Janne Poranen is the perfect combination of scientist, industrial expert and entrepreneur. He is an in-demand speaker who always remembers to highlight his alumni story and the high-quality education behind his success. He sees great value in that research conducted at the university is applied to the needs of society. Poranen was selected as the University of Jyväskylä’s Alumni of the Year for 2021.

Poranen began his studies in the Department of Physics in 1992. His initial plan was to become a teacher of physics, and so he completed teacher’s pedagogical studies.

“I come from Perho, which is a very small place,” Poranen says. “The university was a place that opened the country boy’s eyes to the world. Everything seemed possible.”

Instead of a teacher’s career, Janne became interested in papermaking technology when the Faculty of Mathematics and Science started a master’s degree programme on it. He immediately found the programme practical and interesting. He was the first student to complete a degree from the programme, and he wrote his doctoral dissertation on the same topic.

“I greatly appreciated that the university responded so quickly to the need in the labour market, the region and Finland in general. Education in papermaking technology was exactly what was needed at that moment. Now I have happily noticed the launching of master’s degree education in information and software engineering.”

The direction of Poranen’s career became clear as his studies progressed. “In their final theses, all students were able to respond to challenges set by industry, which was very motivating,” he says. He went to Valmet to perform a specialised task and complete his thesis. Eventually it continued on as his doctoral dissertation, which was related to the paper machine industry, fluid dynamics and the behaviour of viscoelastic roll coatings.

“For me, it was a good project that combined my studies and the needs of industry. VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland played a big role and made it possible to hire me. I was able to concentrate on my work in peace.”

Poranen completed his dissertation when he was a visiting researcher at the University of Maine in 2001. After the doctoral degree, he continued for fifteen years as a researcher at VTT in projects that were connected to papermaking processes and the development of new fibre technologies. He also did customer work and research management, at first on the level of teams and research areas.

“I ultimately ended up leading the whole research area of biomaterials, which included research in Jyväskylä, Tampere, Otaniemi and Lappeenranta.”

Now Poranen leads Spinnova, a company that has developed a new kind of technology for making textile fibre from wood and waste flows without a soaking process and harmful chemicals. From the thread, it is possible to make fabric that suited for use in the clothing and textile industry. Spinnova cooperates with, for example, H&M, Ecco and Marimekko and is building a factory in Jyväskylä with the Brazilian pulp company Suzano. The fibre produced in the factory will be available for global textile brands. The company employs many JYU alumni. Poranen and Janne Salmela, another founder of Spinnova, have a similar background.

Poranen considers that university studies have given him self-confidence and courage, which is visible in Spinnova’s aims to change an industry on a global scale. By combining science and business, his aim is to create sustainable growth and a future that is more environmentally friendly.

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