Innovations enable sustainable growth

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The world population growth has led to increased utilization of limited natural resources. On the other side, the demand for raw materials for industrial use is constantly increasing. This is a challenging equation with no easy solution. However, every challenge is an opportunity – resource wisdom provides the means to generate new businesses, to gain competitive advantage and to create totally new business models.

Resource wisdom is resource efficiency, if you like, it can also be interpreted as ”more from less”, meaning that less materials, energy and water is used in processes and production. Recycling of materials, components and goods is getting more and more attractive, also and especially from a business point of view. Industrial symbiosis, someone´s by-product or waste is crucial raw material for the other, represents new way of thinking and paves the way to wiser use of resources.   Resource efficiency is a crucial part of clean technology. The global cleantech market is growing rapidly and Finns possess the basic knowledge. That is why cleantech is part of the new government programme with high economical and societal expectations.

This all sounds good and promising by having a lot of potential to generate new businesses, sustainable growth, jobs and well-being. However, to make this happen there is a need for target-oriented research, technology development and innovation which can and will be successfully converted into products, services and businesses. Finland is known as a high technology country. We Finns have the ability to innovate.  In the recent Global Competitiveness Report 2014 – 2015 (by World Economic Forum) Finland was ranked No. 1 in innovativeness among 144 countries. But do we have the ability to exploit the outcome economically? Thus, innovation capability matters.

Cleantech is a growth area, which needs innovations. The Global Cleantech Summit 2015 is a forum for businesses, R&I and entrepreneurs to meet and to change ideas. Let´s innovate!

Anne-Christine Ritschkoff

Executive Vice President, Strategic Research

 

The blogpost was published 12.8. in the Global Cleantech Summit webpages.

 

 

A summer well spent as a Research Trainee at VTT

Five years at the technology university here in Otaniemi with occasional guest lectures given by VTTers has shaped my perception of VTT as a place where the real experts work and where you go to be at the cutting edge of –in my case- energy systems research. Needless to say, I’ve wished to work here for some time already. The chance to do so this summer made me drop another job opportunity –and you’d think that that high expectations actually makes a real set up for disappointment. However, the past two and a half months have been everything but.

Hands-on work in real projects

During the relatively short time I’ve worked at VTT I’ve had the chance to participate in two very different projects; one where time was of the essence and another which will be more long-running and which has co-authors in other countries as well. The first project was a summary and comparison of the different impact assessments made by EU member states regarding  the EU 2030 energy package, and I got to write the parts concerning a couple of the countries. I was surprised to be given that chance and responsibility right away and even more surprised when I to my delight saw that I am even mentioned as a co-author! That exceeded my expectations of what a summer trainee gets to do.

The second project which is under work right now is part of the IEA’s Nordic Energy Technology Perspectives 2016 book and concerns urban energy use in the Nordic countries. Here I am collecting and compiling basic data to assist the other team members in their writing of the chapter.

The greatest part about both projects is that I am being paid to read about interesting things and in some cases dig into questions I’ve long wished to know more about. The challenges are perhaps putting the findings into words, and more acutely into perspective; when you are only just beginning to read about a different country’s past and present energy politics, it is sometimes hard to know what is relevant or which earlier, national or international, agreements might lie behind a certain decision or make another one moot. However there is plenty of support just a few desks away if you just ask for it.

A glimpse in to research work

In addition to training different skills when working on different projects I feel like this summer has been a good intro to what research work is like; sometimes you have to make the most out of what you have and compile something useful in a short time, and on other projects you have more time and many international partners to bounce ideas off, discuss things –and to wait for.

After seeing only two projects I am obviously not really in a position to judge, but it seems like all projects are different. That’s usually right there at the top of the list if you ask people what they want from a job: they want varying work, project work. What’s delighting is also the coffee brakes during which news regarding energy politics are discussed and I can pick the brains of Finland’s leading energy specialists if I like to!

What makes a good working life?

As a young person on the verge of entering into the workforce I’ve found myself contemplating working life all the more often during this past year, and even participating in projects and programs where it is discussed. It seems to be something of an ongoing trend right now to ponder what work should be like; the talk of autonomy at work, of mobile work, of what makes a good working environment –and obviously I can’t help but use my current workplace as a reference point.

I am in awe at how well we summer trainees and master thesis workers were received and taken care of. Everything from the introduction to practicalities to the warm welcome into the VTT Young Professionals network –thank you VTT YP for all your events! It is great that there are so many so that everyone truly has a chance to attend at some point, even during the summer when I was expecting social happenings at work to be a bit toned down due to holidays!

