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VTT turns science into profitable business. This section of VTT Impulse shows how multidisciplinary research leads to innovations (pp.20–40).


Creating potential: Jobs and wellbeing through sustainable economic growth Finland has for a long time relied on foreign trade, but the global economic crisis has made success in the global market even more important for Finnish businesses and the whole country. Finnish businesses now find themselves under pressure from the global market where they can no longer survive by producing high volumes of highquality goods at low cost. Free-market economy and relaxed financial regulation have completely transformed the operating environment of businesses since the 1980s. The structure of our national economy has also changed. Our country’s well-being and success hinge on export trade, because exports account for almost 40 percent of our gross domestic product. Only good, healthy and competitive businesses fare well in export trade. What we need now both economically and also politically is know-how and decisions that promote entrepreneurship and improve the conditions of business and therefore increase the number of jobs. Small and medium-sized enterprises play a key role in Finland’s quest for growth and success in the future. I believe that the SMEs of the future will succeed if their business is based on market and growth aspirations, new technology, value-added production and radical service innovations. This will help to create successful products for export trade and success stories of Finnish businesses in the global market – and therefore jobs and well-being in Finland. Finland enjoys the highest level of basic education in Europe. We also have to use that to our advantage. Ultimately our most important asset is our know-how. We are ahead of the rest in forest, energy, bioscience and ICT expertise, and our technology enables us to respond to global challenges such as climate change and resource shortages and to produce exports for which there is global demand. Every year, as many as 200,000 jobs are created and lost in Finland. We must ensure that the jobs that are lost are replaced by more jobs and by more sophisticated jobs in the private sector. By far the most new jobs are created by small and medium-sized enterVTT IMPULSE

Janne Suhonen/Prime Minister’s Office

Jyrki Katainen Prime Minister

prises. In the last ten years, as many as 85 percent of new jobs created across Europe have been thanks to SMEs. Finland has chosen a path that focuses on Finnish growth companies. In practice this means, among other things, that the government has decided to offer a temporary tax incentive for research and development activities to support growth-orientated product development. The amount of industrial production investments that may be deducted in taxation has also been doubled for the time being, and a temporary tax incentive for investments in growth companies has been introduced in capital gains taxation. This is the time when we need a Team Finland spirit that gives us a common goal and promotes growth and the competitiveness of SMEs. The Team Finland network brings together export promotion agencies and internationalisation service providers, and it needs backing from the government, support from the business sector, a solid financial foundation and a wide range of partners. Research and development organisations such as VTT play an important role, because they can produce new innovations and solutions based on cutting-edge technology that can be immediately adopted by businesses. In addition to promoting export trade, we also need to give widespread support to all kinds of actions that serve to attract more and more foreign investment in Finland. Our entire welfare state is ultimately based on employment. Maintaining our current level of welfare requires entrepreneurship, investment and sustainable economic growth. Sustainable growth is only possible if economic, social and environmental goals and actions go hand in hand. Each element has a direct impact on another, and technological know-how has an indispensable place in this chain. Only a competitive and healthy economic structure creates the kind of sustainable economic growth that will help us to overcome this period of economic slowdown and the challenges brought by our ageing population and economic restructuring.


VTT Impulse now

2 Meet and greet: Aaro Cantell, Normet 6 In short 9 Column 10 Focal point 12 In Finland’s footsteps The EU is looking to strengthen economic growth through research and innovation – just as Finland did during the 1990s depression.

EU funding must go to the best research in Europe. Robert-Jan Smits Director-General DG for Research and Innovation EU Commission


20 The future of sensor networks

In many sectors, sensor use is still in its infancy. Before developing new technologies, however, it can be worthwhile to explore the possibilities of existing ones.

Research Professor, DTech Heikki Seppä, VTT

28 The future: personalised cancer treatment

The diagnostic methods and forms of treatment for cancer are being developed towards personalised care, but conquering the disease for good is not yet in sight.

