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Finland pushes ahead in artificial intelligence, quantum computing

IQM raised 128 million euros in July for its effort to develop quantum processors to help to tackle the climate crisis.


Finnish firms are using their digital prowess to improve goods and processes ranging from data utilisation and supply chain management to cars and sewing machines.

RELEX Solutions revealed last month that its supply chain planning solution will be implemented to service DashMart, a grocery and convenience delivery service by DoorDash. The solution utilises artificial intelligence and machine learning to create accurate forecasts and optimise product availability at the fulfilment centres.

Carlos Victoria, director of sales for the Americas at RELEX, said the Helsinki-headquartered company is very excited about the partnership and prospect of driving accuracy and efficiency across the supply chain of DoorDash.

RELEX in February announced its market valuation has jumped to five billion euros with the closing of a 500 million-euro funding round led by Blackstone Growth, the growth equity investment arm of Blackstone. The funding is being used to expand its technical team by hundreds of experts and developers.

The RELEX solution uses machine learning that will optimise product availability at DashMart locations. Image: Door Dash

The company presently employs more than 1 300 people at 15 officer around the world, serving a clientele that includes Dollar Tree, Franprix, Morrisons and PetSmart.

Mikko Kärkkäinen, CEO of RELEX, interpreted the company’s emergence as a market leader as evidence that the industry is ready to leave behind an era when retail and supply chain planning is dominated by incumbents and their legacy technologies.

“Consumers are changing their behaviour and preferences at an unprecedented pace,” he highlighted.

“With the power of smart automation and algorithms, we want to help our customers adapt their offering to their customers’ changing needs – what we call living retail. Our customers value technology that enables them to respond quickly to external disruptions and drive rapid innovations in sales and fulfilment channels, product offering and store formats without missing a beat in their supply chain, merchandising and operational planning.”

RELEX has established itself as a key partner for food retailers that seek to reduce their contribution to the 931 million tonnes of food wasted annually in retail, food service and consumer homes. Its solutions help retailers curtail their contribution to what is an enormous global problem – estimates suggest food waste accounts for up to 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions – by impacting all stages of the supply chain, supporting the development of accurate production timelines and ensuring retailers can secure supply in the right quantity and at the right time.

RELEX Solutions has helped SOK, the company behind the largest retail chain in Finland, to improve inventory planning and reduce food waste at its grocery shops. Image: Anna Shvets / Pexels

Retailers and brands have consequently reported cost savings, an up to 30-per cent reduction in inventory and 40-per cent drop in fresh spoilage.

“With RELEX, we can better forecast our replenishment needs and goods flow throughout the entire supply chain, from suppliers to stores. The system has given us more versatile and effective methods to ensure daily product availability and optimise stock and waste levels,” attested Tuulia Wennerkoski, head of grocery supply chain management at SOK.

“RELEX has also given us the tools to handle exceptional situations, such as sudden changes in demand or temporary disruptions in the supply chain. And their solutions play an integral role in managing the flow of goods during seasons and bank holidays.”

Sensible 4 “sets standard” with all-weather autonomous driving software

Sensible 4 in August announced it is releasing its first autonomous driving software platform after closing another equity-funding round to bring its funding total to 16.7 million euros.

Called DAWN, the software platform is now ready for utilisation by original equipment manufacturers developing their level-four automation offering, following extensive testing in a simulator and open-road conditions around the world. The platform enables vehicles to operate autonomously in all weather conditions without lane markings, thus widening the potential scope of application for autonomous driving.

The dawn of level-four autonomous driving is here. Sensible 4 in August said it has released its all-weather autonomous driving software, DAWN. Image: Sensible 4

The Espoo-based startup is looking to integrate the platform into vehicles entering serial production as of 2024.

“[The platform] is capable of operating in all weather, in darkness, without the need for lane markings and in the presence of ever-changing environmental obstacles and surroundings,” summed up Harri Santamala, CEO of Sensible 4.

“DAWN is now ready to be used by [original equipment manufacturers] as part of their production line planning. This means we can actively start addressing the transport challenges of today, such as driver shortage, whilst providing a sustainable solution that will help the planet in the future.”

The startup said its level-four autonomous driving software is fundamentally a three-in-one solution: it enables the last-mile transport of goods and people, the operation of delivery vehicles and the operation of shuttle buses. One of the key features, it added, is the ability to control and supervise vehicles remotely from a control centre, meaning a single human operator can operate multiple vehicles.

Sensible 4 in August also reported that it has welcomed a new investor in Metaplanet VC, a deep technology-focused venture capital firm owned by co-founder of Skype Jaan Tallinn.

“Metaplanet’s expertise, paired with our expansion into international markets – where we are working with several original equipment manufacturers to bring DAWN to Europe and Japan – means we’re able to start realising the benefit of autonomous mobility,” stated Santamala.

Rauno Miljand, managing partner at Metaplanet, said DAWN demonstrates how close the industry is to realising the benefits of autonomous mobility while setting a new industry standard with its all-weather capability.

Sensible 4’s autonomous GACHA bus was the focus of a collaboration with Japanese retail giant MUJI. Image: Sensible 4

“Ultimately, we believe that autonomous mobility will play a huge part in helping our planet and addressing the transport issues of today, such as driver shortage,” he stated.