Not to mention the everyday life at the office, where the Energy Systems team has been remarkably welcoming, and I say remarkably because it is no easy feat to make new people, especially persons you know will not be employees for more than a few months, feel like a part of your group of long-time colleagues. The work community in the team in which I work has been more supportive and open to new members than in other companies where I’ve worked before.

The culture is inclusive, and I’ve felt appreciated even before “proving myself” at work. I’ve been given a good amount of responsibility and even grown to like the timecard system –it gives me the autonomy to work late one day and leave early another!

These are exciting times as VTT is learning how to cope with less support from the state and as we recently selected a new CEO –so much about working here is great, but of course there are always inspiring role models out there (Google’s creative Friday!) and new heights of excellence to be reached as a company. All I know is, I’ll be sad to leave and I’ll be following the news on how things are developing at VTT for a long time after my employment here ends in September!

A big, warm Thank You to VTT and all VTTers for this summer!

Amanda Björnberg

Research Trainee

Invisible electronics to lift Finland’s innovativeness on a new level

The electronics industry has disappeared to Asia with gathering speed over recent years – even the products themselves have begun to vanish. By utilising this turn point in technology, Finland’s electronics sector has the chance to re-materialise following its downturn.

LED bulbs are disappearing into thin, flexible illuminating surfaces that merge with the decor and give off a pleasant light. This offers totally new possibilities to interior design.

Kalvo

Flexible solar cells are disappearing among various design elements, generating energy in either outdoor or indoor spaces.

Aurinkokennotaulu

Watch the video to see how flexible solar cells are printed at VTT using roll-to-roll technique.

Surface-embedded switches are disappearing within structures, just as game controls are disappearing into tables and boards. The surfaces can be planned based on design as the electronic parts are hidden.

A range of wirelessly readable sensors, such as temperature and moisture sensors, are also disappearing inside structures. The data received from large amount of sensors gives the opportunity to improve the temperature convenience and energy efficiency simultaneously. Wirelessly readable sensors can also be dug into the ground to measure, say, growing conditions or dangerous substances, after which they disappear through decomposition.

painettu elektroniikka

 

Wearable electronics are disappearing from wrist straps and other accessories, first onto fabrics and then stickers on – and eventually being inserted under –the skin. The development of wellbeing and healthcare services will change radically.

Kauneuslaastari

Displays are disappearing from in front of the glasses inside the glasses offering a user interface which merges unnoticeably in to the user’s visual field. Wireless sensors are disappearing inside sports gear and are communicating with cloud services, which analyse data to improve sports performance. Finland has a chance to return to the winners’ podium!

Lasit

All these technologies exist and they are developed at VTT. We create ‘disappearing’ electronics in the Printocent pilot plant in Oulu, Finland. Due to the large volumes needed, production is based on an extremely efficient roll-to-roll technique, inspired by the disappearing paper industry.

Printocent

VTT is one of the founding members of the Printocent community, which has brought several ‘disappearing’ or printed electronics companies into the world, created a business network to accelerate the pace at which electronics disappears and trained experts in making electronics vanish and new businesses materialise. This has led to a unique innovation environment which is helping technology developers, entrepreneurs and companies to create game-changing products and take Finland’s competitiveness to a new level. Things have got off to a great start and fast growth is in prospect, with room on board for all enthusiastic developers. Stick around – don’t disappear!

Raimo Korhonen

Head of Research Area

Further details on the technologies introduced in this blog (available in Finnish). 

Näkymätön elektroniikka nostamaan Suomen innovatiivisuus uudelle tasolle

Elektroniikkateollisuus on viime vuosina kadonnut kiihtyvällä tahdilla Aasiaan ja jopa itse elektroniikkatuotteetkin alkavat kadota. Hyödyntämällä tätä teknologiamurrosta Suomen elektroniikkateollisuudella on mahdollisuus siirtyä taantumasta jälleen kasvuvaiheeseen.

Ledilamput muuttuvat ohuiksi taipuisiksi valopinnoiksi ja katoavat sisustukseen antamaan miellyttävää valoa. Tämä antaa aivan uusia mahdollisuuksia sisustussuunnitteluun!

Kalvo

Taipuisat aurinkokennot katoavat erilaisiksi design-elementeiksi ulko- tai sisätiloihin tuottamaan energiaa.

