A new project matches Helsinki’s nanotechnology companies with major international players.
Economic theory often assumes a perfectly frictionless market. Buyers meet sellers, investors meet targets and partners find each other with ease. This is not the case in the real world. In reality a multitude of frictions exist, making it difficult for various partners to find each other. A new program by Greater Helsinki Promotion and Spinverse aims to make one market in particular operate a bit more smoothly.
Nanotechnology is a booming segment of the high-tech industry in Finland. Five years ago there were only 61 companies active in the sector, but today there are over 200, with about 65 of them having commercial products. With such a flourishing domestic industry, a variety of major international companies are looking to Helsinki for partners. The new project aims to help these potential collaborators find each other.
Nanotech is a field which involves the control of matter on an atomic or molecular scale. Unusual physical, chemical and biological properties can emerge in materials at this level, which is about 1,000 times smaller than the thickness of paper.
The products of nanotechnology are already common in our daily lives. Some washing machines use silver-particle coatings to sterilise bacteria in clothes. A brand of automobile wax claims that its product reflects light better to give a shinier car. Carbon nanotubes are used to stiffen tennis rackets.
There are a host of Finnish companies specialising in nanotech fields, such as Scannano in electronics, Picosun in coatings and Enfucell in energy. Besides companies Finland is also rich in nanotech research centres, like the University of Helsinki’s Institute of Biotechnology or VTT’s Electron Microscopy Lab.
“We have a high level of nanotech expertise,” explains project manager Marika Mäkelä from GHP. “However, there has been no structured activity to promote Finnish know-how in this area. International companies are looking for partners, and this is a concrete program to bring the relevant players together.”
“Needs of the investor”
The goal of the project is to help major international players make strategic investments into Finnish companies. This could be through Research & Development projects, technology transfers, corporate mergers or joint ventures.
“This is technology-driven,” affirms Mäkelä. “This is driven by the needs of the investor.”
Tom Crawley, a consultant with Spinverse, describes in detail the process. He says that one potential international investor was given three proposals. These were an investment for core technology, a licensing deal and specific research collaboration.
“We identify which Finnish firms have the technology and the interest to deal with a major international partner,” he says. “We go to them first to work on a plan to approach the global company. Then we go to that multinational with a solid business proposal. We say: ‘This is the case; this is something you could do’. Some major companies are very actively pursuing partners right now. For instance, some large chemical firms are interested in printed electronics because this could be a very high volume market. We know this, so we know who to approach.”
Spinverse is a business development group that specialises in emerging technologies. They have deep ties to the industry both internationally and locally. They are organising events such as Nanotech Europe and have a strong relationship with the local state funding group Tekes. As such they are ideally suited to participate in this program to match Helsinki nanotech companies with global players.
A representative of an international corporation interested in the project will receive a guided tour of Helsinki and its nanotech environment. The whole process is bespoke, made specifically to meet the needs of the companies in question.
“There is an introduction to greater Helsinki and they will meet the particular companies and research groups in which they are interested,” says Crawley. “Business matchmaking is a key role. Each case is different, so there could be other contacts made, such as a meeting with Tekes to discuss funding opportunities.”
For those global players looking for a partner, Finland’s nanotechnology industry is an easy market to enter.
“The barriers to entry for collaboration with Finnish firms are quite low,” Mäkelä concludes. “The Finnish innovation system is geared for this cooperation. The big technology firms have scouts for this, and we make their jobs easier.”
Selected Finnish nanotech players
- Beneq: atomic layer deposition used in solar cells, medical devices and flexible electronics
- Canatu: carbon nanomaterials that could be used in thin films
- Enfucell: thin, flexible batteries; also medical applications for transdermal delivery
- Micronova: research group specialising in chemical and biosensors
- PaloDEx: digital imaging, diagnostic software
- Picosun: atomic layer deposition for various coatings or materials for solid oxide fuel cells
- Scannano: microchips for radio-frequency switches
- Silecs: specialty chemicals and coatings for electrical or optical equipment
- Spinverse: www.spinverse.com
- Nanotechnology explained: www.nanoforum.org/educationtree
Text: DAVID J. CORD, Helsinki Times