Protecting the Planet
Callum Hill, Peter Wilson, Alan Coultas
“Wood is a fantastic material. It’s nature’s own material that can be shaped however you like. And if you use wood the right way, it will last indefinitely.” SiOO:X innovator and founder Herje Boström is a nature lover who enjoys hiking in the woods and fields around his eighteenth century house in Småland. And who never stops being fascinated by houses that are still standing after centuries without being affected by mildew.
“These houses have stood the test of time largely because they were built smarter in the past and were made from natural building materials,” says Herje Boström. The foundation for Herje’s interest in architecture and building was laid while he was studying in Munich in the 1980s. Many of his friends were architecture students. One of them later became one of the most famous architects in northern Europe, specializing in building conservation. Herje earned a degree in business administration and became a teacher at Nösnäs Upper Secondary School in Stenungsund. The friends kept in touch and periodically got together.
After a few years they launched a business together based on researching old techniques to discover forgotten treasures of knowledge that could be developed into modern products. Initially they tried different paths together. They soon settled on a successful technique that conservators have been using for centuries to preserve wood.
It involves a simple mixture of silicon and potassium that penetrates into and unites with wood, while strengthening it with a crystalline layer. This technique has protected valuable art objects and wooden details in buildings against mildew, rotting and insects for centuries. Some say that Stradivarius even treated his violins with potassium silicate to get the best protection and sound. (Could this by why Stradivarius instruments are so outstanding? :-). Sodium silicate, which was used during World War II for fire protection, was also tested. However, this technique was rejected since it was discovered that it does not penetrate and protect as effectively, but rather over-strengthens the surface layer, which then becomes subject to cracking.
This signaled the start for Sioo Wood Protection AB, which was founded in 1998. Herje and his team developed a product suitable for protecting wood against the taxing Nordic environment. Contacts were established with paint giant Akzo Nobel and Chalmers University of Technology, where together we tested the basic technology for several years. The SiOO:X team simultaneously carried out in-house development projects. A unique silicon formula was developed and the results were confirmed by testing the product under both laboratory conditions and on wood exposed to real-world elements. “It was a real thrill. A whole new world opened up. I was studying, teaching and completely captivated,” says Herje Boström. Herje applied for a European patent, which was approved and ready to go. This serves as the foundation for a broad and stable patent-protected technology base on which to develop the business for many years to come.
In order to achieve production on a somewhat larger scale, Herje and company initiated a collaboration with painting legend Rolf Hansen and his company, Wibo Färg, located on Hisingen in Gothenburg. Sioo:x leased space and gradually grew in the premises at Wibo Färg.
Herje had begun by applying the wood protection product to decks belonging to friends and neighbours. He quickly received confirmation that the product really worked and people began to contact him spontaneously. They were especially fascinated by the beautiful, light and smooth surface. The product unites incredibly well with wood and therefore has superior durability, while being completely eco-friendly.
“The results were so good that they attracted interest from people like a magnet.”
From 2006 Herje went around Sweden with a fully loaded car and demonstrated SiOO:X wood protection at trade fairs. Sales took off, paint store chains showed interest and the products appeared on TV programs like the DIY shows Äntligen Hemma and Bygglov. Architects and construction companies started to use the eco-friendly technology. In 2011 Herje resigned his teaching position to fully devote himself to SiOO:X and moved production into its own premises. The rest, as they say, is history. Today, about 30 people work in Sioo in the bright, new and spacious facility in the Gamlestan neighborhood on the outskirts of Gothenburg.
Some of Europe’s leading researchers are developing the technology with our R & D operation. The patent is now protected world wide. In competitive bidding, Sioo has been awarded major Eurostar, Horizon and Vinova funding from the EU research programmes giving a solid funding base for continuing leading edge R&D.
Major investment has been applied to international marketing resulting in Sioo now operating in more than 15 geographies across the world from Australasia and Asia to Europe and North America, working with in excess of 25 major industrial partners. Sioo has received international awards for its innovative marketing.
Sioo has been active in the UK, its first overseas market, since 2012. Today leading architects across the country are specifying SiOO:X on projects large and small. Significant projects have been in the field now for many years performing extremely well in a demanding climate. The formative experience with this special SiOO:X technology in Scandinavia and the UK is now being sought around the world by world leading architects.
Our mission is to continue to break barriers and provide our customers with a positive “wow” experience from world-class products. We are doing today what customers could only dream of doing yesterday. We are solving persistent old problems in the wood industry and contributing eco-friendly products to society. Our concepts have no boundaries and are being realized in international cooperation.