Principal Scientist, PhD Marko Kallio, VTT

36 Surface physics revised Certain fundamental phenomena in surface physics are poorly understood, despite the progress made in nanoscale measurement and modelling methods. A new way of thinking is needed. Principal Scientist, PhD Lasse Makkonen, VTT




42 Heavy-vehicle traffic turns street smart Heavy commercial vehicles are catching up with the fuel efficiency, savings and intelligence already introduced to forerunner passenger cars.

46 Blocking cancer cells Cell array screening is paving the way for targeted drugs.


In a close-knit community, it is easy to make use of others’ know-how and offer your own.

52 Italy and Finland: a synergy of a maiden and a boot


Enhanced research collaboration between Italy and Finland sparks great interest and is predominantly the doing of one determined man.

56 The Arctic arms race has begun Global warming has increased the demand for Arctic expertise. Finland can deliver.



62 It’s all in the touch TactoTek is seeking a slice of the global

touch technology market.

64 The science of beauty – arctic wild berries for youthful skin Lumene is the first company to release a product based on the use of berry stem cell cultures.

70 Preparing nanocellulose for the market Nanocellulose promises attractive properties for numerous products in various industries.

74 Finnish competence abroad


Arctic Machine vehicles are clearing more and more roads worldwide. The equipment is still manufactured in Finland.

70 VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is the biggest multitechnological applied research organisation in Northern Europe. VTT provides high-end technol­ ogy solutions and innovation services. From its w ­ ide knowledge base, VTT combines different technol­ogies, creates new innovations and a substantial range of world class technologies and applied research services thus improving its clients’ competitiveness and competence. Through its international scientific and technology network, VTT can ensure the efficient transfer and utilisation of information and technology.

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VTT’s key technology fields Applied materials Bio and chemical processes Energy Information and communication technologies Industrial systems management Microtechnologies and electronics Services and the built environment Business research

VTT Impulse is VTT’s publication on science, technology and business. Published twice a year in Finnish and in English. Publisher: VTT, Vuorimiehentie 5, Espoo, Finland, P.O. Box 1000, FI-02044 VTT. Telephone +358 20 722 111. Editor-in-chief: Olli Ernvall, tel. +358 20 722 6747. Editorial Board: Erkki KM Leppävuori, Jouko Suokas, Anne-Christine Ritschkoff, Kari Larjava, Petri Kalliokoski and Paula Bergqvist. Produc­tion: Cocomms Ltd. Layout: MCI Press Oy. Printing house: Edita, Helsinki 2011. Subscriptions and changes in address: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the views of VTT. ISSN 1798-0178



COURAGE is still the hardest lesson to learn Text Marjo Kosonen Photos Vesa Tyni


n today’s rapidly changing world, doing nothing poses a greater risk than being too bold,” says Aaro Cantell, entrepreneur and main shareholder of Normet. ”Executives typically focus on risk management and deviations from plans, which distracts attention from what’s most important: business development and renewal. The danger here is that you get stuck in a rut. You must pursue new opportunities and seize them actively and with an open mind.” Cantell stresses that a strategy of growing slowly and retaining the same market position, or taking small steps, is not enough. Businesses should be constantly on the lookout for new products or services that bring added value, for example. How is this done in practice? 2

”Inspiring examples are a good incentive. Olympic medals typically lead to a peak in the number of people playing that particular sport. Likewise, the success stories of companies could serve as an example for others.” Cantell believes that corporate governance thinking is one of the reasons for risk management’s emphasis in business. The corporate governance guidelines of listed companies tend to overemphasise risk management and prevention. Reinvent or die

Renewal and bold development are essential. Cantell refers to the idea presented in Mikko Kosonen and Yves Doz’s book ”Fast Strategy”. Companies seldom die because they are doing the wrong things. They die because they have got stuck repeating the same formula that brought them success in the past. VTT IMPULSE

�Contagious enthusiasm is a strong driving force,� Aaro Cantell observes.

