Helsinki Business Hub initiates and co-organises every year several international visits which are open for Finnish companies looking for new opportunities. One of the most popular trips in the second half of 2017 took the Finnish delegation to Singapore where a series of business events were organised together with the City of Helsinki, Smart and Clean Foundation and other collaboration partners in mid-September.
Studio Puisto Architects was one of the participants and for them it was the first trip of this kind. The company works co-creatively on human-centered architecture and design. At the moment they focus especially on hotels and resorts as well as on new concepts for urban environment.
“We are currently looking for ways to expand our business abroad and found the program of the Singapore week very interesting,” says Heikki Riitahuhta who works as a Partner and Architect at Studio Puisto Architects.
“I think such trips provide a fantastic opportunity to jump in as a smaller company and benefit from being linked to the great brands of Helsinki and Finland.”
Promoting Helsinki together and getting access to new contacts
The targets for the week focused on raising the profile and enhancing the appeal of Helsinki in Singapore, building our reputation as an attractive centre of expertise, test bed and startup ecosystem, and promoting the business and exports of Helsinki-based companies in selected key industries.
The theme of the week was ‘Desigining Better Life’ and the expert seminars focused on the areas of Maritime IT, Smart & Clean City Solutions, Education, Health and Design. Helsinki’s events were part of the Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology (SWITCH) and also Slush Singapore was taking place at the same time.
“We were especially impressed by the visit to the Housing and Development Board. The director had excellent questions to each company, and we got a lot of valuable feedback and good tips on who to contact,” Riitahuhta evaluates.
“So from the business point of view, the most valuable event for us was definitely this visit to the Housing Development Board. On the other hand, we received the biggest amount of new contacts from the event called Designing Future Education. And Slush Singapore was of course a fantastic happening to meet even more people under the great Helsinki umbrella,” Riitahuhta sums up and continues:
“All in all, I think it was a brilliant idea to organise these meetings and visits at the same time when other international events were taking place in Singapore.”
Learning from others across the industries
The business delegation participating in the Singapore Helsinki week consisted of about 80 Finnish companies operating in different industries. Emerging Smart and Clean City Solutions was the first event of the week. This seminar had two parts: Smarter Mobility and Better Built Environment. A total of 27 Finns from 17 different companies participated in the Better Built Environment part and Studio Puisto Architects was one of them.
“One of the best parts of this experience was to get to hear other companies to pitch their stories. In the field of architecture, we often start from presenting the design, but I think also we should learn to focus on the added value and to vary our pitch depending on the situation and the audience,” Riitahuhta ponders.
The biggest benefit of such trips oftentimes lies in the opportunity to get to know the right people and to spend some time together with the potential customers and collaboration partners. The majority of the participants of the Singapore Helsinki week are expecting some form of new business to be generated for their company within the next 6–12 months.
“In the construction industry for example the design contracts are so enormous that being able to start with a pilot is always the easiest way forward as concrete doing significantly lowers the threshold of getting the actual project,” Riitahuhta explains.
“This is the reason why getting to meet in person and spend some time with potential buyers is so valuable, because as a result of these meetings, it is possible to come up with possible pilot cases and new openings,” he continues.
Joining forces to solve challenges
After the visit to Singapore, Studio Puisto Architects already started to vision a joint, challenge-driven approach for Finnish companies under the topic ‘City as a Platform’ in which various technologies and know-how of different technologies could be combined.
“Sometimes the best ideas are born when you take a step outside of your usual circles. For example, one of our biggest ongoing projects came from Norway and when we first went there it felt like a huge investment. However, it really paid off as something really amazing, so this was the attitude that inspired us to go to Singapore this time; you never know whether it’s going to result into something, but if you are not up for it, it sure won’t – so it’s always better to take a chance,” Heikki Riitahuhta concludes and encourages everyone to consider trying out the same.
There will be several opportunities also in 2018 and the best way to stay updated on the upcoming visits, themes and schedules is to join the mailing list of Helsinki Business Hub. If you would like to hear about the activities in Singapore in 2018, please contact Irma Ylikangas: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Text: Katri Kääriä