The encouragement of airport-related industries is the goal of a joint programme.
A glance at a map will show why Helsinki Airport is so important. Nestled on the tip of the Finnish peninsula in a harsh northern climate, Finland’s capital region is dependent upon air transport for quick connections to the European continent. While Paris may have its rail network and Berlin has its autobahns, Helsinki has its airport.
Finland also has been able to bring its expertise in other industries to airport solutions. Sometimes the connection seems surprising.
“Did you know that the mining company Outokumpu helped develop the modern airport metal detector?” asks Mikko Sjöberg. “They had metal-detecting technology they used on mining conveyor belts and adapted it for use in airport security.”
The expertise of the greater Helsinki area in airport-related industries is buttressed by Airport Cluster Finland. The group is a non-profit organisation devoted to helping the growth and internationalisation of member companies. It receives funding from both private and public sources and is an initiative of the Vantaa Innovation Institute.
“It is an organisation with a different membership group,” explains Airport Cluster Manager Sjöberg. “Other groups operate in the same industry, but we have firms in consulting, construction, security, chemicals and manufacturing – any company that can provide solutions to airports.”
One airport solution that was much in demand in recent months was Finnish expertise in handling winter conditions. Even the BBC produced a segment about Helsinki Airport’s mastery of snow removal and de-icing. Several companies, such as Kemira and Arctic Machine, specialise in that area and are members of the cluster.
In addition to its regular activities, Airport Cluster Finland has partnered with Greater Helsinki Promotion for an international member recruitment programme aimed at supporting Finnish companies and bringing global players to the local metropolis.
“We have a lot to offer,” says Olivier Bonfils, Senior Business Advisor at Greater Helsinki Promotion. “One of GHP goals is to get new investments into greater Helsinki area. For the international companies checking the possibilities of the ACF, we will have a business specific proposition, so they know what they can gain from being involved.”
The expertise in airport solutions already existing in Finland is a prime draw. Global companies may be looking for partners in research and development or the launch of a new product. Much of what they are searching for may be found in companies or organisations already operating in the area. Of course, bringing in new international companies will also benefit existing companies, as Bonfils points out.
“It will bring to the existing companies new distribution channels, funding solutions, networking and new products or services,” he says. “In addition, it brings in missing technology and adds brand recognition to the industry.”
“We have a close cooperation with different organisations and programmes,” interjects Sjöberg. “For example there is Tekes which might provide funding for development programmes. We can apply money on behalf of companies, so this reduces the development costs for each player.”
Many Finnish companies in the Airport Cluster already have extensive international experience, which is an extra advantage for foreign corporations interested in collaboration. Bonfils points out that a number of cluster members participated in the London Heathrow expansion project.
Access to these Finnish firms is just one benefit that a foreign company would gain by joining the cluster. The organisation also offers networking, promotional events, participation in joint projects and extensive market information.
“Our idea is to have companies that give more value to each other,” says Sjöberg. “They can bring value to each other through research and development projects or technology transfers.”
The joint recruitment programme with Greater Helsinki Promotion has a goal of one inward investment completed by the end of 2011 with 10 to 20 more in the pipeline.
Text: DAVID J. CORD, Helsinki Times