Five From Finland
University of Turku spinoffs
With its focus on strengthening entrepreneurial attitudes and activities, the University of Turku has brought to life a big number of successful tech companies.Credits: : Julia Bushueva
Entrepreneurship and commercialisation of research take many different forms at the University of Turku.
The University of Turku positions itself as an entrepreneurial university, meaning that it strives to foster entrepreneurial attitudes and activities, teams up with businesses in interdisciplinary research projects, as well as actively partakes in the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Turku. Moreover, the university strongly supports globally competitive innovations stemming from research and provides a growth platform for startups and spinoffs capable of becoming not only a commercial success but also a catalyst for social wellbeing.
Read on to discover five companies that came to life at the University of Turku.
Recognised as one of the top science-based spinoff companies worldwide, Comptek Solutions was founded in 2017 after Jouko Lång and his team discovered a novel way to significantly boost the efficiency, reliability and sustainability of compound semiconductor devices.
The company’s revolutionary technology, Kontrox, is tackling the lingering problem of oxidation in compound semiconductor materials used to manufacture various kinds of electronics, including smartphones, displays, wearables and autonomous vehicles.
“Our solution is second to none, and our research results have received attention from the world’s largest semiconductor companies,” said Lång, who is now acting as the company’s chief technology officer.
According to the jury of the Nordic Cleantech Open 2021, a competition for cleantech startups from the Nordic and Baltic regions, the technology offered by Comptek Solutions has the potential to support the transition to a low-carbon reality due to its ability to increase the performance of devices while dramatically reducing their power consumption.
With its roots in academic research carried out at the University of Turku and focused on studying the heart via chest micromotions, Precordior has developed a mobile phone application for cardiac monitoring, enabling millions of people worldwide to access critical information on their own heart in an easy and convenient way.
Known as CardioSignal, the CE-certified app utilises sensitive motion sensors built in modern smartphones to detect heart movements and relies on patented technology that is clinically proven to detect atrial fibrillation with an accuracy of 96 per cent.
With cardiac diseases being a top burden in healthcare globally, investors have taken note of CardioSignal as a promising digital health solution. In 2020, Precordior received around two million euros in EU funding, and 2021 saw the closing of a 2.2 million-euro seed round led by Maki.vc. Meanwhile, Precordior is working hard on expanding into new markets, with a special focus on the US.
“Opportunities to deliver healthcare digitally are expanding rapidly, and the progress is especially fast in cardiology,” told Juuso Blomster, CEO of Precordior. “What makes our position unique in this market is our capability to harness an everyday device, a smartphone, to accurately detect severe heart disease. This type of accessibility can shift the focus from treating complications and end-stage disease to prevention, early detection and improved outcomes.”
A specialist in the production of state-of-the-art virtual (VR), augmented (AR) and mixed reality (MR) solutions and platforms, CTRL Reality was founded in 2014 on research and development work carried out at the University of Turku.
Using the latest VR and AR technology, CTRL Reality strives to provide exciting new opportunities for companies across industries. By applying the technology, businesses can improve productivity, train their personnel more efficiently and engage with their customers in a more creative way.
CTRL Reality, for example, contributed to the creation of a virtual forest for Metsä Group and produced a virtual tour of its Punkaharju plant, including parts of the plant that would stay out of reach during regular visits over safety concerns. Elsewhere, the company has enhanced the customer experience at the Sports Museum of Finland with the help of an AR mobile app and developed versatile virtual training solutions for such industrial heavyweights as Wärtsilä and Linde.
“The corona [pandemic] has forced companies to change their practices and think of new solutions,” Teijo Lehtonen, CEO of CTRL Reality, said, adding that “the utilisation of virtual reality by companies will become more common”.
Backed by years of research in pedagogy, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, Eduten spun off from the University of Turku in 2017 to offer an innovative digital platform for learning mathematics, targeted at students between the ages of 6 and 15. Combining Finnish educational excellence with gamification and AI, the platform provides scientifically proven improvements in learning outcomes, as well as boosts both student motivation and teacher efficiency.
During the pandemic, when the education sector was particularly hard hit and demand for digital learning solutions skyrocketed worldwide, Eduten was among the leading Finnish edtech companies to join such initiatives as Teach Millions, a marketplace for e-learning tools developed in the Nordic and Baltic regions, and Joy of Learning, a remote-learning programme trialled with children in the UAE.
“Technology has immense potential to improve many aspects of education, and I see it as the next great disruption for education system around the world,” viewed Henri Muurimaa, CEO and co-founder of Eduten.
“We believe that the [Eduten] platform is genuinely useful for both teachers and kids, bringing the promising benefit of improving the learning impact.”
ASRO’s expertise in innovative technology development is built on years of research at the University of Turku’s Space Research Laboratory. Founded in 1999, the company offers various industrial solutions and is particularly known for participating in international space technology projects to develop instruments for radiation measurement and space debris observation, among others.
In 2020, for example, ASRO was chosen as the supplier of a Fabry-Pérot Interferometer (FPI) filter and the associated control electronics for ALTIUS, an ozone monitoring satellite mission scheduled to be launched in 2025 by the European Space Agency (ESA). The total value of the three-and-a-half-year contract amounted to around 3.7 million euros.
Given the demanding nature of the industry, ASRO consistently focuses on quality.
“The space environment creates its own challenges for electronics. The effect of space radiation on electronics must be taken into account in design and manufacture. In addition, the equipment must be reliable and operational as maintenance and repair visits cannot be made.”