Expert: Cleantech eclipses forestry as industry mainstay

Climate specialist Oras Tynkkynen says that Finland has the potential to bring its expertise in efficient, environmentally sound technology to the world stage. But first the cleantech should be better utilised in its country of origin, he says.

Suomen suurin aurinkovoimala Helsingin Kivikossa. Image: Petteri Paalasmaa / AOP

Finnish 'clean technology' expertise is fast becoming – or has already become – one of the pillars of the country's industry. That's according to climate expert Oras Tynkkynen, who has delivered a report on Finnish environmental know-how to Juha Sipilä's cabinet via the Tyrsky consultancy.

"It has long been known that Finland is one of the world leaders in clean technology," Tynkkynen says. "For instance, the Confederation of Finnish Industries says that there are 3,000 companies in Finland that work in the so-called cleantech sector. This report confirms the sheer scale of the field."

Speaking on Yle's Aamu-tv breakfast programme, Tynkkynen said that environmentally friendly cleantech has climbed its way up to and past Finland's traditional industries.

"Not long ago Finnish cleantech was estimated to be a 26 billion euro industry. It has, in effect, surpassed the fields of paper and forestry."

According to Finnish Forest Industries, Finland's forestry output was some 20 billion euros in 2013.

Domestic demand needed for export boom

Tynkkynen says that one estimate puts the number of potential jobs currently provided by cleantech at 50,000. He says it is interesting to see how employment will develop in the future, as there is an enormous demand for clean technology around the world. Tynkkynen stresses that the field should permeate all of society instead of being the privilege of certain private firms or municipalities.

Before the global cleantech revolution can begin, however, Finnish innovations have to be put to use in Finland, he says.

"This is a problem for capital region companies especially. If companies cannot test their solutions domestically, they will have a hard time selling it to the Chinese, for instance."

Tynkkynen says his greatest hope is for a reconciliation of climate and of business politics. Advancing environmental goals would also benefit Finnish businesses.

"If we were to go full-out on climate policy it would create demand and much-needed domestic markets for Finnish climate solutions," he says. "So if we were to boldly and nationally improve energy efficiency, increase renewable energies and minimise emissions it would actually support the export efforts of Finnish companies."

Bioenergy and pulled oats

Oras Tynkkynen Image: Yle

Tynkkynen says there are a number of clean Finnish solutions for pretty much every aspect of the economy.

"Some traditionally strong fields are bioenergy, efficient electricity and heat production and effective industry processes. Additionally there are lesser-known rising stars such as energy-efficient maritime traffic and various smart solutions in the field of energy networks and usage."

A newcomer to the host of innovations is climate-smart food. Currently probably the most famous smart food is the Finnish invention 'pulled oats', but Tynkkynen cites other examples, too.

"Finnish businesses have developed plant-based alternatives to products of animal origin. We also have a lot of clever ideas on how to reduce food waste, such as using smartphone applications that can help redistribute waste food."

Actual domestic cleantech inventions include a host of technical machines and systems, but Tynkkynen says that Finland possesses a great deal of so-called soft know-how, meaning social and societal inventions. He mentions combining strong education and training with climate-related challenges as a top innovation.

"The basic premise is that since we can do these things so well here in Finland, how could we harness those abilities for use throughout the world. Like how to get the United States and China to adopt some of these solutions."