TII held its 2017 annual meeting on 23-24 March in the western Finnish city of Vaasa, better known as home to the highest concentration of businesses in the energy sector in the whole country. To celebrate this fact and to raise its visibility to the outside world as an energy cluster, the city organises an annual Energy Week consisting of a varied programme of company matchmaking and investment fora to a solar and wind energy exhibition, expert seminars and panel discussions.
This was the backcloth to TII’s own annual meeting which was billed this year as an “Innovation Dialogue”, offering a more informal conference setting for exchanging expert views and experience on the chosen topics under this year’s banner of “Energize, Commercialize, Internationalize”. The venue at the Barn at Bock’s Brewery was certainly conducive to a lively exchange of views, which was kicked off by the owner and multiple entrepreneur Sture Udd.
He gave a no-holds-barred presentation of the world’s energy needs to 2030 and the challenges in store, also for the energy cluster in Vaasa. Bearing in mind that the emerging countries alone would have a spending power of €100 trillion by 2030 and that China’s middle class was pushing the country’s conversion to electric vehicles, it was impossible for energy companies to ignore the pull of going international.
TII member Tauno Kekäle, Rector of Vaasa University of Applied Sciences, made another scene-setting introduction to the energy sector strengths of Vaasa which already claimed 38% of the country’s energy-related jobs. (Out of an estimated population of 57 000, Vaasa boasts 11 000 engineers and 1 000 students!) He highlighted the growing collaboration between local energy companies and research organizations, which had been stimulated, amongst other things, by the govenment’s initiative to create funding schemes which promoted new research-based businesses.
After coffee (definitely a strong feature of Finnish culture) the programme continued with three consecutive 40-minute dialogues with the audience, led by Peter Mogyorosi (LC Innoconsult Internationl, Hungary) on research commercialization challenges, Andrew Buckley (RTC North, UK) on diversification and cross-sector collaboration and Akash Bhavsar (Skyquest Technology Group, India) on the internationalization of technology transfer. This format gave the audience ample opportunity to voice their own ideas and professional concerns and get feedback from international colleagues.
In the afternoon, the format became a little more technical with presentations on “IP in business” by Peter Mogyorosi and “Putting a price to technology” by Gosse Hiemstra (Van der Meer & van Tilburg, NL). In the first part of the session, a discussion focused on the question of “why patent?” and an extension to other forms of IP protection while the issue of “who owns a patent in collaborative research?” drew a number of interesting views and personal anecdotes. In the second part, Gosse Hiemstra presented a 5-step approach to valuating a new technology as well as a couple of cases so that the audience could discuss about the optimal valuation model to choose – cost-based vs. market-based vs. income-based.
The last part of the day’s formal programme entailed a move to the Festival Hall in Vaasa where the Energy Spin investment forum was taking place. After the announcement of the top 30 most promising energy startups in Europe, compiled in collaboration with the Vaasa Entrepreneurship Society, the audience was invited to listen to the pitches of 10 start-up companies from the Finnish energy sector to a panel of investors. The technologies involved ranged from an energy-saving app to a revolutionary sodium battery. The day ended with some serious networking and a joint dinner among participants from the TII Innovation Dialogue and the Vaasa Energy Spin Forum at Bock’s Brewery.