Sign In
Information about science based innovations, solid facts to support decision-making, performance and business development for VTT’s partners, customers and anyone interested in high technology and its applications.
A magazine on science, technology and business

– Tourism, health, the bio and circular economy, cleantech and consumer business are areas in which we have tremendous potential, says Pekka Soini.

Pekka Soini’s Business Finland is an "internationalisation channel" for companies

Text: Esko Lukkari | Photo: Timo Porthan | 7.6.2018

Pekka Soini, who left Nokia to lead Tekes in September 2012, signals a new beginning. Tekes has become Business Finland and Finpro, and includes the organisations Visit in Finland and Invest in Finland.

​Pekka Soini introduces the new organisation concisely as 'an internationalisation channel for companies'.

Business Finland (BF) is a unique model in the world. Nowhere else has a business internationalisation concept been combined with an organisation that also attracts investment and tourists to a country.

Soini emphasises the word 'internationalisation' when referring to the new Business Finland. Business Finland uses international competition and global economic indicators in its evaluation processes. Finland must be able to rival its peer countries and use these as criteria for the development of new products and services.

– In Business Finland, we are not combining different organisations, but mixing the deck. All management posts must be reapplied for. That is why the reorganisation is taking time, even if our operations still run seamlessly.

Business Finland's customer operations form two entities.

– One is focused on Growth Companies and the other on the development of ecosystems, says Soini.

Growth Companies is an activator of small and medium-sized industries and service companies, and a business sparring and funding agency which helps companies heading for the world markets.

The ecosystem side involves various thematic and programmebased activities. It uses R&D to further develop ideas and is creating a platform for new businesses.

– This enables us to leverage our resources, improve customer service and help companies into the international market, while attracting targeted investments, he says.

Consumer products

– Tourism, health, the bio and circular economy, cleantech and consumer business are areas in which we have tremendous potential.

– For example, Business Finland is involved in consumer products and the development of the related e-commerce programmes, because we are lagging behind our peer countries in such areas. We need to develop digital platforms to support international sales of our consumer products, and create more branded products.

Food products, with their winning features of purity and health, are one area in which Finland can win big. As an example, Soini mentions the processing of oats, blueberries and cloudberries.

– New opportunities can also be found in games and fashion, and the creative sectors where actors such as Aalto University have done a great job, he says.

Soini believes that Finland should benefit fully from its fastgrowing tourism industry in other respects, particularly Lapland's international appeal.

– By attracting investment and talent, for example. Especially when you consider that tourists are so effective at building Finland's image.

Visit Finland is trying to repeat Lapland's success with its new Lakeland Finland programme, branding Lakeland Finland an international tourist hub.

– Work is required, in order to benefit fully from the summer season in Lapland. Winter tourism is not enough. We need to get visitors to stay in Finland for longer, he says. The digitalisation of the tourism industry is in its infancy.

Part of Team Finland

Business Finland is part of the Team Finland network, which supports the export efforts of companies.

BF helps companies to internationalise, all the way to market entry. It works with other Team Finland partners, such as the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Federation of Finnish Enterprises, the Confederation of Finnish Industries and Chambers of Commerce.

– BF does not fund exports or sell export consultancy. Export funding is handled by Finnvera and other funding agencies, whereas export consultancy is a task for private companies, he says.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and BF's international network compile overviews of the opportunities in various markets. This 'Market opportunities' service is freely available online.

– We are going to add twenty or so to the 100 or so employees in Business Finland's international network, adds Soini.

According to Soini, this will not bloat the organisation, but reap the benefits of private networks while avoiding overlaps with organisations such as the Chamber of Commerce.

Money talks

During 2010–2014, Tekes was still receiving funding of around EUR 600 million per year, but this was cut dramatically thereafter. This left only half of the funds that had been available for grants in 2016. Including loans and grants, Tekes was left with around EUR 400 million per annum.

The cuts in Tekes' funding for the years 2015-2017 reduced research funding for universities and research institutes from around two hundred million to one hundred million euros.

