Startup Woodtech – Jean Monnet University

Created in late 2021, startup WoodTechno is revolutionizing the wood-energy market thanks to its innovative process of manufacturing high-energy wood pellets. WoodTechno technology, from the Polymeric Materials Engineering laboratory at UJM, uses sawdust by-products (sawdust, shavings, chips) from all types of wood species, hardwood or soft, isolated or in mixture, where current solutions show their limits. . The challenge : that all sawmills, especially small or medium-sized ones, can finally value their co-products on the spot, in a logic of local production, as close as possible to forests and consumers. Based in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, WoodTechno plans to establish its industrial pilot there in the coming months.

A groundbreaking innovation resulting from research

WoodTechno was born from the meeting between José Brunet, a professional in the wood industry, and Frédéric Becquart, a researcher at the Polymeric Materials Engineering laboratory in Saint-Etienne, (UJM/ Lyon 1/ INSA Lyon/ CNRS), and their common desire to optimize the current wood pellet manufacturing process, which is done by the dry process with an inefficient technology requiring installations as expensive as they are energy intensive.

The research carried out by Frédéric Becquart, Fetah Ghriga and Christian Carrot at the IMP led to a wood pellet manufacturing process unique on the market, breaking with the existing, modular and very robust, less expensive and reducing operating costs.

This patented innovation can be used for all tree species treating softwood and hardwood species with or without mixtures, where current solutions do not allow it. The wood pellets produced consume less energy using the twin-screw extrusion technology and meet current standards (EN+, DIN+, etc.), with reinforced calorific value and high durability. The process developed also makes it possible to reduce the pellet manufacturing steps with a great modularity inducing a compactness of industrial installations accessible to all sizes of sawmill. This innovation will provide users with a very competitive cost price for their access to the wood pellet market.

A startup based in the Auvergne Rhône-Alpes region that also aims internationally

“We at PULSALYS are proud to have supported WoodTechno’s ambition for several years, which will shape our future in a sustainable and ecological way, contributing to French and European re-industrialization and economic recovery. » says Sophie Jullian, president of PULSALYS.

Incubated by PULSALYS in the Lyon region, then installed in Cantal, the startup WoodTechno is a project deeply rooted in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. 3rd forest region in France with more than 2.5 million hectares and a forestation rate of 36%, the Region supports the project with ERDF funding.

One of WoodTechno’s ambitions is to create an economic model as close as possible to the territories, ensuring short-circuit supply to the final consumer. In a second phase, the startup intends to expand its process to national, European and then global levels. WoodTechno plans to install its first semi-industrial pilot soon in Saint-Etienne to produce up to 300 kg per hour in early 2023. From then on, a demonstrator will be commissioned at the Scierie du Environment industrial site located in Cantal, which José Brunet has just acquired with its partners to reach a nominal production of 4 tons per hour by 2024.

Determining pulsalys support from the start

Following Tech4Earth’s call for projects in 2019, PULSALYS has supported this innovation throughout its development. This translated first into financial and human support to experience the process, in particular with the purchase of equipment and the hiring of a postdoctoral fellow for more than 18 months within the laboratory, and to arrive at a proof of concept.
PULSALYS’ support continued with the help in creating the start-up thanks to the incubation program followed by the CEO, José Brunet, and in the search for various types of funding (French Tech grant, i-Lab contest, R&D Booster…).
WoodTechno plans to sell the entire industrial chain, including the patented process, to small and medium-sized sawmills to ensure better use of the by-products resulting from its production and, therefore, additional margins.

Very encouraging market prospects

Accentuated by energy price increases, the wood pellet market is exponential with growth of 10% per year in the last 10 years worldwide, as well as a 50% increase in the sale of pellet stoves and boilers in France. . The current consumption of wood pellets is more than one million tons per year in France and 30 million tons in Europe, while we produce only 23 million, which demonstrates the market potential and the interest of this industrial sovereignty.

For this, the startup has one new hire in 2022 and four in 2023, including the sales director.

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