Aaro Cantell Aaro Cantell, previously a private equity investor, is the main shareholder and Chairman of the Board of high-growth company Normet. Cantell is also Chairman of the Board of Affecto, a listed information technology company, and a member of the Board of VTT.



Once you hop on board a plane, it doesn’t matter much whether you go to a neighbouring country or further away.

”The best way to renew yourself is to maintain close collaboration and partnership with the customer. This ensures that the customer remains happy. Development of a product or service range should aim at the creation of added value for the customer.” To put it simply, there are two ways of generating added value, according to Cantell. Either old products are produced at a lower cost or new products are developed that provide greater added value. Understanding this also presents an opportunity for Finland. ”We cannot compete on the cost of production, but we can succeed if we create an environment characterised by continuous, agile development,” Cantell observes. Finland has world-class expertise in various industries in both the private sector and public organisations, such as VTT, universities and the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation Tekes. Collaboration with VTT on the development of technologies and products, for example, can play a key role when deciding on the best country in which to conduct product development, Cantell says. ”The development of technology is of major importance. Technology is constantly evolving and spreading to an ever-growing number of industries.” The government can contribute to product development in Finland through tax measures and securing the continued existence of globally recognised institutions, such as VTT and Tekes. Sufficient educational opportunities in the technical field are also a must, since companies need competent people. 4

”The rest is up to the entrepreneur and businesses.” ”Be the best in the world”

Cantell has a word of advice for a company wishing to reform its operations: choose a business sector in which you are strong and want to be the best in the world. In Finland, the home market is small and limited. This is why Finnish enterprises should not be lulled into believing that they can become stars by sticking to the home field. All markets are global nowadays and a competitor can emerge from any part of the world. Physical distance from the customer is no longer decisive, claims Cantell. ”You must go where the business and customers are. Once you hop on board a plane, it doesn’t matter much whether you go to a neighbouring country or further away.” Aim high

Cantell says that it is the job of the owners, the board and management to set sufficiently ambitious targets. ”The board of directors sets targets and ensures that the strategy is the right one. You need a good team and spirit. Tough targets and an opportunity to try out new things inspire people in a special way – particularly if they succeed,” Cantell notes. If he had the time, Cantell says he could talk for half a day on how important enthusiasm is. According to Cantell, entrepreneur-driven SMEs have a certain edge over large, listed companies, for example. If necessary, they can VTT IMPULSE

”As an entrepreneur, I always begin by thinking about what’s possible – and only then about the risks,” says Normet’s Aaro Cantell.

make decisions faster, since the owners, the board and management are partially the same people. At Normet, which is owned by Cantell, he is wearing all the hats, so to speak. ”We can quickly reach an agreement.” Those fast decisions have led to results. In seven years – since Cantell took the helm – Normet has grown around 30 per cent a year on average. Normet, a global provider of underground mining solutions, is the largest private employer in Iisalmi, Finland. The company’s turnover for the ongoing year will amount to 230 million euros. It also makes a difference whether the owner has a face or remains formless and distant, Cantell reflects. ”For better or for worse, a personal owner presents something concrete and clear. This can be of great significance to employees.” ■ VTT IMPULSE

Growth in businesses of all sizes AARO CANTELL, PRINCIPAL OWNER of mechanical engineering company Normet, says that ’high-growth company’ is often misleadingly used as a synonym for a ’start-up’. However, SMEs – especially medium-sized businesses – have probably survived many rough patches before reaching their current size. ”If a 50 million euro enterprise doubles its turnover, the impact on society is the same as if a start-up grows from zero to 50 million euros. Growing an existing company is, however, much easier, and it is more likely to succeed.” Cantell emphasises that there are many companies like this in Finland, which could develop and grow significantly faster. This is why, while looking for ways to increase economic growth, Finland Ltd should not forget businesses with great hidden potential that have already earned their spurs. ”Businesses of all sizes can be high-growth enterprises – and Finland needs all of them.”





