Finnish green enterprises attract investment
Finnish ideas that support the green transition from a number of angles have caught the attention of investors.Bruno Scramgnon / Pexels
Solutions ranging from software to industrial hardware have piqued the interest of investors in recent months.
Lappeenranta-based SpinDrive in November announced it has secured 3.2 million euros in growth funding in a round led by Rhapsody Venture Partners, a US-based investment firm focused on early-stage hard-technology innovations.
The startup revealed that the funding will be used to ramp up global growth and expand the reach of its active magnetic bearings, an affordable, frictionless and energy-efficient alternative to traditional ball bearings in industrial components such as compressors, expanders, flywheels, process machinery, turbo blowers and energy-recovery systems.
“We scour the world for great hard science breakthroughs and love innovations that sell. SpinDrive's system is much cheaper and better than anything else in the market,” attested Carsten Boers, managing partner at Rhapsody Venture Partners.
The bearings work by magnetic levitation, eliminating contact between the rotating and stationary parts. The frictionless design delivers a number of benefits.
The lack of friction means the bearings need no maintenance for up to 20 years – a striking contrast to the 12–18-month maintenance frequency of traditional ball bearings, highlights SpinDrive – and reduces energy consumption by as much as 15 per cent by enabling higher rotational speeds. With electric motor-driven systems accounting for 43–46 per cent of global energy consumption, the reduction could have significant climate implications.
“Industrial production is a massive part of the world’s energy consumption and climate emissions, so we must create energy-efficient and clean components to turn this tide. By improving energy efficiency in existing and new machinery, we tackle the problem in a massive area and provide a significant impact,” declared Janne Heikkinen, CEO of SpinDrive.
A substantial share of forest industry side streams is used for heat and energy production.Matej / Pexels
The startup envisions that its bearings could deliver process improvements that result in a 500-megatonne reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.
The design also eliminates the need for oil-based lubricants and, as a result, the risk of leakage and environmental contamination, opening the door for more manufacturers to segments such as food and beverage where hygienic and contaminant-free processing is essential. Currently around five million tonnes of oil-based lubricants are consumed annually in the EU.
The global market for industrial bearings is worth roughly 120 billion euros.
SpinDrive has raised around eight million euros to date from private investors and venture capital firms. Its bearings have been adopted by clients in China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the UK and the US.
Montinutra turns undervalued side streams into biochemicals
Montinutra, an Espoo-based biotechnology startup, has raised two million euros in a pre-seed round that will see it change its name to Boreal Biochemicals.
Led by Metsä Spring, the corporate venture arm of Metsä Group, the funding round will enable the startup to continue its internationalisation, accelerate the design process of its demonstration plant and bring new products to market.
Montinutra has developed a process for converting undervalued forest industry side streams into sustainable high-value biochemicals that can replace fossil materials in chemical and cosmetic product applications such as barrier coating and dispersant. The cosmetics industry, for example, can utilise them as skin-care ingredients with anti-ageing and anti-oxidant features, as well as for co-emulsifying, film-forming and natural colouring.
While the forest industry has long sought to utilise cellulose, the utilisation possibilities for lignin and hemicellulose, which make up more than 50 per cent of wood content, have been more limited, noted Jaakko Pajunen, CEO of Montinutra.
“We enable the broader utilisation of hemicellulose and lignin extracts by developing biochemicals out of them. This is how we turn these previously underused side streams into mainstream materials and increase the value of the raw material in multiples,” he stated.
The funding round sees Montinutra rebranding to Boreal Biochemicals.Montinutra
The chemical-free extraction process is based on pressurised hot-water extraction and suitable for various lignocellulosics as well as other feedstocks.
The end products are vegan and biodegradable, with a carbon footprint that is only a fraction of their fossil-based alternatives, according to Montinutra. For example, chemicals such as acrylics and styrene butadiene have a carbon footprint of up to 5 600 kilos per tonne, whereas their bio-based alternatives have a footprint of only 150 kilos per tonne.
The startup is presently in the planning and pre-engineering phase of its first demonstration plant, which is to be built on a sawmill site in Vilppula, Finland. The plant is scheduled for commissioning in 2026.
