The Wood industry is More Innovative than Forestry

Within the last 25 years, Estonia has gone through major social and economic reforms, which are still ongoing. For example, forest privatisation and restitution processes have not been fully completed yet. Source: pixabay.com
Within the last 25 years, Estonia has gone through major social and economic reforms, which are still ongoing. For example, forest privatisation and restitution processes have not been fully completed yet. Source: pixabay.com

Forest and innovation—how could these two fit in one sentence? Innovation refers to changes but trees grow in the same way as they have grown since the beginning of times. However, the forest sector as an industry can feel the innovation vibes but the capacity of the changes depends on the current management.

Meelis Teder, engineer at the Department of Forest Industry at the Estonian University of Life Sciences, analysed the Estonian forest policy from 1990 to 2010 in his recently defended doctoral thesis. He said that as almost half of Estonia is covered with forests, the usage of forests as a resource is extremely important for the Estonian economy. “In the past 25 years remarkable socio-economic changes have occurred in Estonia and the forest sector has been influenced by these,” said Teder, “despite this, only little attention is paid to the innovation of this sector.”

One great change during the analysed years was the decrease in forest law violations and illegal logging. Teder said that maintaining a public forest registry is an innovative solution that has helped a lot.

Paavo Kaimre (PhD), vice-rector of studies at the Estonian University of Life Sciences, supervisor of the thesis, mentioned that as the changes in the Estonian forestry are a subject that holds international interest, a big part of the research was done within the COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) programme. This gave the chance to compare case study analyses with other European countries.

Helping Policy Makers

As in many other countries, the forest sector is not considered an innovative field in Estonian conditions according to Teder. The wood processing industry or, to be exact—companies that develop equipment for it—are more innovation-minded. Model wooden house producers are the most innovative and competitive part of the forest sector in Estonia. They have adopted real top-notch standards.

Kaimre added that silviculture and the verification of timber flows were also proven to be connected with innovation. “The thesis shows that the activity of market participants alone is not enough to make changes on the different levels of a company. External impetus or support is needed and often institutional innovation helps in this,” he said.

What is more, Kaimre sees that the analysis helps to make decisions in terms of the future forest policy. These choices could contribute into the complex development of forestry in ways that the society needs right now.

Sufficient Regulation

Recently, Teder and his colleagues from an international research group analysed forest ownership questions in Europe. Nevertheless, there are many more aspects of forest policy that await analysis.

Although there are always some interest groups who are not satisfied with the current situation, Teder noted that compared to other European countries, Estonian forestry is one of the most heavily regulated fields of all. “On the other hand, in some instances, Estonian owners have more freedom to decide than in other countries and it is good because we should not overregulate the field. Overall, our forest policy is not so bad at all,” Teder underlined.

Still, Teder sees a problem that needs solving but that probably will not be alleviated without other great adjustments. “Forest management plans should be independent because business interests often drive the management today,” he explained.

This article was funded by the European Regional Development Fund through Estonian Research Council.