Keys to global business opportunities and renewed Cleantech Finland - Cleantech Thursday in Kotka

Keys to global business opportunities and renewed Cleantech Finland - Cleantech Thursday in Kotka

Apr 28, 2016
Renewables & smart grid
Clean water

As the Paris Climate Agreement was set to be signed in New York on 22 April, Cleantech Thursday event organised in Kotka on the previous day offered a timely opportunity to discuss one of the hottest topics in global and Finnish cleantech, the business impacts of digitalisation and climate change, as well as the renewed offering of Cleantech Finland.  

The event, organised by Cleantech Finland with Cursor – Kotka-Hamina regional development company, gathered a 100-strong crowd from local cleantech businesses and a host of top expert speakers to the port city. With keynote speakers including EK CEO Jyri Häkämies and Bruce Oreck, the former U.S. Ambassador to Finland – now Executive in Residence at Aalto University, there was no shortage of expectation for fascinating business discussion.

Cleantech – engine of Finnish economy

Häkämies started the Kotka event with a rallying call for Finland's cleantech success. While Häkämies was in agreement that digitalisation and urbanisation are key global cleantech megatrends, the EK CEO was also quick to point out how the backbone of Finland's cleantech expertise has risen out of the traditional Finnish stronghold industry – forestry. 

The forest industry in itself offers a reference for the innovation potential in Finland. Not long ago doomed as a sunset industry and a metaphor for the decline of the national economy, the forest industry (or bioeconomy) has since risen from its supposed ashes and reinvented itself new. 

Older forestry giants like UPM, who are now producing high-quality biodiesel UPM BioVerno, can benefit from the innovations and partnership potential offered by relative newcomers such as St1 Biofuels.

While this turnaround may not yet reflect the overall perspective of the Finnish economy, Häkämies emphasised that there is no shortage of great showcase companies in the cleantech sector.

The former minister highlighted KONE as company that has been able to tap into the crying demand provided by digitalisation and urbanisation, while also noting that GreenStream Network's success in China showcases Finland's excellent expertise in the energy efficiency sector.

Adding to some of the more established companies, Häkämies continued that with the likes of Enevo, Eniram and Olitotalo, Finland has the makings of becoming a global power in smart solutions.

However, to be able to provided the necessary tools of success for companies and put the whole economy back of a growth trajectory, as a conclusion to his speech Häkämies named five must-win battles for Finland: 1. More flexibility in the job market; 2. Public sector efficiency; 3. More flexible regulation to enable opportunities; 4. Investments in research and education to create competitiveness; 5. To understand the worth of entrepreneurship, ownership and internationally successful companies for wellbeing. 

Understanding global cleantech opportunities

The expertise is clearly there in Finland, and the demand for solutions is bigger than ever due to climate change and digitalisation enabling unprecedented cross-sector opportunities. But how then can Finnish companies actually stand out in global cleantech competition and grasp the enormous opportunities? Who better than Bruce Oreck, former U.S. Ambassador turned advocate of Finnish innovation, to answer this question.

Oreck started with a cautionary tale that because of rising energy demand, GDP and CO2 emissions and accelerating urbanisation, humanity is way past kidding itself with petty sustainability discourse. Is all lost then? Or course not! While these are serious climate challenges, Oreck stressed that they simultaneously offer the solution and the biggest business opportunity the world has ever seen.

The former Ambassador was in agreement with Häkämies that there are plenty of great companies and innovation potential to go around in Finland. However, to stand apart in global competition having great companies, solutions and expertise is not enough – and Oreck wants to push his adopted country to go beyond and fulfil its full potential. Oreck's solution: "transformative Innovation". 

To be innovative in a transformative way, he said we must do three things: 1. Break free from our evolutionary tendency towards linear thinking; 2. Not let our learned patterns hold back creativity; 3. Think and act exponentially. 

After all, whether we talk about the threat of climate change or the resulting business opportunities, as Oreck put it: If we think in a linear way, how can we solve challenges that are exponential?

As conclusion to his rousing talk, Oreck reminded us that climate change and cleantech are essentially the different sides of the same coin – and that means business for Finnish companies.

"Cleantech is the future of the economy. It’s the future of mankind," Oreck said.

Renewed Cleantech Finland – and what this means to your business growth?

To end the Kotka event, Jussi Vanhanen, Cleantech Finland Program Director, and Tuuli Mäkelä, Senior Adviser at EK, introduced the renewed Cleantech Finland offering. Vanhanen, who only recently took over Cleantech Finland, has a background in a Cleantech Finland member company The Switch, and he has witnessed the the eight-year evolution of the business network from the outside. 

"When I was working at The Switch, for me, one of the best things in Cleantech Finland was that I could meet and discuss with other cleantech people and companies," Vanhanen said.

So what does Cleantech Finland's renewal actually mean then? Essentially, Cleantech Finland's main job is to foster the growth of Finnish cleantech companies through international business. Together with Finpro and Team Finland, Cleantech Finland offers a mix of services from which member companies can pick and choose the ones that suit them best. 

The active digital media presence is maintained to get the great Finnish stories out there and to reinforce the strong Finnish cleantech brand while potential international partners are brought to Finland and business delegations are taken abroad. The company network ideal is also still present because Finnish cleantech offering is always stronger when companies come together. 

And here we arrive at the main renewal – Cleantech Finland wants to bring companies together in sector-specific business action groups, such as Clean water as well as Renewables and smart grid, to plan real business actions on the basis of Finpro-verified Business Opportunities. More sector-specific business action groups will be kicked off later in 2016.

"At the moment we have about 200 members – but we want to create international business for every Finnish cleantech company," Vanhanen concluded.

What now then? Take advantage of the global cleantech business opportunities and join Cleantech Finland!

Read what was said about Finland's cleantech and digitalisation expertise in Kotka in more detail on Storify!

Companies in the sector


High-performance buildings

GreenStream Network

Energy production & distribution

The Switch

Wind energy



Waste management


Marine & shipping

St1 Biofuels

Bioenergy & biofuels


Bioenergy & biofuels

High-performance buildings