VTT is the first in Europe to have introduced a universal ucode server, with which various kinds of digital information can easily be incorporated into objects. The purpose of ucode is to attach easy-to-use information on products, places, equipment or other physical objects to the objects themselves. Ucode can be used to trace the origin or quality of an individual product, and to link maintenance, history or location data to the product. Information related to objects


or places can be created and read on a regular smartphone, and the created objects can be browsed using a web browser. VTT is a founding member of the European Internet of Things Alliance, aimed at promoting cooperation and dialogue between countries and organisations with regard to universal information processing and IoT research.




Lower energy consumption with LED lighting and ground heat pump FURTHER INFORMATION: SAMI SIIKANEN, SAMI.SIIKANEN@VTT.FI

ENERGY CONSUMPTION IN BUILDINGS can be significantly reduced by using ground heat pumps and LED lighting. A study conducted by VTT and the University of Eastern Finland indicates that LED tubes consume over 50 per cent less energy than the commonly used T8 fluorescent lamps. Use of a ground heat pump can cut energy consumption by more than 60 per cent in an electrically heated building. According to calculations, an investment made in another test building paid for itself in just under seven years.



IN HER DOCTORAL thesis, VTT Research Scientist Laura Flander developed bioprocessing methods for modifying the flavour and texture of oat bread. Whole grain oat is a raw material from which it is hard for bakeries to make high-quality products without losing its health-promoting properties. By optimising the recipe and processing parameters, it is possible to bake 51 per cent whole grain oat bread that is tasty, has a good texture and retains its softness for a long time. A portion of this bread contains 1.0 gram of beta-glucan, the amount required for a cholesterol-lowering health claim in the EU. The flavour of the bread was modified by using sourdough and the texture by means of enzymes. The positive effects of laccase and tyrosinase on oat bread making can be utilised in the future, to develop commercial enzymes for modifying grain fibre and proteins.


Electronics for mass production – fast and affordably FURTHER INFORMATION: KARI RÖNKÄ, KARI.RONKA@VTT.FI

THE EXPANSION OF VTT’S PRINTED ELECTRONICS environment with roll-to-roll assembly enables the production of a wide variety of electronics products. The idea behind printed electronics lies in manufacturing large quantities of electronics at sufficiently low cost and at such a high speed that they can be added to mass-produced products. Printed electronics and mass production enable the manufacture of new 3D plastic products for consumer electronics, the automobile industry, health care and well-being. Thanks to the automated production line, companies can try out new product concepts and bring them to market more quickly and cheaply than before. The investment is part of the PrintoCent programme. TRAFFIC


EXTREME WEATHER PHENOMENA cost EU transport systems at least 15 billion euros a year. Currently, the highest costs incurred are from road accidents, alongside the associated material damage and psychological suffering. However, costs arising from accidents are expected to decrease in volume, although time-related costs attributable to delays are projected to grow. In conditions that are extreme but at the moderate end of the scale, time-related costs can be cut significantly by means of intensified maintenance measures and improved communications. Unfortunately, the consequences of genuinely extreme weather phenomena are hard to predict and prevent. In an exceptionally broad-based study, VTT investigated the costs of extreme weather on transport systems and freight carrier customers in the 27 EU member states. 7




VTT and GE Healthcare collaborate on biomarkers for Alzheimer’s FURTHER INFORMATION: SAMPO SAMMALISTO, SAMPO.SAMMALISTO@VTT.FI

GE HEALTHCARE AND VTT have signed a research collaboration agreement on Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists at VTT and the University of Eastern Finland have recently discovered a biomarker in the body that predicts the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, months or even years before the first symptoms occur. This collaboration with GE Healthcare will enable VTT to further develop the results of basic research towards a clinical assay, to help both the physician and patient. ENVIRONMENT

Biocomposites challenge chipboard FURTHER INFORMATION: ALI HARLIN, ALI.HARLIN@VTT.FI

