The Finnish nanotechnology industry is booming unlike ever before. The number of Finnish companies involved in the nanotechnology sector has grown 111% in just a two-year period. Of these, 22% have a commercial product based on nanotechnology. Furthermore, this explosive growth is a signifier of trends demonstrating that nanotechnology offers new opportunities to both traditional and new industries in Finland. A large part of the overall rise in activity and awareness can be ascribed to Finland’s national nanotechnology programme, FinNano.
The boom in Finnish nanotechnology is uncovered by the Nanotechnology in Finnish Industry survey. The biannual survey studied the evolution of the Finnish nanotechnology scene in the period 2004-2006. The 2006 survey identified 129 Finnish companies that either had commercial products or research activities focused on nanotechnology, or who had participated in the Tekes FinNano technology programme. The previous 2004 survey had found 61 companies that had activities related to nanotechnology.
Of the identified 129 firms, 29 reported having a commercial product which is based on nanotechnology. These products range from technology for industrial processes to consumer products.
The survey demonstrated further that there are some clear trends in the sectors that stand to benefit most from the development of nanotechnology.
New opportunities to traditional and new industries
Chemicals and materials are the areas in which nanotechnology will have the greatest impact in the short term. This is borne out by survey findings that 13 Finnish companies had commercially available products based on nanotechnology.
Commercial products include nanoscale particles and materials, but also an increasing amount of products relying on 'applied' nanotechnology, such as cosmetics and paints.
The forest industry has also seen activity increase; large firms are gearing up their research activities, and commercial products are available. Activity has been especially strong in the areas of packaging, with increased research into 'intelligent' packaging, incorporating features like freshness indicators.
There is also a crossover with the chemical and even the life sciences industry, with research being carried out into chemicals and enzymes for paper processing.
Life sciences are a very exciting area of nanotechnology development. The way is being led by diagnostics (particularly so-called 'lab on a chip' technology), biomaterials, and techniques for drug delivery. Whilst still at a relatively early stage, research is also progressing in nanotechnology based drugs.
Progress is not limited to healthcare, with nanotechnology also being applied in the production of foodstuffs.
It is believed that whilst the electronics industry will ultimately benefit most from the development of nanotechnology, it will still take time before these benefits are realised. This is consistent with the survey findings, which noted steady progress from research to early commercialisation. For example, Nokia has increased the scale and scope of its nanotechnology activities.
The photonics sector is also an area in which Finland possesses distinct capabilities, a fact reflected in the number of firms in this field.
Finland’s national nanotechnology programme, FinNano, has a large part to play in the overall rise in activity and awareness in the Finnish nanotechnology sector. FinNano covers funding and support activities from the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, Tekes, and the Academy of Finland.
"FinNano is also a testament to the commitment and involvement of industry. Nanotechnology visions for key industries have been developed, which has helped other firms to identify and address real market needs," comments Dr. Markku Lämsä, FinNano Programme Manager, Tekes.
FinNano brings together top Finnish nanotechnology firms and researchers in its FinNano Annual Seminar, held this year on 27th March 2007 in Helsinki. The seminar is a free workshop which precedes Nanotech Northern Europe, the region’s largest nanotechnology event, held on 27-29th March 2007.