Highlights from the XYLO Worlds scientific conference in Brussels
“XYLO Worlds: Industry, Economy and Natural Resources-based Medicine” – this was the theme of the international scientific conference held on 24 October 2023 in the Brussels Office of the National Centre for Research and Development. The discussion was attended by specialists from science and business community from Belgium, Latvia, the Czech Republic, France, Slovenia and Poland.
The XYLOPOLIS Centre for Wood Art and Science, the East Poland House in Brussels, the Brussels Office of the National Centre for Research and Development and the Podlaskie Marshal’s Office are the organisers of the conference. The event’s partners were the Latvian Innovation & Technology Office in Brussels and the Slovenian Business & Research Association.
The meeting was opened by Ewa Kosińska-Lange, Director of the Brussels Office of the National Centre for Research and Development, who welcomed the guests, and Magdalena Łyżnicka-Sanczenko, Acting Director of XYLOPOLIS Centre for Wood Art and Science, who introduced the attendees to the concept behind the XYLO Worlds conference, symbiotically linked to the nature of the world of tomorrow.
Wood – the material of the future
After a series of introductions came the scientific part. The conference was opened by Joris Van Acker, Head of the Wood Technology Laboratory at Ghent University, who discussed the role of wood as a product of the forest used for sustainable construction of the future. The scientist indicated that the demand for wood will reach 10 billion cubic meters by 2050, which is very significant due to the constantly growing number of people moving in to urban areas. Wood and its wide range of uses can ensure, among other things, the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as adopted by all Member States of the United Nations.
The next discussion panel concerned wood as the raw material of the future in modern construction and other engineering fields. The event was attended by representatives of science, administration and business: Antra Viļuma from Riga Technical University, Petr Čermák from University of Bern, Jarosław Szewczyk from Bialystok University, Primož Simončič from the Slovenian Forestry Institute and Tomasz Perkowski from Unihouse. The discussion concerned the vision and principles of modern forest management, which cares about the preservation of natural forest reservoirs and natural monuments, while shaping the business potential of the wood market. Participants could also learn about specific examples in the field of architecture, construction, or materials science.
Forests and wood against global challenges
The second part of the conference was moderated by Katarzyna Dziedzik, spokesperson for the University of Bialystok. The discussion was devoted to the developments in the scientific world which are a concrete response to the ongoing climate change and global challenges of the modern world. The participants of the panel learned about the results of research on bioactive substances contained in wood fungi, which could form the basis for the development of new antibiotics and drugs for cancer, civilization diseases, as well as the potential of raw materials of natural origin and old methods in the treatment of humans and animals. Attention was also drawn to the positive significance of contact with nature on the mental health of modern man and the proposal to adopt specific solutions aimed at creating a more balanced and harmonious relationship with nature, which is crucial for our survival and well-being.
Extremely accurate observations were provided by Dr Ewa Zapora from the Institute of Forest Sciences of the Bialystok University of Technology. During her speech, she pointed out the excessive and ubiquitous use of chemicals in the environment, agriculture or food, which can have catastrophic consequences for the health and life of humans, animals and plants. According to the scientist, diseases of civilisation are the biggest epidemic of our time, for which there is no cure, but nature provides inspiration and ready-made solutions. In her opinion, forest and wood may be a source of “super compounds” for special tasks, which may become new drugs and supplements in the future.
The talk by Marcin Sielezniew from Faculty of Biology of the University of Bialystok was devoted to forest management and protection of one of the most endangered species of European butterflies, the yellow Colias. In Europe, the yellow Colias butterfly has declined dramatically due to habitat destruction and, most likely, also climate change. One of the last meta-populations in the European Union survived in the eastern part of the Knyszyn Forest (Podlaskie Voivodeship), where it is now completely dependent on forestry. In 2021, a project financed by the State Forests was launched, aimed at conducting ecological research and developing and implementing protective measures to ensure the butterfly’s long-term survival.
Another speaker, Bérénice Kimpe from the Xylofutur cluster, presented France’s perspective on the impact of the forest sector on global challenges through the implementation of specific projects that fit in with the objectives set by the European Commission. Climate neutrality, bioeconomy, and biodiversity restoration, where the forest-wood sector can play a key role thanks to close cooperation with industry and academia.
The future premises of the centre will be approximately 8 thousand square meters, with up to 2 thousand visitors every day – per our estimates, once the centre becomes popular, said Professor Lech Dzienis.
XYLOPOLIS, or promoting knowledge about wood
The conference was concluded by Professor Lech Dzienis, who spoke about the concept of creating a new cultural institution – XYLOPOLIS Centre for Wood Art and Science, which will be established by 2027 in Podlaskie. The future premises of the centre will be approximately 8 thousand square meters, with up to 2 thousand visitors every day – per our estimates, once the centre becomes popular, said Professor Lech Dzienis.
Professor Dzienis also recalled that the centre is entered and approved as a strategic project in the new regional program, from which the region will use funds from the EU, from the 2021-2027 European Funds for Podlasie (FEDP) programme. XYLOPOLIS will influence the development of the region, as well as perfectly promote Podlaskie, which is famous for its forest areas. Thanks to the educational offer, the Centre will attract tourists (including families with children), but also scientists. It will also support entrepreneurs. It was emphasized that business is to be one of the foundations new institution’s operations.
East Poland House