A year ago, in February 2017, Soini requested a EUR 100 million increase in state funding to cover the loss. Tekes received a pledge of EUR 30 million in additional funding for both 2018 and 2019.

– The OECD report on Finland states that, without further funding, we are in danger of losing ground to our international competitors.

– Our ability to invest in areas such as artificial intelligence, the platform economy, and various pilot platforms has been weakened, he says.

Geography a challenge

Business subsidy amounts have been under discussion in Finland for years. Although Business Fin land plays no role in distributing many business subsidies, Soini has a view on the issue in general.

– In our sparsely populated country, one of the major subsidies consists of logistical support, particularly fuel subsidies, he says.

According to Soini, the competitive disadvantage due to geography could be eliminated by smart transport and automation of the transport chain. This would reduce the variable costs of transport, i.e. fuel and personnel costs.

– Our goal could be based on a vision of automated forest machines cutting timber in forests. They would move the timber to driverless lorries, which would take it to plants. From there, the products would be transported to ports by automated trucks, where automated cranes would load them automatically onto self-navigating ships, he says. According to Soini, new global export products could also be developed in Finland, based on the automation of the transport chain.

 

Fibre is one of our ace cards among biological products

Pia Qvintus-4850.jpg 

Pia Qvintus presenting VTT's recycled fibre technology which has been used in evening dress is designed by Anna Ruohonen. The recycled fibre is processed into yarn and a knitting fabric that drapes nicely.

In Finland, major growth expectations have been set for fibre-based biotechnologies, due to the competitive advantage conferred by the long fibres in our wood raw material. Fibre-based bioproducts are the hard core of the bioeconomy. Text: Esko Lukkari Photo: Timo Porthan

Pia Qvintus (MSc. Eng.), who is leading the three-year 'Innovative Bioproducts' growth programme, explains that Finland is the world leader in fibre-based products and the related R&D.  

Qvintus is employed by VTT but also serves as the leader of Business Finland's growth programme.  

The programme is helping startups and SMEs in the bioeconomy sector to enter the markets, create international growth and develop business activities, as well as identify capital and international investors in the industry.

– Sweden is a close rival in terms of its fibre expertise. They have done a great deal of valuable nanocell research. One of their focus areas is biomass-based chemicals. Germany has focused on the manufacture of chemicals from biomass, he says.  

Companies are internationalising

Bioproducts are under development by a number of actors in Finland. Major projects include the BF-funded 'Design Driven Value Chains in the World of Cellulose' (DWoC) programme. In this five-year programme worth over EUR 11 million, VTT, Aalto University, Tampere University of Technology and the University of Vaasa are developing new, designoriented cellulosic materials and applications.

Design-based biomaterial development has been applied in the Hiilinielu Design Studio (Carbon sinks) project led by Tampere University of Applied Sciences and the NoMa (Novel structural materials with multi-scale fibre components) project led by VTT and Lahti University of Applied Sciences.

Business Finland's BioNetsproject involved the creation of circular economy and bioeconomy ecosystems, with the goal of creating a roadmap for their internationalisation. Uusi puu (New wood) is a communications project involving over 20 organisations.

The Innovative Bioproducts growth programme is engaged in cooperation with the Packaging Valley and New Fibre Products ecosystems.

The target countries of the growth programme include Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Germanspeaking Europe, Great Britain, Japan and Korea, and possibly the United States and Canada.

– We organise seminars, participate in trade fairs and assist in business and investor meetings. We also prepare customers for the international markets, says Qvintus.

Collaboration with Sweden

For example, KTH from Stockholm, Chalmers University from Gothenburg and RISE are engaged in intensive cooperation with VTT and various universities. Such cooperation will be boosted over the next few years by Sweden's gift to the 100-year-old Finland: The Tandem Forest Values project – the funding of twelve postdoctoral researchers engaged in forestry research and the development of new products.

Many domestic companies developing fibre-based bioproducts have only a million euros or so in turnover, but they are thought to have major market potential.

According to Qvintus, spinoffs from VTT such as Paptic, which manufactures materials to replace plastic bags; Infinited Fibre and Spinnova, which both make textile fibres are already entering industrial production.

