From microbes that clean contaminated soil, to an experiential space to tackle workplace burnout, we explore innovation in Finland
Finland Innovation Facts
Global Innovation Index ranking: 7th
Climate targets: Carbon neutral by 2035.
Forestry – More than 75 per cent of Finland is covered by forests, making it one of the most forested country in Europe. With so many trees, it is little surprise that forestry is big business – accounting for over 18 per cent of the country’s exports. But commentators point out that the industry has a negative impact on carbon emissions, biodiversity, and the native Sami people. This has led to vigorous debate over government plans to increase logging by more than 30 per cent.
Biodiversity – `Finland is home to around 45,000 plant and animal species, representing 29 per cent of the known species found in Europe. But biodiversity loss has been a key challenge for the country. For example, 35 per cent of Finnish birds are under threat. However, there have been signs in the last few years that, for the first time, Finland has a chance to reverse biodiversity loss.
Baltic Sea pollution – Nutrient run-off, urban litter, and industrial chemicals make the Baltic Sea one of the most polluted bodies of water in the world. With a catchment area spanning nine countries, change requires action by multiple countries, and 1974 saw the ratification of the Helsinki convention for the protection of the Baltic Sea. Thankfully, progress has been made with nutrient pollution in the sea reducing by around 50 per cent over the past 30 years.
AI, Big Data, and Analytics
Source: Startup Genome
Three Exciting Innovations From Finland
Contaminated soil from polluted sites, such as old industrial facilities and petrol stations, causes problems across the globe. Until now, the main method for cleaning these sites has been the physical removal of contaminated soil to a landfill site, where it is used as a filling material. Fresh soil must then be brought in as a replacement. This is an extremely expensive, time-consuming, and emissions-intensive process – potentially requiring thousands of truckloads of soil to be transported over many kilometres. Now, a Finnish company has developed a bioremediation additive made from agricultural waste that stimulates microbial activity to break down soil contaminants on-site. Read more.
Finnish startup SolFoil has created solar-powered pouches that cook or heat food and non-food items. Cool to the touch, even after hours in the sun, the packages absorb 90 per cent of the available sunshine. Cooking times vary due to time of day, strength of sunshine, and outdoor temperature, and the pouches can be left for hours without overheating. They connect to a gauge that indicates the internal temperature, making it easy to track cooking times. The technology has the potential to help vulnerable communities living in insecure housing and inhospitable locations, and the company plans to develop the product further for use in humanitarian emergencies.
Workers’ daily stress levels reached a record high in 2020 according to a global survey by Gallup, with 43 per cent of respondents in over 100 countries claiming to have experienced stress. Designed by Finnish designer Pekka Kumpula, Silmu is an experiential space for focus and relaxation. The single-person pods are designed to be installed in places that lack privacy – such as workplaces and public spaces. Combining a natural design language with state-of-the-art technology, the idea is that Silmu can act as the perfect setting, either for a ‘micro-break’ during the most hectic periods of the day, or for highly concentrated work that requires maximum focus. Read more.
Words: Matthew Hempstead
1st April 2022