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Nanotechnology is already a part of the everyday operations of over 200 hundred Finnish companies, and it is estimated that nanotechnology will generate turnover of EUR 1.2 billion in 2013. Boosted by Tekes' FinNano programme, an internationally significant nanotechnology cluster has been created in Finland in five years.
Finland has purposefully invested in the development of nanotechnology since the 1990s, with the development significantly picking up pace in 2005 when Tekes' FinNano programme, which is now being brought to close, was launched. The programme accelerated development and set industrial activities in the field on a trajectory of rapid growth.
"During the period of the FinNano programme, the number of companies in the field has more than tripled and there are currently over 200 companies in Finland utilising nanotechnology. After years of focused work, we have moved on from the development of nanotechnology to its commercialisation," says Pekka Koponen, CEO of Spinverse Ltd, which has studied the effects of nanotechnology in the Finnish business community.
The trailblazing innovations in Finnish nanotechnology include nano carbon materials and a new composite material discovered in Finland: nanobuds. Applications for these materials cover the whole spectrum from sports equipment to batteries, solar cells, touchscreens and construction materials. An internationally successful and growing competence cluster of companies and research institutes has grown around Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD), a thin film technology developed in Finland.
Large number of results with reasonable investments
The exceptional strength of the Finnish nanotechnology industry is based on cooperation and goal-oriented research. In Tekes' FinNano programme, over one hundred key decision-makers in Finnish corporate and research communities defined the guidelines for the development of nanotechnology for the needs of the ICT, forest, metal and chemical industries, as well as nanobiotechnology. The leading industrial enterprises have recognised the significance of nanotechnology for their competitiveness and strongly invested in its development.
"In the current conditions, Finnish industry has to find ways to reinvent itself, and nanotechnology is a key enabler in this renewal. A good example is nano pulp. When pulp is refined to nanofibers, it can be used in countless different applications and products," says Markku Lämsä, Manager of Tekes' FinNano programme.
In terms of euros, Finland is not a large investor in nanotechnology, but the investments in the field have been made at the right time and allocated to the right targets. This is largely due to national programmes such as the FinNano programmes of Tekes and the Academy of Finland.
In 2005-2010, Tekes' FinNano programme has funded the development of Finnish nanotechnology with approximately EUR 70 million, of which EUR 47 million is Tekes funding. The growth of industrial operations in the field is demonstrated by the fact that in 2008 companies' own development investments in nanotechnology exceeded public investments in the field.
Finnish competence has also raised interest abroad. In 2007, Tekes' FinNano programme launched research cooperation with the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST). Finland was the first EU country to start bilateral cooperation with China in the field of nanotechnology. Development cooperation in the field of nanotechnology was also commenced, at the initiative of FinNano, between the Ministry of Employment and the Economy and Rusnano, the Russian state-owned nanotechnology development company.
Small huge nano
Nano in Latin means dwarf. Nanotechnology is also the general name for extremely small scale technologies which are used to mould the characteristics of substances at an atomic level. Nanotechnology brings new properties to common products and also gives birth to completely new products.
The nanotechnology programme will strengthen Finland's position as an innovative high-tech country, in which enterprises, service providers and research institutions by exploiting nanoscale structures and phenomena are able to create unique products, services and innovations, the commercialisation of which increases the welfare of our society.
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Markku Lämsä, FinNano Programme Manager, Tekes, markku.lamsa(at)tekes.fi, tel. +358 50 557 7793
Pekka Koponen, CEO, Spinverse Ltd, pekka.koponen(at)spinverse.com, tel. +358 40 545 0008
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