Transparent sustainability action
Kausal, a Helsinki-based software developer, reported last month that it has received a seed funding injection of 880 000 euros from a consortium of investors including Innovestor and Zubi Capital.
The injection enables the startup to both develop its software-as-a-service platform for local governments to plan, coordinate, implement and track their sustainability measures, and improve its marketing and sales operations in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, as well as North America.
The startup believes its platform is needed because the fragmented structure of local governments often translates to a lack of internal communication and coordination on climate and sustainability actions. The need is only increasing as more and more citizens are calling on their local representatives to tackle the climate crisis and biodiversity loss urgently and transparently.
Sonja-Maria Ignatius, CEO of Kausal, remarked that the notion of open and close to real-time tracking and communication of public sustainability projects is, unfortunately, still revolutionary.
“We want to bring everyone involved to the same page for accountable, effective and data-based decision-making. Our new investors and partners have seen how city governments desperately need new tools to track their sustainability progress,” she commented.
Kausal has developed a platform that enables local governments to plan, coordinate, implement and track their sustainability actions transparently.Kristina Tsvetkova-Välimaa / Kausal
With cities accounting for around 70 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions globally, they are integral for any solution to the climate crisis.
Paths, the scenario modelling tool offered by Kausal, has already been adopted by the City of Zurich. The Swiss city is scheduled to publish a first status report on its net-zero target by year-end, using the tool to interactively and transparently examine the development of greenhouse gas emissions through the lens of the target.
“We chose Kausal Paths because it is a flexible, easy-to-use and powerful platform that allows us to calculate historical and future emissions, evaluate different climate scenarios and check whether we are on track to reach our net-zero target,” revealed Philippe Stolz, project manager at the Environmental and Health Protection Office of Zurich.
“Kausal Paths helps us to effectively monitor and communicate our net-zero journey,” he summed up.
Striking balance in power grid
Kuopio-based Capalo AI revealed last month it has completed a 500 000-euro pre-seed round backed by Inventure and Innovestor Tech Fund.
The startup has set out to tackle one of a key challenge associated with the shift from fossil to renewable energy sources: how to maintain a demand-to-production balance in the power grid while increasing the use of weather-dependent wind and solar energy. Its artificial intelligence-powered solution promises to enable a shift toward such sources by optimising the use of flexible energy assets, such as storage systems and electric vehicle charging stations.
“Our solution simultaneously maximises the value for our customers and accelerates the green transition,” summarised Henri Taskinen, CEO of Capalo AI.
“In addition, with multi-market optimisation, national grids are able to sustain a steady electricity frequency. This means less of a need for reserve power plants that mostly use fossil fuels to produce electricity, which then leads to less carbon dioxide emissions.”
One of the early adopters is Exilion Tuuli, a leading wind energy producer in Finland.
“With Capalo AI’s solution, we have managed to significantly increase the profitability of flexible assets in a complex operating environment,” confirmed Tommi Riski, investment manager at Exilion.
Capalo AI’s co-founders believe a variety of flexible energy assets are needed to maintain a balance between demand and production in the electricity grid, a task that is proving increasingly difficult due to the weather-based volatility of wind and solar energy.Capalo AI
The solution is appealing to investors specifically due to its potential to increase returns on green-energy investments in a dynamic pricing environment: the more electricity is produced, the lower the price and the return on investment.
One solution to the problem is regulating the discharge of energy into the grid with batteries situated next to wind turbines.
Finland has almost 1 400 wind power plants with a total capacity of nearly 5 700 megawatts, with projects underway to increase the capacity by 1 200 megawatts in 2024 and 1 000 megawatts in 2025. Taskinen estimated that a variety of solutions will be required to achieve the degree of flexibility necessitated by the ongoing build-up.
“There is a lot of untapped potential flexibility in many sectors, for example, on the EV charging side,” he noted.
Capalo AI in October outlined three uses for the funding: developing both its virtual power plant and multi-market optimisation artificial intelligence, as well as growing its team with mathematicians and cloud service professionals.