The cleantech industry promises salvation to mankind, saving us from the looming threat of climate change by developing technology that saves resources and lessens the environmental impact we humans have on our planet. Finland has been touted as a buzzing centre of cleantech activity for some years. The country with the happiest people in the world, with the best air quality, is naturally the country that will save the planet as well. With companies like Ecolan and Carbofex, it might actually be possible.
In 2017 Finland was awarded the second place in WWF’s Global Cleantech Innovation Index and another silver medal in the European Union Eco-Innovation Index. In 2015 The Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra and Frost and Sullivan estimated that the cleantech market potential relevant to Finland will grow to 3000 billion euro by 2050. In 2017 the cleantech industry’s revenue in Finland reached 41 billion euro and brought in seven percent of Finland’s added value.
Tampere – a cleantech paradise
Located some 100 miles from capital Helsinki, is the country’s third largest city and the second largest growth center – Tampere, and its lively neighbouring towns. The Tampere region is known for its ICT, intelligent machinery and manufacturing industries and hosts two universities and a university of applied sciences, which have recently united into one Tampere university community. Tampere has also been voted the happiest big city in Finland several times.
“The Tampere region cleantech sector is unique. The success of the sector is the result of universities, research institutes, municipalities and most importantly big and small companies working together, tirelessly finding solutions for the most acute problems of our time”, describes Pirkko Eteläaho, Project Manager of the Circular Economy Sector at Business Tampere.
“The bigger companies, such as Valmet and Tampereen Sähkölaitos, create life around them and the smaller companies, looking for fast growth, innovate and transform at a speed not possible for the bigger ones”, she continues.
Ecolan and Carbofex: Two rising cleantech stars
Located in the 2014 set up ECO 3 cleantech innovation area in Nokia, part of the Kolmenkulma business area at the border of Nokia, Ylöjärvi and Tampere, Ecolan does successful business at the core of circular economy. It utilises side streams from different industries and turns them into quality products for the agriculture and construction industries. The construction sector is the largest environmental business sector in Finland by revenue.
Ecolan was founded in 1995 but has seen its strongest growth in recent years. The company’s main products are the fly ash-based Silva® fertilizers for forests.
“From very heterogeneous side streams from many industries we are able to mix and create quality products that match products made from virgin materials in quality and price. Industry side stream ash for example comes to us from around 40 different sources,” describes Jenni Nurmi, head of infra business at Ecolan.
In addition to the forest fertilizers, Ecolan produces organic substrates for agriculture and the products for infrastructure construction.
Another innovative cleantech company, located in Hiedanranta, a circular economy hubspot in Tampere, is Carbofex. The company, only set up in 2016, has quickly become the world’s leading producer of biochar and biochar technology.
Carbofex also produces waste heat and pyrolysis oil used for district heating at Hiedanranta which makes it the world’s first commercial producer of carbon negative energy. The company announced in July 2017 that it will be building another production facility in collaboration with Tampereen Sähkölaitos, bringing a tenfold increase to both biochar and energy production.
Biochar stores carbon long-term and Carbofex also sells carbon dioxide removal certificates to Finnish industrial companies. The product itself can be used as well as soil amendment in landscaping and in filtering phosphorous nutrients in agriculture.
“There are countless possibilities in utilising biochar in filtering. Phosphorous side streams are everywhere: landfills, all manufacturing industries, and of course cities. In all of these scenarios it is possible to filter the nutrients with biochar, so they do not end up in nature or burden the municipal waste water treatment. We have also patented a device that filters nutrients out of lake water, purifying the water and stopping algae growth,” describes CEO and founder Sampo Tukiainen.
Most of the biochar Carbofex produces is now exported to Sweden.
“Our current facility produces 1000 tonnes of biochar annually. The amount covers the whole Finnish market easily, exporting the product is necessary for growth. Our landscaping solutions have already found their way to Sweden. Our next step is to start selling the technology,” Tukiainen says.
Enabling green growth
Both Ecolan and Carbofex have found Pirkanmaa to be a friendly place for growth. There have been good lots available and the cleantech ecosystem makes sure that the companies do not run out of ideas or contacts.
This year both companies are a part of the Tampere City Experimental Service Provider Pilot which offers companies an opportunity for business, product development and new contacts. The companies praise Business Tampere for being a uniting force in the area’s cleantech sector.
“Being a part of ECO 3 has benefited us. Great things are happening in the area. Business Tampere actively takes care of the companies that locate here, arranging events and networking opportunities. The Service Provider Pilot offers a good opportunity for us for dynamic product development with the city,” describes Jenni Nurmi.
“As a young company, with surprisingly developed technology, our growth has been quick and market driven. Business Tampere is a great at bringing people and companies together. The upcoming Sustainable business opportunities event is a good example,” says Sampo Tukiainen.
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Both Jenni and Sampo will be speaking about sustainable business development at the event on Tampere Hall on 29 August, 2019. The afternoon agenda will be held in English. Sign up now!