Sulapac is already manufacturing bio-packaging for cosmetics while Welmu, which makes biodegradable food plastics; Wall +, which makes wall materials; Woodio, which makes washbasins; and Lumir, which makes acoustic solutions, are close to production.

The global forest giants have made good progress with bio-products. Metsä Board is launching ecobarrier packaging made of fibre board, Metsä Tissue is making Saga baking dishes, Stora Enso is manufacturing recyclable EcoFishBox fish packaging, Stora Enso/Pyroll Scanstar roe boxes and Walki Agripap mulching paper. Eagle Mills is making rapid progress with its recyclable and compostable ISLA disposable cups.

Wood has many applications

– Montisera is developing technologies for extracting spruce sugar from sawdust. Repolar is processing spruce sap into skin and wound care products. Naviter and Forest of Lapland are extracting cosmetic products from berries. Innomost is developing wood-based polymers to replace synthetic components in cosmetics, says Qvintus.

She is certain that new Finnish biomass-based products will appear in the coming years.  

– This three-year programme began with startups and micro-enterprises. So patience is needed.

An aromatic compound, lignin, whose further processing is of interest to companies, can also be produced from wood. Possible lignin-based products include biochemicals, composites, traffic fuels, technical carbons, glues and carbon fibres. Lignin products are being developed by large companies in Finland.

 

 