Finland has earned its reputation as a global forerunner of digitalisation in part due to efforts such as these.

The Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), the EU’s annual evaluation of digitalisation progress and digital performance, recently ranked the country first overall on the back of strong performance in indicators measuring digital skills among the general public, the integration of digital technology in business and e-commerce, and the availability of digital public services.

Remarks by Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä suggest the intention is to continue setting the pace globally.

“The use of key digital technologies, such as artificial intelligence and big data, in companies remains too limited in the EU,” he commented. “The digital transformation supports domestic entrepreneurship and creativity regardless of location. At the same time, the development of digitalisation in the entire EU and in European companies is vital to ensure the union’s competitiveness globally.”

Partnership looks for a qubit of progress

Finland has also taken charge of another emerging high-technology field, quantum computing, with the right expertise and shrewd investments, according to Invest in Finland. The country has, for example, launched a three-year project to build a 50-qubit quantum computer by 2024 under the stewardship of VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

A Finnish-Singaporean consortium last month announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding to explore and promote research and development collaboration in the space of quantum computing.

The document was signed by Singapore’s National Quantum Office, CSC – IT Centre for Science, IQM Quantum Computers and VTT.

The signatories committed to accelerating the development of quantum technology components, algorithms and applications, along with co-operating on quantum-accelerated high-performance computing and both terrestrial and satellite quantum communications. The memorandum overall creates a framework for versatile technological development by leveraging the strengths and knowhow of the partners.

VTT has studied the development and commercialisation of quantum technologies for three decades.

The MoU was signed by representatives of CSC – IT Center for Science, VTT, National Quantum Office and IQM Quantum Computers. Image: VTT

IQM, in turn, is the leading manufacturer of quantum computers for supercomputing centres and research labs in Europe. The Espoo-headquartered startup earlier this summer raised 128 million euros for its effort to develop quantum processors to help to tackle the climate crisis and has set out to develop the country’s first commercial 54-qubit quantum unit with support from foreign investors such as Tencent.

“This is a significant milestone for the quantum collaboration between two scientifically advanced nations and a recognition of our world-leading quantum expertise,” Juha Vartiainen, COO at IQM, commented on the Finnish-Singaporean collaboration.

Merging quantum computers and supercomputers is a prerequisite for harnessing quantum-accelerated computing to enable new science, but it requires the pooling of global knowhow, reminded Kimmo Koski, managing director of CSC.

“The National Quantum Office’s collaboration with the Finnish quantum ecosystem is a tremendous opportunity to develop competitive and world-leading quantum technologies, and nurture quantum talent,” echoed Ling Keok Tong, executive director at NQO.

“We look forward to pushing the frontiers of quantum technologies and delivering impact for the ecosystem.”

Demonstrating the wide range of AI

Etteplan in June reported it has had a hand in developing the world’s first sewing and embroidery machine with artificial intelligence and voice-control features for home use, PFAFF Creative Icon 2, in partnership with SVP Worldwide, the company behind brands such as Husqvarna and Singer.

The features not only assist the user while sewing, but also offer conveniences such as hand-free use and cloud-based embroidery editing, design services and automated embroidery guidance.

“We are thrilled to be able to give the ultimate connectivity for users, enabling them to reach new levels of sewing skills, effortlessly,” commented Fredrik Tumegård, chief technology officer at SVP Worldwide.

“The sewing machine as we know it is in the transformation from a mechanical machine to a digital device. This comes with both challenges and opportunities. It is a challenge to find all the software competence needed locally, but it is also an opportunity to do things differently and improve operational efficiency,” he added.

Johan Nilsson, head of software and embedded solutions at Etteplan, said the development project required the combination of fine mechanics with advanced algorithms controlling the stepping motors and connectivity, artificial intelligence and voice control. The project was carried out using the dynamic delivery teams model of Etteplan, which enabled its partner to tap into the expertise of a team that can be ramped up or down depending on the long-term plan.

VEIL.AI has been named as one of three recipients of up to 1.3 million euros in financing from BioInnovation Institute (BII), a Danish foundation supporting the growth of startups in the health technology, therapeutics and bioindustry space.

The Helsinki-based startup utilises artificial intelligence and machine learning to facilitate the use of health data in research and product development. Its offering includes a next-generation anonymisation engine capable of creating high-quality subject-level anonymised and synthetic data, as well as tools enabling teams to manage and analyse both structured and unstructured data.

VEIL.AI will receive business acceleration, scientific and team development from BII. Image: BioInnovation Institute

Tuomo Pentikäinen, CEO of VEIL.AI, in August said the startup is very excited about the collaboration not only because of the value signal of being part of the life-sciences community assembled, but also because of the launchpad provided by BII.

“We see BII as a well networked player in the European health data space and as an attractive launchpad for our commercial activities,” he said.

Each of the three startups selected for support holds tremendous potential in the health technology and therapeutics space in part because of their roots in transnational research environments across Europe, according to Bobby Soni, chief business officer at BII. VEIL.AI, for example, spun off from the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM), a research institute operating under the University of Helsinki.

“We are pleased to support them in their growth – supporting business acceleration, scientific and team development,” said Soni.

By: Aleksi Teivainen