IN COOPERATION WITH PUUSTELLI, Finnish manufacturer of kitchen furniture, VTT has been developing a new, light biocomposite material that will revolutionise the production technique and design of kitchen fittings. The new material reduces raw material consumption by 25–30 per cent and the carbon footprint of production by 35–45 per cent. The starting point for development was a low environmental impact. The natural fibre used to reinforce a biocomposite material, made of plastic polymers reinforced with natural fibre, can be derived from sawdust, cellulose, flax, hemp or peat. The new material is significantly stronger than chipboard and has excellent moisture resistance. Biocomposite material enables the future production of kitchen frameworks by means of injection moulding and extrusion, used in plastic production. The result is a component of precise dimensions, which does not need to be cut or drilled after production. Even the screwholes are in place when the component comes off the production line. 8


TAKE A SEAT in a comfortable leather armchair and pick up a travel brochure about Finland. The TV screen in front of you comes to life. In sync with the brochure, it elaborates on the story of a snowy northern landscape by showing the beautiful northern lights on the screen. Music streams from the loudspeakers integrated into the chair. This kind of user experience is provided by a media chair based on augmented reality technology, developed by VTT’s Intelligent UI Solutions knowledge centre in cooperation with UPM and the Finnish Tourist Board. The idea was conceived when VTT and UPM were seeking ways to combine traditional print media with digital media. UPM demonstrated the chair in May at the Drupa print and publishing industry fair in Düsseldorf, Germany.


Gene silencing inhibits the spread of cancer cells FURTHER INFORMATION: JOHANNA IVASKA, JOHANNA.IVASKA@VTT.FI

THE RESEARCH TEAM of Professor Johanna Ivaska (VTT and the University of Turku) has screened dozens of prostate cancers and discovered gene silencing mechanisms that inhibit the spread of cancer cells. The study shows that cancer cell activity, which can easily be measured in a laboratory, is directly linked to the ability of the cancer cells to metastasise. As a result, screening for regulators of cancer cell activity could lead to the discovery of new candidates for pharmaceutical development. In the study, researchers Teijo Pellinen and Juha Rantala from Professor Ivaska’s research team utilised the cell array screening technology developed by VTT. This method allows researchers to study the impacts of all genes within an entire genome in a single experiment. VTT IMPULSE


Olli Ernvall Editor-in-chief

Now is the time for self-fulfilling optimism An economy can be seen to have gone into a recession when gross national product has been declining for at least six months. Forecasts as to whether Finland is now heading into a recession vary, because the gross domestic product grew in the first quarter of the year. In many respects, we are living exciting times. But should we even be talking about a recession and the definition of recession? Does it matter? Yes, it does, because economic forecasts tend to be self-fulfilling. Caution breeds a hesitant atmosphere and increases doubt. As has been said about the European financial crisis, one of the biggest reasons why the situation has escalated to such proportions is the general mistrust that operators in the financial market feel towards each other. Another major cause for the increasing economic gloom naturally lies in the instability of EU-wide capital markets, which has resulted in a reluctance to take risks and invest across Europe. Where there are no investments, there is no growth. Political decision-making can help to create opportunities for investments that promote economic growth. The Finnish government has wisely decided to support product development through tax incentives that promote new innovation. A genuine political pro-growth attitude boosts R&D and therefore increases investment activity. Another important initiative by the Finnish government is the so-called Team Finland concept, which is aimed at promoting the international competitiveness of SMEs. Large corporations already operate at full steam in the global market where production costs and efficiency are what decides the


game. This has led to these companies investing abroad and relocating many of their production facilities to other countries. In the domestic market, however, an industrial strategy based on quantity over quality has come to the end of the road. In the future, the competitiveness and profitability of Finnish exports will rest on the value added rather than volume. A new motto for large-scale industry could be ”less but better”. For Finland’s SMEs, a different path lies ahead. The competitiveness of existing SMEs can be boosted through production, logistics, materials science, efficient use of raw materials, and completely new products. Added value also comes from new services that can develop into completely new industrial sectors for Finland’s GDP portfolio. What we need is risk-taking and new technology to lay a foundation for the future. Clean technology, ICT, bioeconomy and new, sophisticated value-added forest products show a lot of promise of growth potential. Bold, far-reaching high-risk research is needed to ensure national competitiveness. Rapid application and adoption of new know-how is what will ultimately determine whether Finland has competitiveness, new enterprise, exports and growth in the future. If we intend to stay at the top of global competitiveness rankings, we need to stop pulling the recession card and start making bold decisions about R&D and thinking positively. Hanging our heads low will only make us stumble, because staring at our feet stops us from seeing what lies in the horizon. And that is something that Finland cannot afford.