VTT Impulsehttps://www.vttresearch.com/ImpulseVTT Impulse
Jaakko Eskola: ”The ability to reinvent yourself is vital to success.”https://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/”The-ability-to-reinvent-yourself-is-vital-to-success”.aspxJaakko Eskola: ”The ability to reinvent yourself is vital to success.”
A birthday gift from us to ourselveshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/A-birthday-gift-from-us-to-ourselves.aspxA birthday gift from us to ourselves
Challenges conceal opportunitieshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Challenges-conceal-opportunities.aspxChallenges conceal opportunities
Clearing the way for new materials with ChemSheet technologyhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Clearing-the-way-for-new-materials-with-ChemSheet-technology.aspxClearing the way for new materials with ChemSheet technology
Comfy but energy efficient homeshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Comfy-but-energy-efficient-homes.aspxComfy but energy efficient homes
Designers needed in printed technologyhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Designers-needed-in-printed-technology.aspxDesigners needed in printed technology
Developers of the futurehttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Developers-of-the-future.aspxDevelopers of the future
From ideas to major innovationshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/From-drawing-board-to-major-innovation.aspxFrom ideas to major innovations
Global demand for oats is increasing stronglyhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Global-demand-for-oats-is-increasing-strongly.aspxGlobal demand for oats is increasing strongly
Health benefits and efficiency without sacrificing food qualityhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Health-benefits-and-efficiency-without-sacrificing-food-quality.aspxHealth benefits and efficiency without sacrificing food quality
VTT Impulsehttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/MainPage.aspxVTT Impulse
More than siliconhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/More-than-just-Silicon.aspxMore than silicon
Jari Gustafsson: Old and new workhorses as recession beatershttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Old-and-new-workhorses-as-recession-beaters.aspxJari Gustafsson: Old and new workhorses as recession beaters
Same old routine for the next 100 yearshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Same-old-routine-for-the-next-100-years.aspxSame old routine for the next 100 years
We must maintain Finland as an attractive target for investmenthttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/We-must-maintain-Finland-as-an-attractive-target-for-investment.aspxWe must maintain Finland as an attractive target for investment
World in 2030 - answers to tomorrow’s questionshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/World-in-2030-answers-to-tomorrows-questions.aspxWorld in 2030 - answers to tomorrow’s questions
International entrepreneurship does not happen overnight it needs to be nurturedhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/International-entrepreneurship-does-not-happen-overnight-it-needs-to-be-nurtured.aspxInternational entrepreneurship does not happen overnight it needs to be nurtured
Smart industryhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Smart-industry.aspxSmart industry
Health and wellbeinghttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Health-and-wellbeing.aspxHealth and wellbeing
Digital societyhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Digital-society.aspxDigital society
Bioeconomy and circular economyhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Bioeconomy-and-circular-economy.aspxBioeconomy and circular economy
Impulse 1/2018https://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Impulse-1-2018.aspxImpulse 1/2018
It is the duty of entrepreneurs to seek growthhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/It-is-the-duty-of-entrepreneurs-to-seek-growth.aspxIt is the duty of entrepreneurs to seek growth
Low carbon energyhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Low-carbon-energy.aspxLow carbon energy
Impulse 2/2016https://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Impulse-2-2016.aspxImpulse 2/2016
Serious efforts to boost the Finnish economyhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Serious-efforts-to-boost-the-Finnish-economy.aspxSerious efforts to boost the Finnish economy
Business developmenthttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Business-development.aspxBusiness development
Food in transitionhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Food-in-transition.aspxFood in transition
Impulse 1/2014https://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Impulse-1-2014.aspxImpulse 1/2014
Advancing cyber security on several frontshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Advancing-cyber-security-on-several-fronts.aspxAdvancing cyber security on several fronts
The future 5G network proceeds to test phase in Ouluhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/The-future-5G-network-proceeds-to-test-phase-in-Oulu.aspxThe future 5G network proceeds to test phase in Oulu
The creators of the future get down to businesshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/The-creators-of-the-future-get-down-to-business.aspxThe creators of the future get down to business
Industrial 3D printing takes offhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Industrial-3D-printing-takes-off.aspxIndustrial 3D printing takes off
Finnish wheels will keep on turninghttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Finnish-wheels-will-keep-on-turning.aspxFinnish wheels will keep on turning
Tracking peoplehttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Tracking-people.aspxTracking people
The new agenda enhances the use of research infrastructurehttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/The-new-agenda-enhances-the-use-of-research-infrastructure.aspxThe new agenda enhances the use of research infrastructure
VTT’s spin-off GrainSense puts a laboratory in farmers’ handshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/VTTs-spin-off-GrainSense-puts-a-laboratory-in-farmers-hands.aspxVTT’s spin-off GrainSense puts a laboratory in farmers’ hands
Minima Processor LTD – World record in energy efficiency accelerates development of IoThttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Minima-Processor-LTD-World-record-in-energy-efficiency-accelerates-development-of-IoT.aspxMinima Processor LTD – World record in energy efficiency accelerates development of IoT
Productive use for Finnish biomasshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Productive-use-for-Finnish-biomass.aspxProductive use for Finnish biomass
Impulse 2/2014https://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Impulse-2-2014.aspxImpulse 2/2014
Solar Foods Oy: Tailored nutrition for a space exploration modelhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Solar-Foods-Oy-Tailored-nutrition-for-a-space-exploration-model.aspxSolar Foods Oy: Tailored nutrition for a space exploration model
Boost for propeller developmenthttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Boost-for-propeller-development.aspxBoost for propeller development
Professor Tiina Mattila-Sandholm, Valio: Businesses and researchers need to find each other in a new wayhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Professor-Tiina-Mattila-Sandholm-Valio-Businesses-and-researchers-need-to-find-each-other-in-a-new-way.aspxProfessor Tiina Mattila-Sandholm, Valio: Businesses and researchers need to find each other in a new way
Salofa creates rapid tests for monitoring health and the environmenthttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Salofa-creates-rapid-tests-for-monitoring-health-and-the-environment.aspxSalofa creates rapid tests for monitoring health and the environment
The rise of robotic carshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/The-rise-of-robotic-cars.aspxThe rise of robotic cars
X-ray imaging to new heightshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/X-ray-imaging-to-new-heights.aspxX-ray imaging to new heights
Energy solutions and the 2050 goalshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Energy-solutions-and-the-2050-goals.aspxEnergy solutions and the 2050 goals
Cleaner city traffic with wood-based dieselhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Cleaner-city-traffic-with-wood-based-diesel.aspxCleaner city traffic with wood-based diesel
Passion spurs researchhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/passion-spurs-research.aspxPassion spurs research