“The Finnish cleantech sector has hardly anything I dislike,” says Charles Vaslet, a partner with Switzerland’s Emerald Technology Ventures.
Charles Vaslet, a long-term partner with Emerald Technology Ventures, has confessed his admiration for the cleantech sector of Finland.
“I think you have smart engineers, brilliant researchers, world-class universities and a great climate for entrepreneurs. I’ve seen that people here are very diligent and dedicated,” he stated to Talouselämä at Cleantech Forum Europe, the premier gathering of the cleantech industry, in Helsinki in mid-May.
“The Finnish cleantech sector has hardly anything I dislike,” he summarised.
Emerald Technology Ventures is an independent investment firm specialising in fostering industrial innovations in the energy, materials, information technology and hydro-technology sectors in Europe and the United States. Its portfolio currently includes two companies based in Finland – MetGen and Visedo.
Vaslet revealed that he has also been impressed with the broad base of investors who have developed an interest in cleantech in Finland. The growth of the cleantech sector, he pointed out, has been supported not only by venture capital investors but also by other investors and the central administration.
“This is rather unusual in cleantech,” he said.
The Finnish government has indeed identified cleantech as a sector with a bright future and substantial growth potential, confirms Vesa Koivisto, the head of cleantech and bioeconomy industries at Finpro’s Invest in Finland.
“We’ve invested consistently in cleantech on a number of levels: Universities and other higher education institutions have conducted basic and applied research in the cleantech sector. The Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation (Tekes) has successfully supported new companies, which truly rely on subsidies for developing and launching their products,” he says.
Finland, as a result, has been able to establish itself as a forerunner in a number of cleantech domains.
Finland has established itself as a forerunner in a number of cleantech domains.
“We’ve been a global pioneer in utilising smart grid technologies, ranging from network automation and power grid management all the way to having the world’s most advanced systems for metering household electricity consumption on an hourly basis. Finland is the world’s only country that collects hourly data from the electricity metres of all consumers,” tells Koivisto.
“Together with the unique possibility of using wholesale pricing instead of regulating the pricing policies of power companies, this creates opportunities for developing new concepts and services.”
From forest industry towns to biotechnology hubs
Koivisto estimates that the appeal of the domestic cleantech sector can be attributed to a handful of factors: expertise, innovations and a vibrant startup scene that is constantly introducing new ideas and solutions to the sector.
“Our ecosystems are another important factor,” he adds.
The Finnish forest industry, for example, has become a key driver of biotechnology innovation in by providing both raw materials and a functional ecosystem to companies developing products and services that take advantage of cutting-edge technologies.
“Not too many other countries have these kind of ecosystems. We’ve got the natural resources, the bulk manufacturers and the raw material streams they create, which can be utilised to develop products that make use of new technologies. This adds up to an interesting whole,” explains Koivisto.
History has also played its part, he acknowledges.
“We’re living here in the cold and dark north where you’ve always had to regulate raw materials and live prudently. The Finnish national character is technology-oriented. We’re pioneers in developing and adopting new technologies,” he says.