Aurinkokennotaulu

Katso videolta, kuinka aurinkokennoja valmistetaan painokoneella rullalta-rullalle-tekniikalla VTT:llä

Pinnoilla olevat kytkimet katoavat rakenteiden sisään liiketunnistuksella toimiviksi kuten myös peliohjaimet pelipöytiin tai -lautoihin. Pinnat voidaan suunnitella design-näkökulmasta, kun sähköiset osat ovat piilossa.

Rakenteiden sisään langattomasti luettaviksi katoavat myös erilaiset sensorit, esimerkiksi lämpötila- ja kosteussensorit. Suuren sensorimäärän tuottama tieto antaa mahdollisuuden tilan lämpötilamukavuuden ja energiatehokkuuden parantamiseen samanaikaisesti. Langattomasti luettavia sensoreita voidaan myös kylvää maahan mittaamaan esimerkiksi kasvuolosuhteita tai vaarallisia aineita ja tehtävänsä suoritettuaan sensorit katoavat maatumalla.

painettu elektroniikka

Päällepuettava elektroniikka katoaa rannekkeista ja muista laitteista tekstiileihin, iholle liimattaviin tarroihin ja lopulta ihmisen ihon alle. Terveydenhuollon ja hyvinvointipalvelujen kehittäminen muuttuu radikaalisti!

Kauneuslaastari

Näytöt katoavat silmälasien edestä lasien sisään tuoden ihmisen näkökenttään huomaamattomasti sulautuvan käyttöliittymän. Langattomat sensorit katoavat urheiluvälineiden sisään ja kommunikoivat pilvipalveluihin, jotka analysoivat dataa ja auttavat parantamaan urheilusuoritusta. Suomella on taas mahdollisuus mitalisijoille!

Lasit

Kaikki nämä teknologiat ovat olemassa ja kehitetty VTT:llä. Me teemme katoavaa elektroniikkaa Oulussa Printocent-pilottitehtaassa. Tällaista elektroniikkaa tarvitaan isoja määriä, joten tuotanto perustuu äärimmäisen tehokkaaseen rullalta rullalle tekniikkaan, jonka kehitystä on inspiroinut katoavan paperiteollisuuden tuotantomenetelmät.

Printocent

VTT on perustajajäseniä Printocent-yhteisössä, joka on synnyttänyt useita katoavan elektroniikan start-up yrityksiä, luonut yritysverkoston nopeuttamaan elektroniikan katoamista ja kouluttanut kehittäjiä kadottamaan elektroniikkaa ja luomaan siitä liiketoimintaa. Näin on syntynyt ainutlaatuinen innovaatioympäristö, joka auttaa kehittäjiä, yrittäjiä ja yrityksiä luomaan mullistavia tuotteita ja nostamaan Suomen kilpailukyvyn aivan uudelle tasolle. Toiminta on lähtenyt hyvin liikkeelle ja voimakas kasvuvaihe on edessä, joten kaikki innostuneet kehittäjät mahtuvat mukaan.  Älkää kadotko!

Raimo Korhonen

Tutkimusalueen päällikkö

Lisätietoa kirjoituksen teknologioista.

Summer holidays are here and Finns head to free-time residences – can you survive without own car?

Rantasila Karri

Finns love their cottages, especially during the summer time. According statistics, there were half a million free-time residences in Finland at the end of 2014. Many of these are located close to water in rural areas that are not usually well-served with public transport. Luckily the total fleet of personal mobility devices (aka private cars) in Finland is well over three million, so most people have no problems of reaching their beloved summer homes with convenience! However, there are some signs that an increasing trend among young adults is not to get driver’s license or to own a private car. This is the case especially in bigger cities.

During the last year or so, a Finnish-born concept of “Mobility as a Service – MaaS”, has gained a lot of attention in major global forums. The idea of MaaS is to provide a comprehensive range of mobility services (including public transport, private cars, cycles etc.) to customers by the mobility operator. It aims at providing a same superb service level, offered by the private car, without owning one. My question is how viable this concept could be in context of reaching your cottage?

