Microsoft has announced its plan to invest $14 million in setting up a foundation to spur the growth of the Internet of Things in Finland.
The foundation, named IoT Paja, will open a laboratory in Espoo in the first quarter of next year to provide technology start-ups with access to a wide variety of advanced equipment and continuing support services required for building prototypes for the IoT, indicates a press release from Microsoft Finland.
“Converting an idea into a prototype is one of the greatest challenges faced by start-ups developing solutions for the IoT. Building the first prototype and demonstrating the feasibility of a business opportunity requires funding,” says Pekka Horo, the chief executive of Microsoft Finland.
“IoT Paja's objective is to speed up this process,” he adds.
The foundation, which will be operated independently of Microsoft, will support start-ups and other small businesses in two stages of development: first, by granting funding for developing and testing initial prototypes and, second, by granting funding for developing first commercial-level IoT solutions.
“Important pieces of the puzzle”
Finland has recently been a fertile breeding ground especially for software firms specifically because of the obstacles start-ups and other businesses face in raising funds for developing tangible products and gaining access to the equipment and personnel required for developing prototypes, confirms Pekka Sivonen, the head of digitalisation strategy and programmes at the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation (Tekes).
“The IoT Paja foundation and laboratory are important missing pieces in the puzzle that is technology expertise in Finland,” he views.
Katja Koponen, a project manager at Invest in Finland, is confident that enabling start-ups to invest in product development instead of equipment and machinery will create long-term benefits for the country.
“This is precisely the kind of approach we currently need both to the IoT and the Industrial Internet as well as to digitisation in general,” she states.
“The Finnish scene may to an outside observer seem to consist of individual start-ups, but in reality our start-ups are closely connected. It's really a web of start-ups that will definitely benefit from a development platform such as Microsoft's IoT Paja,” says Koponen.
Such development platforms, she estimates, will produce innovations that take off and ultimately yield new mass-produced products or solutions for industries and the IoT.
“They're a way to ensure Finland remains a technology superpower,” she declares.