A world leader in nanotechnology, Beneq has just attracted 25 million euros from Russian investors
The broad vista of the future may be found in the tiniest things. One of the most dynamic industries is in the field of nanotechnology, and one of the most exciting companies in this industry can be found in Finland.
Beneq was founded in 2005 and focuses its business on production and research equipment for advanced thin film coatings. Some of the main applications include solar power technology, energy conservation and flexible electronics.
“Beneq continued to grow rapidly in 2011,” says CEO Sampo Ahonen. “We ended up with a turnover of 18 million euros, which is up almost 80 per cent from the previous year. We added over 20 more persons to our team and are now 85 people altogether, with an additional 50-100 persons working for our projects in partner companies.”
Ahonen says that the company completed important deals in the solar industry and flexible electronics. The Asian market is becoming increasingly important, and Beneq added new resources to their office in China.
“We also introduced some new and interesting products to the markets, which we believe will form a key part of our future growth,” Ahonen continues. “These new products include continuous (roll to roll) atomic layer deposition concept, especial to the needs of flexible electronics, such as flexible solar cells and OLED’s, or lighting and displays. Our aerosol coating technology was well recognised in the markets, and our collaboration with Glaston enabled us to win the largest order in the company’s history.”
Since its foundation in 2005, Beneq has filed over 100 patent families and had annual sales growth of over 60 per cent. With its robust history and strong potential for the future, the company has attracted significant investments.
The Danish Via Venture Partners had invested in the company as early as 2007, but in 2011 it stated that it, together with Finnish Industry Investment and private investors, had invested 9 million euros into Beneq.
In the middle of April 2012, it was announced that RUSNANO, a Russian firm aimed at commercialising developments in nanotech, had invested 25 million euros in Beneq.
“Beneq is a welcome member in our nanotechnology portfolio,” says Sergey Polikarpov, Managing Director of RUSNANO. “We acknowledge the technical excellence of the company, and the literally untapped economic potential that lies before its thin film coating offering. With a firm belief in the technical capabilities of Beneq, and the global surge for thin film production capacity, we want to be a part of the growth that lies ahead.”
“After the new investor joined the company, our intention is to continue to enlarge the business with increased resources and efforts in our customer interface, as well as by introducing some new tools to the markets,” says Ahonen. “The investment allows us to put more resources in some key development projects, enabling us to also speed up the introduction of new products. We will continue to strengthen our patent portfolio, both for our own protection but more importantly for the benefit of our customers.”
Beneq’s most important offerings are in clean technology, specifically solar technology. At the moment the key markets are in Asia, but Ahonen says that they will also target Russia, which has potential for superior growth.
“Our business is international, and it is only natural to have international investors on board,” Ahonen points out. “However, I must say that for us, and for many Finnish growth companies aiming to expand internationally, we have a limited number of investors in Finland which easily leads us to consider international options. I am a bit worried about the lack of Finnish investors in general.”
He says that each investor is different and has different strengths that they can bring to the company. Besides capital, investors have contacts and knowledge about various business models and markets.
“I think that it is important to evaluate in advance what each of the owners is willing and capable of bringing to the company when they join. A joint plan for developing the company is a must in any case.”
Made in Finland
“We are a Finnish company with the vast majority of our people located here, including our headquarters and research and development,” says Ahonen. “The manufacturing of our equipment also takes place to a great extent within our Finnish partner network. There are many good reasons for us to continue to work from Finland, including the availability of knowledgeable people and, very importantly, the availability of trustworthy partners with whom we get things done efficiently.”
Ahonen has been with the company since its foundation seven years ago, and has a number of memories that are really significant for him.
“The decision to establish the company was quite a step into the unknown for all of the founders,” he concludes. “Since then, the breakthrough deals amongst industrial customers are moments which are easy to remember. Also, many enjoyable moments with the team are going to stay in my memory.”
Text: David J. Cord, Helsinki Times
Did you know:
Founded: April 2005
Described as: “Turning innovation into success by developing applications and equipment for cleantech and renewable energy fields, especially in glass, solar and emerging thin film markets.”
Big hit: Thin film coatings
Funding: Seed undisclosed, €9 million in 2011, up to €25 million in 2012