Teaming up to boost Finland’s exports Text Paula Bergqvist Photos Team Finland


eam Finland is a new, networkbased approach to providing export and internationalisation services for Finnish companies. The model brings together businesses and public service providers, with a view to establishing a strong, dynamic team to help Finnish enterprises break into the international market. In September, a 1,500-strong audience assembled at Finlandia Hall in Helsinki to discuss the future of internationalisation services. The event was opened by Finnish President Sauli Niinistö. In addition to corporate representatives, presentations were given by Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen, Minister of Economic Affairs Jyri Häkämies and Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade Alexander Stubb. Workshops generated 36 proposals for action. ”Finland’s success rests on the integrity and stability of our society. In today’s world, these are also assets,” Niinistö observed. Finland’s competitiveness was testified to by the recent Global Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum, in which it climbed back to the third spot.


Team Finland will pay special attention to emerging economies when developing its operating methods. ”These countries are faced with massive challenges in energy, food and water supply, logistics, education and health care. Finland could do even better if we could find solutions for developing these societies. We have a strong track record in many sectors,” Niinistö said. The range of public services offered to companies is extensive but fragmented. Niinistö is calling for cooperation and trimming measures in order to develop financial instruments, for example. ”Our welfare and success are dependent on three factors: us Finns, our desire for success, and work – not on natural resources, luck or borrowing money.” Making the most of existing resources

According to the head of the steering group for Team Finland, the new concept is based on the will to serve Finnish businesses better. ”This is not about large investments; this is about the efficient use of existing resources. We are trying to find measures that will make it easier for companies to conclude deals,” Jyrki Katainen says.


The aim is to intensify cooperation between authorities so that businesses can receive support in accordance with the one-stop shop principle. ”Several large-scale changes are under way globally related to renewable energy, nuclear energy and the development needs of emerging economies. Businesses – and hopefully Finnish businesses, in particular – will play a major role in this.” Finnish enterprises – be they large or small – do not lack the ability to innovate, according to the prime minister. This has become evident on export promotion visits. Katainen believes that Finnish entrepreneurship and risk-taking will pay off in the future as well. “Research and development organisations such as VTT play an important role, because they can produce new innovations and solutions based on cutting-edge technology that can be immediately adopted by businesses,” states the prime minister also in the editorial of this magazine. ”Our aim is to create a model whose primary purpose is to make better use of existing resources. The entire Finnish government is working towards our goals. I hope we can steer our own activities in such a direction that they make a better than ever contribution to Finnish work, entrepreneurship and opportunities for business success.” Where is foreign investment to be found?

Export promotion alone is not enough – investment in Finland must also be promoted. According to Katainen, investors are drawn to Finland by a competitive and well-functioning network of global companies. Finland is known as a safe and stable country, and Finns are considered innovative, skilful and highly educated. These are the characteristics that should attract the interest of foreign private equity investors. Finland is also a good choice for those looking to enter the Russian market. However, the fragmented nature of business subsidies and the limited availability of capital are preventing companies from accessing international markets. Consequently, increasing private equity investors’ interest in Finnish business poses a special challenge for Team Finland. A further goal is the development of public services by eliminating administrative boundaries. Cooperation between businesses should also be promoted.


