With informed decisions, digitalisation contributes to a growing bioeconomy

With her background as a social scientist, Camilla Widmark, associate professor at SLU in Umeå, addresses digitalisation issues from an overall societal perspective. What the programme’s research results can mean at a structural level in society is a work of synthesis, she summarises.

Camilla Widmark är docent vid SLU. Foto: Mona Bonta Bergman.

Camilla Widmark is Associate Professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU). Photo: Mona Bonta Bergman.


– I want to look at how we can draw conclusions from the various parts of the programme into a new composite picture, showing the contributions Mistra Digital Forest can make in society’s transition to a bio-based economy, Camilla Widmark explains.

As a social scientist, Camilla Widmark looks at the results from a human point of view, and work focused on digital ecosystems and automation is currently underway.

– In the programme, we have carried out visualisation work, which among other things shows the digital maturity of the industry, in different areas. I am working on a research article, together with Erik Willén from Skogforsk and Ola Lindroos, Carola Häggström and Erik Anerud from SLU, with this as our starting point, looking at how digital chains create value. I aim to connect the digital ecosystem with existing research on automation, she explains.

– Autonomous systems are great, with self-driving vehicles, robot arms and more besides. But there is always a human perspective behind the systems, and this is where we can find value, and look at what constitutes that value, says Camilla Widmark. She continues;

– Is the value an improved working environment, the identification of different types of training needs or perhaps an equal opportunity perspective? Working in the forest is seen as a hard job. With automation, maybe this picture can change. The traditional image of a big strong man working in the forest could be erased, and autonomous systems could allow more people to work in the forest instead, says Camilla Widmark.

“Digitalisation will have effects on all sections of society”

One task that has always been present in the work of synthesis, is looking at the concept of bioeconomy, and how digitalisation can contribute to a transition to a bioeconomy. Camilla Widmark and her colleague Marco Persishina are finalising a report on bioeconomy,  circularity, and sustainability.

– We see that digitalisation will have effects on all sections of society. A local rural area can now access information without having to go to a big city. City dwellers can gain knowledge about the countryside and the forest, even if they live far away from it. This makes it easier for more people to access knowledge, which means that more people have a chance of making informed decisions, Camilla Widmark explains.

These informed decisions are something Camilla Widmark sees as crucial in a transition.

-      It is not until consumers actively choose a bio-based product over a fossil-based product that we will live in a bioeconomy. But to get there consumers need to understand, so they can make informed decisions. When more people in society have a chance of making informed decisions, digitalisation contributes to a transition towards a bioeconomy, says Camilla Widmark.

Visualisation work has shown that the forest industry has a number of digital systems in layers on top of each other, but that there is often a lack of information transfer between the layers.

– When we achieve digital information flows between different stages in the bioeconomy, digital tools will contribute even more to the transition, states Camilla Widmark.

Read more about the Work Package Program-wide activities.