VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, the City of Espoo, and Helsinki Business Hub are developing and promoting a world-class piloting and business ecosystem for bio-based and circular economy. Cleantech Garden is already attracting companies and research from all over the world.
It all started with the westward-expanding metro line, but the metro line is also one of the key elements for the future of the Cleantech Garden piloting ecosystem in Espoo.
Plans to extend the Helsinki metro line through the Otaniemi area in Espoo forced VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland to look for a new location for its industrial research and development activities. In 2015, VTT’s Bioruukki R&D center found a new home in Kivenlahti, Espoo, and VTT plans to develop an entire cluster of bio-based and circular economy R&D, piloting and business activities around it. The Bioruukki biomass processing center opened in spring 2018, and a chemical industry piloting center will open in 2019.
“We want to offer circular economy businesses a chance to develop new processes and products by providing a top-notch R&D and piloting infrastructure with all the expert help they need – you could call it a product development accelerator. But beyond VTT’s Bioruukki, the surrounding Cleantech Garden industrial park will hopefully also attract lots of companies and research in the future,” says Executive Vice President Jussi Manninen from VTT.
An attractive area for business, research and residents
VTT and the City of Espoo share a vision that the Bioruukki piloting platform and ecosystem has huge potential, thanks to the expanding metro line and the new Kivenlahti station, due to open in 2023. The metro line is expected to attract other infrastructure investments, including new housing and business space.
“Bioruukki has brought new startups to Cleantech Garden, and Siemens has recently begun collaboration on the platform. So, the area has real potential to attract new businesses, jobs and taxpayers to Espoo and help further develop the City. Espoo acts as a neutral ecosystem coordinator, making it easy for new organizations to join in,” says Harri Paananen, Head of Economic Development at the City of Espoo.
Another partner in the Cleantech Garden project is Helsinki Business Hub.
“Cleantech Garden has already sparked interest in the cleantech R&D world outside Finland, and it is important to have an organization like Helsinki Business Hub to get the word out that the Helsinki region is one of the strongest bio-based and circular economy ecosystems in the world,” Manninen says.
Potential for educational collaboration
The City of Espoo and VTT also want to attract universities to Cleantech Garden. Several Finnish universities of applied sciences, like Laurea, Metropolia, Haaga-Helia and Omnia, are planning or interested in setting up campuses in the area and linking their educational programs, internships, theses and student summer jobs to Cleantech Garden’s operations.
“Educational collaboration benefits everyone. There are no educational programs for many of the cutting-edge technologies that are being developed in Cleantech Garden, and businesses in the area need employees with new kinds of expertise. So, students can learn from businesses and research organizations and later provide them with skilled personnel,” says Paananen.
“Educational collaboration also offers highly interesting R&D possibilities. For example, if a university were to set up a food-related program in Cleantech Garden, the combination of research and education could enable entirely new concepts,” says Manninen.
Pioneering ecosystems are key to sustainable future
Cleantech Garden welcomes businesses of all sizes and from all corners of the world.
“Even small companies with small resources can get their hands into R&D projects here. We work with international companies that wish to bring their R&D in the Helsinki region and utilize Finnish expertise, as well as with Finnish companies looking for growth through new ideas and products. Bioruukki belongs to a European network of R&D ecosystems, so we can collaborate with partners to offer client companies whatever they need,” Manninen explains.
“Cleantech Garden has every chance to become the most attractive bio-based and circular economy piloting platform in Europe. Sustainability is a core value for an increasing number of companies, and they also want to locate in a sustainable environment, which Cleantech Garden and Espoo can offer,” Paananen says.
“There is an on-going global competition among urban regions, and it is vitally important to have these kinds of pioneering ecosystems in Europe, not just in the United States and China. Wealth and wellbeing, sustainability and progress will concentrate in these urban pioneer regions,” he continues.
“We also sorely need alternative solutions for the current unsustainable ones, and Cleantech Garden is in an excellent position to develop them,” says Manninen.