Client case study Invico Metanol AB: A strong patent led to the realization of a large-scale environmental improvement

7 February, 2018

Combining business acumen with environmental focus while seeing the bigger picture, Anders Eliasson, former head of development at Invico Metanol AB, has always based his view of innovation on commercial value linked to environmental improvements. Additionally, his strong commitment to protecting the environment has always been an important driving force.

“I have always prioritized contributing to discoveries that matter in the bigger picture. I am driven by questions such as: How do we increase the yield from a resource? How can we make use of by-products and increase their yield or refine them further?”

Working with Ström & Gulliksson gave Invico Metanol AB a strong patent and led to the realization of a large-scale environmentally beneficial solution for the pulp industry.

Our forests are a versatile natural resource that generates many by-products as waste. Historically, the pulp industry has produced a large part of Sweden’s emissions and, to this day, forest industry corporate groups struggle to find sustainable solutions for the long term. Enormous quantities of wood are required to make pulp and the methanol that is released usually ends up with all the other stuff that reeks in the water purification plant. Invico Metanol AB set out to find new efficient and innovative ways to remove sulphur and other impurities from the methanol.

“The methanol produced when pulp is made is usually considered a problem, and producers have had to resort to merely burning it. There was an old method for removing the foul smell of the methanol, but it was complicated and had limited use. Our patent may sound relatively simple: Instead of merely distilling the methanol, we have added a step where we use paraffin oil for extraction. The oil is purified using steam and can be used again,” says Anders Eliasson. As head of development at Veolia Nordic AB, he focuses on creating commercial value with environmentally beneficial solutions.

Finding the right patent consultant is crucial to both smooth collaboration and a solid end result

“A patent process is often lengthy and costly. That is precisely why choosing a patent consulting firm with people who really care is so important,” says Anders Eliasson. He went to elaborate on this as follows:

“Finding the right patent consultant is crucial to both achieving a solid end result and ensuring smooth collaboration from start to finish. Working with Magnus Berglund, we were able to focus on the right aspects from the outset and continue doing what we do best. He scrutinized our hypotheses and lab tests while guiding us through the process, paving the way for a strong patent.

The decisive factor was Magnus Berglund’s special interest in and knowledge of all areas of applied chemistry. His understanding of the interplay between business models and patent strategies was also essential.

“Working with a patent consultant who is genuinely interested in what we do, both from a technological and business perspective, and who commands documented knowledge of the field, laid the foundations for smooth collaboration.”

Anders Eliasson highlights three important things to consider at the start of a patent process:

  • Make sure that you, your employees and especially your business partners are aware that the process is usually lengthy, although it can be accelerated.
  • Initiate dialogue with your patent consultant early on.
  • Choose a patent consultant who truly gets you and your business.

“Magnus Berglund has been instrumental in helping us make the right decisions and spend our time and energy on the right things. His involvement early in the process and laser focus on the patenting process played a crucial role for us. He constantly reminded us of and helped us identify core issues such as: How large is the innovation scope? What is unique and new about this? What is the commercial value? What knowledge do we need to support the patent?”

Close dialogue required to create strong patent portfolio

When the company was in the process of deciding whether to produce and deliver systems or to sell the concept, it opted for the latter. Patenting this technology was a prerequisite. Now the patent has been sold to Andritz, a major Finnish supplier of machinery to industries such as paper and pulp.

“Having been there from the start makes it hard to let go, although selling the patent was definitely the right decision. It was getting too big for us and we wanted as many companies as possible to be able to use the technology. We had neither the time nor the resources to design and manufacture the systems needed to meet demand and enable our discoveries to really make a difference,” says Anders Eliasson. He can now take pride that large pulp mills are able to upgrade their plants with the environmentally beneficial technology he helped develop.

Grants from the Swedish Energy Agency were instrumental to the company’s development activities, as was close collaboration with industry partners the company won over.
“We funded part of the development activities with the help of companies who were given the right to use the technology for their own purposes.”

Magnus Berglund has been along for the whole journey and has offered strategic advice in addition to the patent process proper:

“As a patent consultant, I find it incredibly rewarding to be onboard from innovation to patent and beyond, and to help the company tap potential for commercial value. Anders Eliasson and his team worked hard on development while maintaining close dialogue with me to create a strong patent portfolio, which we achieved. We are now in an age where innovations that solve environmental problems are sought-after and there is great interest in the general public, among companies and at the political level. I consider it my responsibility to keep this in mind and stay well-informed.”