Research to modify wood in an environmentally friendly manner, to prevent decay and improve performance and appearance, was conducted at the University of New Brunswick (Canada) in the 1980s and 1990s under the leadership of Professor Dr. Marc H. Schneider.
Professor Schneider was a guest lecturer at the Norwegian Agricultural University in Oslo. He established contact with individuals who showed a strong interest in the technologies that he had invented.
Kebony (initially named Wood Polymer Technologies) was established, to commercialize the inventions of Professor Schneider.
Kebony embarked on a process to seek patent protection and further develop the products through research and testing of properties at independent testing institutions. The technological platform was continuously developed to meet market needs, achieve optimal cost/performance, improve properties and enhance the products’ competitive edge.
From 1997 to 2001, Kebony was mainly financed through family and friends of the founders. In 2001, the company raised capital through professional investors that allowed Kebony to step up its research activities.
During 2001, Kebony signed an agreement with AB Trätek, Sweden’s Institute for Wood Research, concerning purchase of all rights to their testing of Kebony’s technology and right to future research on wood modification using furfuryl alcohol as a main component.
The cooperation between Trätek and Kebony is still ongoing.
The planning of a pilot production facility was initiated early 2003 and the plant officially opened in August the same year.
In the spring of 2003, WPT received its first international recognition for its technologies. At a research conference in Gent, Belgium, several independent researchers presented test results for alternative wood modification technologies. One of the main conclusions from the conference was that Kebony’s technology was the only technology that both significantly enhanced the properties of wood and had an apparent potential for commercialization.
Kebony received several recognitions for the environmental friendliness of the technology. EU concluded that the decay resistance of Kebony was due to the modification of the wood, and not the consequence of toxicological effects. The technology felt outside the Biocide Directive, in contrast to traditional impregnated wood.
Kebony received the official Nordic eco-label, The Swan, within the category “Durable wood for outdoor use”, and the Norwegian national prize for sustainable consumption and production – the Glass Bear.
The European Environmental Press (EEP) nominated Kebony as one of 10 companies, and the first Norwegian company ever, for the 2004 EEP award. WPT was nominated for “environmentally friendly wood modification”.
Between 2005 and 2007, Kebony delivered products to multiple large high-profile construction projects in Norway generating widespread media coverage and consumer interest which again generated demand for further production capacity.
In April 2007, Wood AS, a company owned by leading norwegian industrialists led by the Hoegh family, became the leading shareholder and took control of the further development of Kebony ASA. The new owners chose to focuse more on internationalization and the opportunity to replace tropical woods to accelerate growth. Wood AS also initiated the planning of a new full scale factory which opened in January 2009.
The company launched Kebony Yacht Decking as an alternative to teak which had become under increasing pressure due to the increasing awareness of global tropical hardwood deforestation.
The company invested considerable resources in certification processes and conducted required third party tests to enable sales to commence in all EU countries as well as in the US.
Kebony opened its first full-scale production plant. The new Kebony factory was the first with commercial scale production of furfurylated wood, designed based on know-how developed by Kebony through the operation of the pilot plant. The facility is state of the art, capable of producing any product combination and capture vital quality data that forms important building blocks in the license program.
The London-based investment funds, Environmental Technologies Funds and Naxos Investment Partners invest €12 million to support Kebony in its international expansion.
In Norway, Kebony experienced a large increase in number of distribution outlets promoting its products. At the same time, a number of high profile architects endorsed Kebony by including it in a number of reference projects. Kebony became an established player.
At the same time, the company started to prepare for international expansion by signing distribution agreements in several countries including the UK. Kebony was listed in the 2010 Global Cleantech 100 as one of the most promising cleantech companies internationally. The company was featured in more than 400 articles in the international press.
Kebony continued to see strong volume growth in the Norwegian market trough selected distributors, some experiencing revenue growth of more than 150%. The company became a player the Norwegian market could not afford to ignore.
The international expansion continued with new distribution agreements being signed in several countries including Germany. The company wins multiple prices and awards including TJJ’s (Timber Trades Journal) Excellence in Marketing, and was for the second year in a row, listed in the Global Cleantech 100 as one of the most promising cleantech companies internationally.
The company secures further growth finance from Munich Venture Partners, Seventures, Environmental Technology Fund and Hoegh Capital Partners and expands distribution into France, Denmark and Sweden/