🇫🇮 RRF funding speeds up the green transition and digitalization

Press release from Business Finland

November 1, 2023
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Marie Donnay, Director, Recovery & Resilience Task Force, European Commission, on stage.

Finnish companies have received EUR 440 million from the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) through Business Finland, while research organizations have received EUR 90 million of RRF funding through the Research Council of Finland. In particular, funding has been granted to promote the green transition and digitalization. In the RRF result event organized by Business Finland and the Research Council of Finland on 17 October 2023, companies and research organizations presented their views on the importance of the funding and the results achieved with it.

Approximately 200 guests attended the event called A Greener, More Digital and Sustainable Finland held at the Helsinki Musiikkitalo. Representatives of research organizations and companies, political decision-makers, preparatory officials, and other RDI operators were present.

GREETINGS BY THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION

Marie Donnay, a director at the European Commission, opened the event. According to her, the RRF recovery instrument is the largest EU program to date in terms of finance, amounting to EUR 723 billion.

“The RRF funding has helped Europe to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has also improved Europe’s resilience. In the current uncertain global situation, there is demand for the funding,” estimates Donnay.

Donnay described the RRF program as a learning process, and the experiences gained can be utilized in new challenging situations. She praised Finland for being a pioneer in digitalization and the green transition and encouraged Finland to share its skills and know-how with other EU states.

BOTH RESEARCH ORGANIZATIONS AND COMPANIES HAVE BENEFITED FROM RRF FUNDING

In her speech, Riitta Maijala, Vice President for Research at the Research Council of Finland, said that the RRF reforms and investments support the country-specific goals of both the European Union and Finland. They promote a sustainable society and social well-being. Common goals are extremely important for successful implementation.

The Research Council of Finland has funded RRF research and research infrastructure projects with a total of EUR 90 million. The projects promote solutions related to carbon neutrality and adaptation to climate change, as well as related digital technologies. The aim is to strengthen and develop the existing Finnish centers of expertise in this area.

“We are very pleased that the RRF funding was distributed extensively across Finland,” Maijala said.

Teija Lahti-Nuuttila, Executive Director of Business Finland, said that the RRF funding granted through Business Finland has been distributed widely across various sectors and granted to operators in all Finnish municipalities. The largest share of the funding, EUR 198,5  million, has been allocated to Uusimaa, which also has the highest number of companies.

“The average RRF funding for one project has been approximately one million euros. The smallest sums have been less than EUR 100 000 and the largest almost EUR 60 million for the IPCEI (Important Projects of Common European Interest) hydrogen economy project. The RRF funding is expected to increase companies’ operating profit and exports and the number of jobs,” said Lahti-Nuuttila.

“The RRF funding requirement that the projects must not harm nature or the rest of the environment has been well understood by the companies. Therefore, the RRF funding has promoted the green transition of Finnish companies, which is an increasingly important competitive factor internationally,” continued Lahti-Nuuttila.

Riitta Maijala, Vice President for Research at the Research Council of Finland, and Teija Lahti-Nuuttila, Executive Director of Business Finland.

THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY IS ALSO A BUSINESS

The circular economy is a key tool for mitigating climate change and promoting the green transition. Recycling and Material Reuse panel found that social know-how is needed alongside technological know-how. The key is to get different parties to work together towards a common goal. Regulatory predictability is also very important.

Anne Kaiser, Sustainability Manager at Saint-Gobain Finland Oy, believes that companies have an extremely important role in the green transition.

“Usually, companies are the first to join if they see business potential. External funding is essential, as it enables and encourages the development of new solutions that promote sustainable development,” Kaiser said.

Panelists stressed the importance of basic research, as it leads to new innovations.

On the left, Tomi Korhonen, head of PR and media at Business Finland, who hosted the event and moderated the panels.  Participants of the Recycling and Material Reuse panel Ville Santala, University of Tampere, Anne Kaiser, Saint-Gobain Finland Oy,  Juhani Damski, Ministry of the Environment, and  Kalle Härkki, Resand Oy.

HEALTH TECHNOLOGY AS A MOTOR FOR NEW GROWTH

Finnish health technology exports are growing rapidly, mainly thanks to large companies in the sector. The Health Technology panel also discussed how to engage small businesses in growth.

Nuanic Oy represented a small startup company in the panel, and its product is a smart ring that measures bodily functions. The smart ring is a wellness product that is developed as a potential health care product with the help of RRF funding. Sanna Koskela, CEO of the company, emphasized the importance of cooperation.

“Nuanic cooperates with organizations such as universities, other companies, and public operators. This is the lifeblood of a startup. In addition, we need long-term programs that create predictability and stability,” Koskela sums up.

For Nuanic, Finland is a test market for piloting the product. However, the most important contact requests come from abroad. Koskela believes that international markets will open more quickly than the market in Finland.

In the Health Technology panel in the middle of a discussion: Veli-Mikko Niemi, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Saara Hassinen, Healthtech Finland, and Sanna Koskela, Nuanic Oy. In addition, Emilia Peltola from the University of Turku participated in the panel.

FINLAND TO BECOME EUROPE’S LEADING HIGH VALUE-ADDED HYDROGEN ECONOMY

The hydrogen economy is advancing at a fast pace. Finland has conducted excellent research in the field, and it is building its first plants, but research is still fragmented. The panel called for long-term research and innovation.

Solar Foods Oy has received RRF funding, and it has used it to recently launch its first factory in Vantaa.

“The plant produces Solein protein powder as a raw material for the food industry. It will be available for sale shortly. Hydrogen plays a key role in the process,” said Pasi Vainikka, CEO of Solar Foods Oy.

In Vainikka’s opinion, in addition to long-term R&D work, it is necessary to think carefully about what to do with scientific knowledge and demonstrate how research can be utilized.

“The strength of Finland is that its society lacks a hierarchy. Anyone can suggest ideas, and the best ideas emerge from the interface of science,” said Vainikka.

The panel shared the view that the hydrogen economy will make a breakthrough in the coming years in the same way that solar energy did. Cooperation at the European level is essential.

The Hydrogen Economy panel included Samuli Urpelainen, University of Oulu, Pasi Vainikka, Solar Foods Oy, Simo Säynevirta, H2 Cluster Finland, and Tuuli Kaskinen, Climate Leadership Coalition.

The event ended with short presentations by seven companies and seven research organizations on how they have used the RRF funding and what their expectations are concerning the results. All presentations are available on the event page of the Research Council of Finland

Marie Donnay having a discussion with Reijo Munther, an advisor at Business Finland (on the left), and Solar Foods Oy’s CEO Pasi Vainikka after the seminar.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Sanna Nuutila
Head of Marketing
Tel. 050 557 7717
sanna.nuutila (at) businessfinland.fi

Erika Lilja
Senior Science Advisor
Tel. 029 533 5241
erika.lilja (at) aka.fi


Originally published on 31 October Business Finland.

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