The government has already set to work. Finpro and Invest in Finland have been merged. Finnvera’s risk-bearing ability for the coming years has been increased. Export funding has also been reformed. A tax incentive for private equity investors will be introduced in 2013, to channel private equity into the needs of growth companies. And more news is in store. The government can make decisions to guide development. For example, consideration is being given to making public information available for commercial use. Model country of green technology

Cleantech is an industry where Finland has good chances of making it to the top. The business cluster in this sector is expected to become the driving force for Team Finland. In their own workshop, cleantech companies discussed how the new model could advance their internationalisation. The huge clean technology market is estimated to double in value by 2020. To strengthen its competitiveness, Finland should establish a pioneering market to support the marketing of Finnish expertise. ”No credibility will be created if our companies’ innovations are not in use in Finland,” was the conclusion of the workshop. The development of the home market requires that various parties have the ability to make quick decisions. The Finnish cleantech industry already has a good reputation – now the objective is to uphold this reputation of ’greenness’. n

VTT to the rescue ”PRODUCTS THAT ARE COMPETITIVE GLOBALLY are backed up by many research projects and a great deal of expertise. Finland has worldclass know-how that should be closely linked to the Team Finland concept,” says Erkki KM Leppävuori, President and CEO of VTT. The government has proposed a tax incentive for the research expenses of companies. ”Such an incentive would encourage companies to conduct research and development. This would contribute to the creation of new innovations and promote the competitiveness of businesses.” Through its spearhead and innovation programmes, VTT is helping to solve the key challenges faced by businesses and society. ”Through these programmes, we are working for the benefit of Team Finland,” Leppävuori says. The R&D themes of VTT’s spearhead and innovation programmes include industrial biomaterials, product process digitalisation, the Internet of Things, water supply, waste management, new energy solutions and well-being.




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In Finland’s footsteps The EU is looking to strengthen economic growth through research and innovation – just as Finland did during the 1990s depression. Text Kari Ahokas Photos iStockphoto, MCI Press Oy




hat do Finland, Sweden and Germany have in common? ”These countries have long been investing systematically in innovation, research and education,” says Robert-Jan Smits, Director-General of the DG for Research and Innovation at the European Commission. ”It is no coincidence that they are the ones that have so far fared best in tough economic conditions.” Smits is familiar with Finland’s economic problems in the early 1990s. He praises the government of the then Prime Minister Esko Aho which, despite difficult budget decisions, minimised cuts in research, innovation and education. ”And what was the result! Nokia soon began to flourish,” Smits points out. ”I advise the present-day crisis countries to do what Finland did. Cut public consumption, but do not touch education, research and other future areas of growth.” More money

The EU is trying to create economic growth and new jobs in Europe in much the same way as Finland did. Horizon 2020, the Commission’s proposal for the EU’s new Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, is based on an 80 billion euro budget. The ongoing Seventh Framework Programme for Research has a budget of slightly over 50 billion euros. However, in view of the poor economic climate, it is not impossible that the final budget for Horizon 2020 will be below the proposed amount. ”We still have much to discuss before we can reach a compromise with which all 14

Member States will be happy. Nevertheless, the Commission’s proposal has been well received so far,” Smits says. Horizon 2020 will also revise the framework programme structures. ”We Europeans have had difficulties in commercialising and marketing research results, which have been good as such,” Smits notes. He promises that Horizon will bring together the previously separate programmes for research and innovation, in order to create a seamless innovation chain, from research to finished product. This is certainly a necessary reform. The United States and China, for example, are active in the commercial exploitation of research results. Nevertheless, in addition to emphasising applied research, the EU plans to continue further strengthening of the share of basic research. Depending on the calculation method used, the budget proposed for basic research under Horizon 2020 will at least double from the previous framework programme. Smits observes that the United States’ superior ability – compared to Europe – to turn research results into commercial products is largely due to the greater availability of capital investment. ”However, it is expected that a legislative proposal, for facilitating the movement of venture capital between EU countries, will improve the situation in Europe,” Smits says. Less red tape

Smits criticises the red tape currently related to EU projects. ”The system has become too complicated. It has been difficult for SMEs, in particular, to get involved in projects.” VTT IMPULSE

Creating a seamless chain from research to product.

