Origin of the article has been published in the Kuopio by nature 2021 journal. You can read the journal here.
The atmosphere in the ecosystems of the Kuopio region is positive and development-oriented. The region is just the right size and has the optimum number of operators to make joint debate easy.
New innovations are often born in small companies. According to Arto Holopainen, Chief Innovation Officer at the City of Kuopio, companies poised to enter the global market still need to coordinate several scientific and technical fields of competence – and this is where various ecosystems come into play.
“More and more companies are banding together to compile a supply with greater potential to succeed than what a small company could produce on its own.”
The KuopioHealth ecosystem is committed to promoting competence, research and business in the health and wellness sector. Its chief goal is the growth and development of its members to create more jobs in the region.
CEO of KuopioHealth Aki Gröhn believes that ecosystems help boost cooperation between companies and improve business opportunities.
“Research collaboration gives rise to new products, and companies can start their journey towards internationalization.”
Business development is also facilitated by digital solutions developed at the University of Eastern Finland (UEF) and Savonia University of Applied Sciences (Savonia UAS), among others. These include data pools and artificial intelligence solutions.
According to the approach going by the name of Kuopio Living Lab, Kuopio as a city also forms a kind of ecosystem or development platform. For instance, all the sports and exercise venues in the city can be harnessed to serve the needs of health-promoting research.
Coordinated by Savonia UAS, the Kuopio Water Cluster is unique in Finland. According to Research Manager Eero Antikainen from Savonia UAS, it is unlikely that you will find an equally versatile cluster of water competence anywhere else.
The strength of the Kuopio Water Cluster lies in its extensive competence profile. The Cluster is made up of six organizations, each a leading name in Finland in its area of expertise. Kuopio Water Cluster harnesses this water competence to support the product development of companies.
“Water-related challenges are highly multidisciplinary. We need a wide range of experts to come up with solutions if we are to overcome these challenges. For instance, water challenges in the mining industry require an understanding of what the bedrock of the mine is like and how detrimental elements are discharged from it”, says Antikainen.
The Kuopio Water Cluster is pursuing a prominent role and visibility also on the EU level among others operating in the water services sector. It is the first Finnish cluster in the water sector to receive official cluster status at the EU level. This status significantly improves the possibilities to e.g. receive funding in certain funding programmes.
One of the newest ecosystems in the Kuopio region is Energy Cluster North Savo, coordinated by the Energy Technology Unit of the Savonia University of Applied Sciences in Varkaus.
“The goal of the Energy Cluster is to secure the operating conditions of mechanical engineering and energy technology in the region”, says Markku Huhtinen, Manager of Education at Savonia UAS.
The cluster covers the entire field of the energy sector from basic research to commercialization. Of its key members, UEF conducts basic research and Savonia UAS applied research. Savonia UAS also builds and pilots prototypes. Navitas Business Services provides commercialization services to member companies.
“Energy companies, research institutions and device manufacturers work in good cooperation in the Energy Cluster. As a result of their activities, new innovations created by device manufacturers find their way to customers, and devices can be tested in authentic environments”, says Huhtinen.
There is an ecosystem agreement under discussion in Finland, which will determine the fields in which each university city will take a leading national role. During the discussions, technology for health and wellbeing and water competence have been proposed as the focus areas of Kuopio. The KuopioHealth ecosystem would take the lead in the health sector and the Kuopio Water Cluster in the water services sector.
Ecosystems are seen to have immense potential in the future, which is why Kuopio wants to invest in them. In fact, the city aims to be a trendsetter, not just an adapter to the changes happening around it.
Text: Minna Akiola / Photo: Wille Markkanen