Naturally, not a single answer exists as this is heavily dependent on the distance to free-time residence and personal preferences. However, some “typical” cases are to be found. I’m using my own midsummer weekend as an example: two persons travelling, distance 270km, total travel time (own car) six and half hours, two-way fuel cost 65EUR. This does not include the relatively high price of owning the car but this can be assessed. For the duration of my trip the approximate costs would be around 19 euros. This includes devaluation of car (10EUR), insurance and maintenance fees (9EUR). My options for using own car (total cost 84EUR) would have been:

  • Public transport: cheapest (4x bus tickets+2x taxi) 97,2EUR / 11,5 h (of which waiting time 3,5 hours) / walking 5km
  • Renting a car: cheapest (rent+2x bus tickets+fuel) 238EUR / 9h / walking 1km

So, in terms of price and convenience, own vehicle is superb. Yet, we need to see the forest from the trees. Owning a car is expensive and generates costs whether you use it or not. Beyond a single journey, there are viable options, at least in terms of economics. From the example we can also see that the option of using public transport is actually quite tempting if you’re not in a rush and willing to do some walking!

Here lies the beauty of developing new mobility services. There is no need to have only one option but rather let the consumer decide based on his or her own preferences (that usually even varies based on time and place). Many different services (e.g. ride sharing) are about to born to fulfil the variety of these needs and VTT is also contributing to this development. Maybe next summer we have more options to go to our beloved cottages!

Karri Rantasila,

Key Account Manager

Kesä alkaa ja suomalaiset suuntaavat mökeille – selviääkö ilman autoa?

Rantasila Karri

Suomalaiset tunnetusti rakastavat mökkeilyä, ja maassamme onkin reilut puoli miljoonaa kesämökkiä. Monet näistä sijaitsevat vesistöjen äärellä, kauempana kaupungeista paikoissa, joiden saavutettavuus julkisen liikenteen avulla on haastavaa.  Onneksi kansamme käytössä on myös mittavassa määrin henkilökohtaisia liikkumisvälineitä, joita henkilöautoiksikin kutsutaan. Näin ollen mökkielämyksen saavutettavuus ei tuota suuria ongelmia. Kuitenkin viime vuosina etenkin suurissa kaupungeissa ovat ajokortin suorittaneiden määrät pudonneet eikä auton omistaminenkaan ole välttämättä itseisarvo kaikille.

Samaan aikaan uudentyyppinen liikkumiskonsepti, “Liikkuminen palveluna” (Mobility as a Service – MaaS) on levinnyt Suomesta maailmalle. Ideana ”MaaS”-ajattelussa on tarjota kaikki liikkumispalvelut (ml. julkinen liikenne, auton vuokraus, kevyt liikenne jne.) käyttäjälle liikkumisoperaattorin kautta. Toisin sanoen liikkumisoperaattori pyrkii tarjoamaan saman palvelutason kuin henkilöauto ilman, että kuluttajan pitää auto omistaa itse. Lomakauden alla herääkin kysymys: pääsisikö mökille ilman omaa autoa?

Luonnollisestikaan kysymykseen ei ole yhtä ainoaa vastausta, sillä tämä riippuu mm. etäisyyksistä ja käyttäjän omista tarpeista. Asiaa on kuitenkin mahdollista lähestyä käyttäen esimerkkinä omaa juhannuksen mökkireissuani. Matkaa mökille oli 270 km, jonka taittamiseen kului edestakaisin kuusi ja puoli tuntia sekä 65 euron edestä polttoainetta. Autossa oli lisäkseni yksi matkustaja. Mikäli oman auton käytölle haluttaisiin laskennallinen hinta, olisi se ollut arviolta noin 19 euroa (sisältäen arvonaleneminen 10€ sekä vakuutus- ja huoltokulut 9€). Vaihtoehtona tälle 84 euron hintaiselle, tyypilliselle mökkimatkalle olisi ollut:

  • Julkinen liikenne: halvin vaihtoehto (sis. 4x bussilippu + 2x taksimatka) 97,2€ / 5 kilometriä kävelyä / 11,5 tuntia matka-aikaa (josta odotusaikaa olisi tullut 3,5 tuntia)
  • Vuokra-auto: halvin vaihtoehto (sis. vuokra+2x bussilippu+bensakulut) 238€ / 1 kilometri kävelyä / 9 tuntia matka-aikaa

Taloudellisesti ja helppouden kannalta katsottuna oma auto onkin siis tässä tapauksessa ehdoton vaihtoehto. Usein kuitenkin kokonaisuutta on hankala arvioida yhden esimerkin pohjalta. Auton omistaminen aiheuttaa kustannuksia joka päivä käytöstä riippumatta. Näin ollen kokonaisuuden kannalta ainakin taloudellisesti järkeviä vaihtoehtoja auton omistamiselle on. Esimerkin mökkimatkakin taittuisi suhteellisen edullisesti julkisella liikenteellä, jos aikaa ja kävelyhaluja löytyy!

