (e.g., e-bikes, active mobility, shared transport) in ways that promote healthy environmental exposures through nature-based solutions (NBS). We use these combined methods in order to assess opportunities and constraints to transformation to carbon neutrality and climate resilience in cities by 2035, and to co-create planning practices, policy options and business strategies to promote behaviours in support of sustainable urban lifestyles.

  • Principal investigator: Cristopher Raymond
  • University of Helsinki, University of Oulu, University of Turku, University of Eastern Finland and Aalto University

Twinning Spaces 2035

Due to digitalisation, more people are working at home, in public and semi-public spaces. The characteristics of workspaces (including e.g. space size, layout and location) affect employee performance and wellbeing, and remote work can influence how we use spaces, commute, consume and spend leisure time, with environmental and health consequences. There is an urgent need to maximize the potential from digital remote working for the green transition. We aim at increasing understanding of the sustainability challenges of future digital remote working and how those could be tackled with optimal spatial solutions and practices for households and employers. The study brings together a unique team and methods from spatial planning, housing design, architecture and land use planning, facility management, urban physics, environmental impact analysis and policies, real estate and futures studies from Aalto University, Tampere University, and Turku University.

  • Principal investigator: Saija Toivonen
  • Aalto University, Tampere University and University of Turku

UHASSA

At present, road transport contributes a significant amount to the total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the EU. AIforLEssAuto brings together atmospheric and computer scientists, and traffic engineers in active dialogue with municipal stakeholders with the ultimate aim to understand how autonomous electrified traffic should be organized during the transition period in order to reduce carbon emissions. This is achieved by building a framework of computational modelling tools to evaluate the CO2 emissions originating from electrified automated vehicles, and by developing artificial intelligence based control from vehicle-level to city-center wide traffic-level in which CO2 emissions are minimized. Such multidisciplinary approach has not been done to this extent before and thus AIforLEssAuto advances the state of scientific research in all disciplines involved and the novel combination will certainly lead to new, scientifically and societally, important breakthroughs.

  • Principal investigator: Laura Ruotsalainen
  • University of Helsinki and Aalto University

WindySea

The European Union aims to increase energy production by offshore wind farms (OWFs) from present 12 GW to 300 GW by year 2050. Many northern sea areas, such as the Bothnian Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia, have been identified as suitable for offshore wind farms. Key challenge related to the OWF developments in all northern sea areas is the interaction OWFs and moving sea ice: It is difficult to design cost-effective yet safe wind turbine units due to high sea ice loads. This halts OWF construction in ice covered seas. WindySea proposes to build a framework for a “Digital Twin of a cold regions OWF”, a multi-physics modeling engine for forecasting future marine environmental and ice conditions, while simultaneously being detailed enough for the design and optimization of cold regions OWFs. Aim is to accelerate green transition by optimizing OWFs and wind turbine structures through research on the effects cold marine environment to OWFs and OWFs impact to cold marine environment.

  • Principal investigator: Arttu Polojärvi
  • Aalto University, Finnish Meteorological Institute and VTT

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