Enthusiasm, knowledge and co-development

Our kick-off with business partners was full of enthusiasm. Also at VTT, the project is taking off well, while we create new networks across the multi-disciplinary “innovation powerhouse”. Around the table, it is buzzing with ideas as researchers in augmented reality, radiation modeling, and risk analysis, for example, are telling each other about their own topics. I am waiting with excitement for the first demos that will come alive quickly, as a blend of existing blocks.

How it all began

Whilst aiming at the future, I will look briefly back and describe how we have arrived at this point. We spent about two years to draft, incubate and refine the research plan and to deepen the commitment of companies to innovate with VTT. Business Finland contributed to the preparation with half-year co-creation funding. Further, VTT’s own additional investment was instrumental to obtain this strategic project off the ground. We are also grateful to the 25 companies with whom we initially brainstormed. Still, I must admit that quite a bit of dedication was necessary to develop a common research agenda, as the starting points for the dECOmm member firms were quite different.

Business opportunities

In the end, the time we invested looks very reasonable, because the future time span of this initiative is much longer. The subject is the decommissioning of nuclear power plants, a rapidly growing market in Europe as e.g. Sweden and Germany have decided to shut down nuclear power. In decommissioning, there are business opportunities for many companies, including those who are not involved in the construction or operation of nuclear power plants. The challenge is that the projects are large (hundreds of millions) and require new competencies. The answer, in turn, is developing and delivering solutions together. As a reward for successful development work, the opportunity opens for specialized service providers to repatriate large subprojects. And projects can last for decades.

Digital solutions

For Finnish companies, we identified a strength in digital design, measurement and analysis services. Therefore, the research project covers key technologies from information models, virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence and big data to radiation modeling and licensing. As part of the research project, case studies will be conducted on the development of the business environment in the field and relevant business models. VTT will support and companies spar each other in directing their existing products, services and technologies to nuclear decommissioning. And we do have a topical case of our own – the dismantling of the old research reactor at VTT – which offers the first-hand experience on a small scale.

Innovation ecosystem 

The research project will lay the foundation for the innovation and business ecosystem of Finnish companies. The focus of the innovation ecosystem is on research that facilitates innovation, but at the same time information is actively exchanged, both at the level of fully open discussion and confidentially, when developing concrete products or services between companies. As part of the ecosystem, VTT organizes open seminars, business days for members, and confidential “roundtable discussions” around selected topics.

VTT and innovation ecosystems 

Why do we at VTT do this? Innovation ecosystems that are born in strategic areas for VTT are important, because they are a major innovation driver and create widespread impact, benefits for our customers and society. It is natural for us to fulfill our mission by creating and managing such innovation ecosystems.

Company benefits 

For companies, I think the ecosystem membership deal is so good that you should almost doubt it could be true. The company gets a seat in the focus of innovation of new solutions and services and has access to all the results of the research project. Among the companies involved in our research project, there are several key players capable of integrating the services offered by the network to enhance customer value. Moreover, the funding provided by the companies is multiplied by Business Finland and VTT, so the scale of the project is truly impressive.

I feel that the dECOmm project will produce great and impactful results. If you are interested, contact us and come to have a coffee! You can still get involved.

Markus Airila

Senior Scientist, VTT