Uusien liikennepalveluiden kehittämisessä onkin kiinnostavaa juuri loputtomat mahdollisuudet.  Yhden palvelun ei tarvitse sopia kaikille, vaan eri vaihtoehtoja voidaan kehittää käyttäjien lukuisiin tarpeisiin, jotka vaihtelevat elämäntilanteesta riippuen. Uusia palveluita (esim. kimppakyydit) syntyy koko ajan täyttämään näitä tarpeita ja VTT on tässä kehityksessä vahvasti mukana. Ehkä ensi kesänä meillä kaikilla on enemmän vaihtoehtoja mökkimatkalle!

Karri Rantasila

Asiakaspäällikkö

Protein from canola to dinner table!

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Finland is only 15 percent self-sufficient in protein, since most protein in its food and animal feed originates from abroad. This information is based on the results of the protein roadmap published by VTT and the Natural Resources Institute Finland in March.

Soy rules the markets

The partial replacement of animal food sources with plant protein would reduce the need for feed protein and, thereby, decrease feed-soy imports. Most of the world’s soy is produced for the animal feed industry. Although soy protein is of excellent nutritional value, its production causes environmental problems such as rainforest destruction and the contamination of water bodies in agricultural areas.

Consumers similarly find it difficult to lay their hands on plant-based products that are fully Finnish: Most trade in plant protein products is based on soy, which is also frequently used as a water binder in convenience foods.

Now, if ever, there is a need for new plant protein sources in order to meet growing demand.

Finnish canola may provide a substitute for soy. In this context, canola stands for the high quality rapeseed varieties low in erucic acid and glucosinolates. Some 80,000 tonnes of canola – three times as much as rye – is produced each year in Finland. The only seed component which currently has food use is the oil, which is prized for its excellent fatty acid composition. The seed material left behind in the oil press, i.e. the press cake or meal, is mainly used as animal feed. Canola press cake contains 30–40% protein and has a similar amino acid composition and digestibility to soy protein. In fact, canola has even higher content of two of the vitally important amino acids, methionine and cystine, than soy.

Canola protein could become a more important foodstuff than canola oil

The price of canola oil currently fluctuates between EUR 0.40 and EUR 0.80 per kilogramme, while that of press cake varies between EUR 0.15 and EUR 0.30 per kilogramme. The commercial value of protein fractions can be several euros a kilo, as in the case of new pea protein products (EUR 5/kg). As a major canola producer, Canada is one step ahead of Finland on the development path: within ten years, two companies – Burcon NutraScience and BioExx Specialty Proteins, now TeuTexx – will have begun producing canola protein. These projects have been hindered by the unprofitable nature of current production methods, which require huge amounts of water and energy.

Having learned the lessons of the Canadian experiences, we at VTT began developing water-saving and simple methods for enriching protein from the press cake. In place of alkaline or salt-based extraction, we managed to improve protein extraction using carefully selected enzymes and processing methods. It has been interesting to observe, for example, how much lighter shaded our protein fractions have been compared to the first commercial products.

We aim to develop a technology for the financially viable production of protein-rich ingredients for foodstuffs. The suitability of canola fractions for foodstuffs can be improved by eliminating the bitter flavour caused by plant phenols and enhancing the digestibility of canola fibres. We are not aiming at ultra-pure ingredients requiring several processing stages, but at ones which combine healthy ingredients such as protein, oil and fibre in suitable proportions.

Other Finnish protein sources in the barn

In addition to canola, potato is one of the most fascinating of the plant protein newcomers, as the starch producer Finnamyl will begin potato protein production this year. In the new factory, protein is being extracted from a by-product of starch production. During the off-season, Finnamyl’s extraction equipment could be used for the processing of other protein sources.

Other promising protein sources signposted on the protein roadmap include faba bean, pea and protein-rich grains such as barley and oats.

Because beans, oleiferous plants, potatoes and oats are naturally gluten-free, their proteins can be used to create the desired structure in gluten-free grain products, for example. At VTT, we have demonstrated the suitability of faba bean fractions produced by us for foods such as bread and pasta.

Due to their technological characteristics, protein-fibre fractions that we have developed from canola press cake could be used in drinkable snacks.

If Finnish canola protein is to make it onto the dinner plate, someone has to produce it. Alongside companies, we are starting up projects to create new value chains for canola. Our aim in this is to obtain a technology ready for commercialisation within three years.

Who will be the first to take hold of this new technology and get its products onto the shop shelves?

Katariina Rommi

Researh Scientist