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Helping high-tech business flourish

Finnish science parks and technolgy centres play an important role in encouraging innovation and success in Finland’s high-tech sector. TEKEL and its member organisations help high-tech companies start up, grow, develop, and expand internationally.
TEKEL – Finnish Science Park Association

The science parks and technology centres that belong to TEKEL, or the Finnish Science Park Association, are home to 2,400 companies and bring together over 44,000 experts in a wide range of areas: from ICT to biotechnology and medical technology, materials research, and many other advanced fields.

Heikki Ruotoistenmäki and Lasse Leppäkorpi with Finsor’s Dyfos® sensor. Ruotoistenmäki is the sensor’s inventor, and Leppäkorpi Managing Director of the company. Photo courtesy Foundation for Finnish Inventions / Juha Rahkonen

TEKEL is an integral part of Finland’s nationwide innovation system, and the association works closely with government ministries, the R&D and academic communities, international organisations, and others to promote and finance research, business development, and international expansion.

Finland’s science parks provide an environment enabling companies – both start-ups and more developed businesses – to focus on their core business, while benefiting from a wide range of support in areas such as business and development services, state-of-the-art premises, and training and consultancy.

Home to innovation

Finland’s science parks are particularly important in providing business incubation services for start-ups and expertise to help people commercialise their innovations. Science parks’ wide-ranging domestic and international contacts are a valuable asset for businesses that have not had time or the resources to develop their own, and need to access these kinds of links to drive their activities forward.

Within Finland, TEKEL is closely involved with Finland’s Centre of Expertise Programme (CoE), and internationally with Innovation Relay Centres IRC, a network linking innovation centres in 33 countries, and its local affiliate, IRC Finland.

Three very different businesses that have benefited from the TEKEL network are profiled here: Finsor, Ark Therapeutics, and Cavia.

Kuopio is home to a wide range of biotechnologyrelated know-how. Photo courtesy Technology Centre Teknia Ltd.

Advanced sensors

Sensor specialist Finsor joined the Preincubator Programme at the Technopolis Science & Technology Park in 2006, and was included in Technopolis Ventures’ BornGlobal Programme in August 2007.

The assistance this provided has helped kick-start the young company in developing its business idea, market research, and team around its highly sensitive dynamic force sensors. These can operate under very tough conditions, and are ideal for applications such as health care and industrial monitoring.

In the health care area, for example, Finsor’s sensors have been integrated into the frame of a hospital bed to provide information on a patient’s movements, respiration, and heart rate. While in industry, Finsor’s Dyfos® sensor solutions open up real-time condition monitoring and process automation opportunities, providing predictive information for things such as machine and bearing failure.

See www.finsor.com and www.technopolisventures.fi for more details.

Innovating brain cancer treatment

Ark Therapeutics began life in Kuopio and Technology Centre Teknia based there. Together with the A.I. Virtanen Institute and the University of Kuopio, Teknia provided a very useful framework for transforming Professor Seppo Ylä-Herttuala’s innovative use of a virus to treat brain cancer into a business.

Ark Therapeutics’ innovative treatment has demonstrated an 80% increase in mean survival compared to standard care. Photo courtesy Ark Therapeutics

The company was able to move into ready-made premises and concentrate on the research it needed to give it the springboard earlier this decade to tap the London capital market for seed funding. Today, Ark Therapeutics is listed in London and is in the process of establishing a production unit in Kuopio.

In contrast to other gene-based therapies, which target cancer cells, Ark Therapeutics’ Cerepro™ technology works by harnessing healthy cells to produce substances that destroy cancer cells after surgical removal of a tumour. A virus shell releases the gene into the healthy cells in a process known as transfection, with the gene acting as a blueprint for the production of new beneficial proteins.

See www.arktherapeutics.com and www.teknia.fi for more details.

A win-win solution for water treatment

For its location, water treatment expert Cavia chose the Lahti Science and Business Park, which coordinates Finland’s environmental cluster. The park has enabled Cavia to access resources, financing services, and networking opportunities that would have been difficult for a company of its size to access alone – and given it the time needed to develop its technological and business skills for the international environmental technology market.

Cavia’s innovative new process increases the amount of biogas that can be produced by a wastewater treatment plant, without a significant increase in costs or energy consumption, and reduces the amount of sludge that must be disposed of in a landfill.

The company’s innovation is based on ultrasonics, which utilises cavitation energy caused by high-frequency vibration to make the digestion process more efficient. The higher level of biogas that results generates useful added value and also contributes to the fight against global warming. Additional benefits include improved dewatering performance, lower environmental impact, and a reduced primary energy requirement – all with a low start-up cost.

For more information, see www.cavia.fi , www.lahtisbp.fi , and www.oske.net .

> Pia Pere-Vanhanen
(Published in HighTech Finland 2008)