Betulium: A novel chemical derived from agricultural by-products

Marko Lauraeus, a doctor and successful serial entrepreneur, and Antti Laukkanen, a scientist, co-founded a business that adheres to the principles of the circular economy in the production of nanocellulose from agricultural raw materials. With help in getting started from Tekes, Betulium now runs a pilot plant producing material on an industrial scale.

Betulium's cleantech product is nanocellulose, or cellulose broken down to nanoscale. Earlier attempts to commercialise nanocellulose – a 1980s invention – failed due to the high price of the product. So far, nanocellulose has mainly been made of wood, which is more expensive than the material discovered by Betulium: by-products of the agricultural industry.

"Based on our process, a surplus raw material that would otherwise be worthless or very inexpensive, is processed into a product with higher added value," Betulium's Managing Director Marko Lauraeus explains.

Market potential of more than EUR 40 billion

"Cooperation with the industry sector is the cornerstone of our business, but without a product development loan from Tekes, we would not have been able to get started. With help from Tekes, we were able to launch the pilot stage," Lauraeus says.

Betulium's nanocellulose product is a competitor for the water-soluble polymers currently available on the market. The estimated market potential of the product is EUR 40 billion. Water-soluble polymers are used in the manufacture of paper, feeds, foods, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Betulium's chemical is both inexpensive and at least as effective, or more effective, than water-soluble polymers.

Between the raw material manufacturer and end producer

Betulium's business model does not involve setting up production plants or the manufacture of final products.

"Our operating concept is slightly different to the conventional, company-based model. We do have patents, and we have people working for us, but the key idea is to build alliances with raw material producers. We set up production facilities together with producers, based on their existing production, but we own the production rights," Lauraeus explains.

Raw materials include potato, which is used to produce starch. Until now, the by-product has been used for animal feed. Based on Betulium's business model, the raw material producer obtains a better price for the by-product. In addition to raw material suppliers, Betulium also seeks to build partnerships with end-product manufacturers. The idea is to provide partners with an exclusive right to commercialise any products derived from the chemical.

Additional information

Marko Lauraeus
Managing Director
marko.lauraeus (at)
Tel. +358 45 6734159

Text: Katariina Ahonen, Kaiku Helsinki
Picture: Potato starch processing waste can be utilised as nanocellulose.

Soile Thalén