Water efficiency in industry ensures the continuation of business

According to the Water Poverty Index, developed at the beginning of this millennium, Finland has the world’s highest welfare rate associated with water. In addition to Finland being one of the most water-rich nations in the world; the coverage of water supply and sewerage systems; the use of water in households, industry and agriculture; environmental affairs; and the socio-economic factors related to water supply belong among the best in the world.

The water consumption reflects our industrial structure. Our most important sectors are the water-intensive wood-processing industry and the mining industry, and, therefore, industry is the largest consumer of water (Grön 2010). When communities annually use approximately 460 million m3 of water, in the industry the water consumption is almost 20 times higher: 8,300 million m3 a year. However, the Finnish industrial sector has reduced its water consumption in an exemplary fashion by means of water recycling solutions and by optimising the draining of waste and process waters into the environment. When calculated per product, the pulp and paper industry has reduced its water consumption to one fifth of what it used to be in the 70s. Today, the water consumption of the Finnish brewery industry per product litre is significantly smaller than that of global brewery companies that widely advertise their operations as sustainable.

One key obstacle to water recycling is its relatively low price compared to the prices of comparable recycled materials. However, in water-intensive industries the large volumes of water alone constitute a major cost item. For example, in the Finnish wood-processing industry the cost of water accounts for an estimated 5 % of the overall costs, or is of about the same level as the chemicals and personnel costs.

The recycling of water generates cost benefits and, at the same time, the reduced need to extract water increases options on where to place the plants and offers opportunities for increasing production. In addition to water recycling, the industrial sector is developing solutions for recovery and productisation of substances contained in the water. They can be used for creating new value chains and business models for the future circular economy societies.

Climate change has raised the availability of water as a key risk for the world economy. It has multiple impacts: at the same time as dry areas become even drier, floods and heavy rains become more common. In addition to causing damage to buildings and products, the flooding sewer systems and dams may cause unintentional environmental emissions.

Finland has the best water supply and sewerage systems in the world. Being number one in the world, it would be easy to spring to the world not only as provider of technological solutions, but also as provider of project competence and other competencies that can be associated with water expertise.

Let us pilot the digital solutions, energy efficiency and all aspects of the blue economy in Finland and introduce them to the world markets together, to the regions where access to clean water is already a clear business risk to industrial production!

VTT publishes a policy brief on ensuring the availability of clean water and the opportunities for developing business out of water supply systems


Mona Arnold

Principal Scientist

rajaus nelio2
Anna-Mari Heikkilä
Senior Scientist

Reference: The Water Poverty Index: An International Comparison, Keele Economics Research Papers. http://econwpa.repec.org/eps/dev/papers/0211/0211003.pdf

Grön 2010, Water as natural resource and enabler of global business http://www.helsinki.fi/henvi/yvv/esitykset/gron.pdf

Where can we find future growth areas for Finland? The VTT lighthouses provide us with many opportunities

Various actors in the world follow and examine a variety of megatrends and phenomena, trying to predict future development trends. The boldest among them claim that they are creating the future. This is what we at VTT do as well. In this blog, VTT’s Strategy Manager Sanna Tuominen explains how VTT has sought − and found − future growth opportunities for Finland. They benefit the whole world.

VTT began the search from megatrends and big challenges in society. Such change drivers are great in number, and they are scalable to different extents. For example, the United Nations has listed a few dozen major challenges for humanity and agreed on 17 sustainable development goals with a multinational consortium. Finland has a lot to offer towards reaching goals like this, and certain subject areas offer real opportunities for Finnish expertise to boost business and increase export. But how can we find and choose the most potential growth areas?

Lighthouses illuminate the way towards future growth

In our strategy work, we examined how societal challenges are transformed into opportunities for growth in Finland. Together with our stakeholders, we discussed where Finland’s strengths lie. Next, we considered how to accelerate growth with technological innovations.

As stated in our vision, we at VTT believe that a brighter future is created through science-based innovations. Extensive maps were drawn on the opportunities identified during the strategy work that were re-grouped under various areas of societal challenge. This led to the creation of five focus areas, which we call lighthouses:

* Climate action – Clean energy for the future
* Resource sufficiency – Prosperity from resource wisdom
* Good life – Improved quality of life, work, health and well-being
* Safety and security – Resiliency in turbulent world
* Industrial renewal – Innovations empowering industry


The lighthouses and opportunities for Finland selected by VTT

Come join us to change the world

No actor can solve the major societal challenges alone. Through its lighthouse work, VTT has chosen focus areas on which it wishes to cooperate with other business actors in seeking solutions to the chosen global challenges. In these areas, Finland has national strengths. Ecosystems and new forms of collaboration enable our challenge-driven work towards sustainable solutions.

We describe the challenges related to the lighthouses and the opportunities for growth in the publication VTT Lighthouses – growth opportunities for industry and society. It is freely available to everyone. Get acquainted with our way of thinking and come join us in making a change towards creating a better future.

In addition, we will shortly begin a series of podcasts on Finland’s opportunities for growth, which will present our approach and the subject areas of opportunity in closer detail. Follow the VTT social media accounts to learn more about this!


tuomistosannaSanna Tuominen
Manager, Strategy, VTT
Twitter: @SannaPTuominen

P.S. VTT will organize five events for invited guests (Beyond the Obvious – Growth Labs) on the lighthouse themes. The first event on 4 June 2018, with Minister of Transport and Communications Anne Berner as the keynote speaker, will address the challenges and opportunities of the Climate action lighthouse. Follow #VTTGrowthLab in social media