Where do you find yourself if you search for world-class engineering talent, globally competitive maritime industry, top expertise in ICT and digitalization, and booming startup activity? Why, Helsinki, of course.
We at Helsinki Business Hub recently encountered an interesting question: As Finland has top-class engineering talent and is a global leader in marine technology, why is it still such a hidden gem? Why are Finns not advertising this excellent package every chance they get? Well, let us use this opportunity to do just that. Finland and especially Helsinki is a global maritime hotspot. When it comes to digitalization, arctic technology and innovation in marine tech, we rank right on top, globally.
1. World class center for marine tech
The Helsinki metropolitan area is home to numerous companies producing world-class marine technology and equipment. International industry leaders, such as Wärtsilä, ABB Marine, Arctech, Cargotech, and Konecranes, have headquarters in the Finnish capital region.
Naturally, the global, stock-listed players are an important driving force for the Helsinki smart maritime cluster. However, the region’s strength lies in the diversity of its business ecosystem and its technical competence. In addition to global giants, Helsinki also has a vibrant innovation, co-creation and startup community.
Helsinki is rich with diverse marine expertise, for example in
- ship design
- marine connectivity, cyber security and IoT
- data collection on vessels and analyzing big data
- cutting-edge cleantech and satellite technology
- smart port and shipping solutions.
Due to the cold Finnish climate, companies specializing in technology and services for arctic conditions and routes, for example icebreakers, are crucial. The list of companies includes Arctia, Aker Arctic, and Arctech Helsinki Shipyard.
2. Top level engineering talent and R&D
Finland is known around the globe for its educational system and results, including world-class universities. The workforce is highly skilled and educated, so it is no wonder Finland ranks second in the availability of scientists and researchers globally. This benefits our marine industry. For example, the Research Centre of Excellence on Arctic Shipping and Operations at Aalto University studies the behavior of ships and structures in ice, the behavior of sea ice, and the impact that sea ice has on the safety of maritime transportation.
Another example of maritime research and development is the INTENS project, run by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and funded by Business Finland. The collaborative, industry-wide project generated novel solutions to digitalize and disrupt the Finnish marine industry, with a special focus on efficient energy systems and green shipping.
3. State support to enable digital and autonomous maritime industry
As far as cargo volumes are concerned, the Finnish ports may be small, but their efficiency, digitalization and use of open data open possibilities for all organizations involved with port operations. In fact, our ports are finding new ways to utilize open data and the 5G network through initiatives like DigiPort and 5G Momentum.
The Finnish government has also recently adjusted the legislation to better enable the testing and development of autonomous maritime operations, vehicles and technologies. This has paved the way for the first test area for autonomous shipping in the world. The test area is part of the One Sea ecosystem, which works towards an operating autonomous maritime ecosystem by 2025. The ecosystem combines top research, state-of-the-art information technology and global businesses.
4. Frontrunner in sustainable shipping
Helsinki is the busiest passenger port in Europe with over 12 million passengers annually. The port significantly affects the society both locally and nationally, so it strongly focuses on environmental and social responsibility. In fact, as a result of its efforts, the international Green Shipping Summit chose the Helsinki Port as the greenest port of the year. Helsinki wants to lead the way in sustainability, for example by encouraging shipping companies to discharge their waste water directly into the City’s sewer system.
5. Strong innovation and startup ecosystem attracts investments
Helsinki offers a bustling, closely-connected innovation ecosystem, where even competitors work together. In fact, according to the recently-published Global Startup Ecosystems Report by Startup Genome and the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN), Helsinki is #1 in local connectedness. It’s also a strong ICT hub with lots of talent and technological innovation. When you combine connectedness with a booming startup scene and top ICT expertise, you get great opportunities for open innovation and cooperation between large corporations and startups.
In Finland, the public and private sectors also work closely together, and the state offers committed support for business projects, for example through Business Finland’s innovation funding (ask our business advisors for more information). Private business funding is strong and increasing, and Finland is #1 in foreign direct investments in the Nordics. In 2020, Finnish startups also received the most venture capital funding in Europe for the third consecutive year.
Become part of our ecosystem
Helsinki is the hotspot of marine innovation, R&D, and business, and you are most welcome to join and leverage our ecosystem. We, the regional development and investment promotion agency Helsinki Business Hub, are happy to help you establish your R&D operations, find the best partners and set up your business in the Helsinki region.
Text: Anu Jussila and Maria Hartikainen
Originally published on Breaking Waves in 2019, updated by HBH in 2021.
Would you like to know what kind of smart maritime opportunities Helsinki has to offer for your company?
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Senior Business Advisor
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Read more: hbh.fi/smartmaritime