Finnish nanotechnology sector soaring


Nanotechnology research and its commercial exploitation in Finland is booming, according to Tekes, the country’s main public funding agency for research and development.

In the last two years alone, the number of private companies operating in the sector has more than doubled, and now stands at 129. Of these, 29 have a commercial product on the market, and another 23 have nanotechnology-based products or processes in development.

The three main public funders of nanoscience and technology in Finland are Tekes, the Academy of Finland and the Ministry of Education. Their combined investment in nanotechnology is approximately €100m, spread over the five year duration of Tekes’ FinNano programme, from 2005 to 2009. Tekes’ share of the investment is €47m.

“In Tekes’ FinNano technology programme, participating companies invest €23m in their nanotechnology R&D projects,” says FinNano programme manager Markku Lämsä. “More than half of Tekes’ funding goes to challenging, risk-intensive R&D projects in companies. In 2006, €271m of Tekes funding was allocated to companies, and €195m to universities and research institutes.”

Micronova is the leading research centre for micro- and nanotechnology, with over 300 researchers from the Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT), Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) and several companies. Micronova is situated at the heart of the Otaniemi Technology Park in Espoo.

There is also a nanophotonics consortium between Tampere University of Technology, the University of Joensuu and the University of Oulu, and a multidisciplinary Nanoscience Centre in Jyväskylä. Health and safety issues are the responsibility of VTT and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

On a Europe-wide level, FinNano is an active participant in MNT ERA network of European micro- and nanotechnology support programmes.

“Tekes wants to promote research especially in the areas it feels will benefit the whole economy the most,” says Lämsä. “In that respect, it does direct its funding to certain technology and application areas, and not just fund the best R&D irrespective of what application area they represent. Nanotechnology is one of five of Tekes’ technology focus areas.”

Article first published in Nanomaterials News.