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Promises on the horizon HORIZON 2020 IS a package of measures aimed at boosting research, innovation and competitiveness in Europe between 2014 and 2020. This is the first time that all EU research and innovation funding will be brought together under a single programme, with a budget of around 80 billion euros. According to the European Commission, the key objectives and funding budgets of Horizon 2020 are: • To support the EU’s position as a world leader in science, with a budget of 24.6 billion euros. (In practice, this means funding scientific research in universities.) • To help secure industrial leadership in innovation with a budget of 17.9 billion euros. • To address major societal challenges shared by all Europeans with a budget of 31.7 billion euros. Horizon 2020 is a key pillar of Innovation Union, a flagship initiative of the Europe 2020 strategy aimed at enhancing Europe’s global competitiveness.



Improvements are on the way. According to Smits, the Commission has proposed simplified procedures for Horizon 2020, to make participation easier for small companies. Other perks are also in store for small and medium-sized businesses. ”Fledgling start-ups and SMEs are a future source of growth,” Smits notes. The Commission has therefore suggested that around 8 billion euros of funding be earmarked for them, not only for research purposes but also for commercialising the results. ”To achieve this, we need an entity focusing on small business innovation, whose principle is largely the same as that of the SBIR programme in the US,” states Smits. The Commission requests ideas from small businesses on a certain issue, such as mechanisms for the early detection of cancer, and provides grants for developing these ideas. The businesses that made the best proposals can further develop their ideas, either alone or together with other companies and research organisations, with the Commission’s continuing support.


”In the next stage, the research results are brought to the market with venture capital, which the Commission helps to find,” Smits says. Sounds good – at least in theory. The Federation of Finnish Enterprises has already expressed a wish for additional information on how this will work in practice. Dynamic Finland

It has become clear that Smits, who sits at the top of the EU’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, values the Finnish model for funding research and innovation. He also says that he agrees with Finns on what kind of research is worth funding. ”EU funding must go to the best research in Europe. This is the only way for Europe to succeed in global competition.” Geography should not be a criterion for granting funding. Quality and results are the only things that matter, and Smits believes that Finland, as a ”dynamic and innovative society”, will do well when this criterion is applied. ■


EU funding must go to the best research in Europe.

EU project should be part of the toolbox

A Dutchman in Belgium ROBERT-JAN SMITS’ FAMILIARITY with EU research activities runs literally from bottom to top. ”I started 19 years ago at the lowest level and have worked in practically every position here,” laughs the present DirectorGeneral of the DG for Research and Innovation, sitting at his desk in Brussels. What do you find particularly fascinating about EU research? ”The people I meet through my work! Europe’s numerous cultures are its strength and the people its key resource. I would never want to see a Europe whose nations had been cast in the same mould. Think of Finnish creativity, Italian design and the quality of German engineering.” A Dutchman by birth, Smits has lived with his wife in the Belgian capital, the EU’s political heart, for decades. ”In the rare hours that I’m not working, I hike in the woods, read or exercise at home on my cross-trainer,” Smits says.


Participating in an EU project is worthy of consideration when a company is looking to renew itself, develop its business and go global. ”Businesses should include EU projects in their development toolbox. Many of our partner companies have good experiences of participating in such projects together with VTT,” says Leena Sarvaranta, Vice President of EU Affairs at VTT. Medium-sized businesses in particular can benefit, by joining new value chains and expanding their marketing channels. Sarvaranta advises that certain matters should be thought through carefully before the application process. ”It’s important for a company to operate in an identifiable niche market and to possess the related know-how, such as a technology, product, process or service. Its operations should be firmly established – for example, the cash flow, balance sheet and organisation must be in good shape.” A genuine desire for growth and development is also needed. Such a company understands that it must expand its markets and delivery channels globally. ”By working with us, the company can identify those value chains and clusters that are worth joining,” Sarvaranta says.


Investments should not be made with only low-cost labour in mind.

”No point rushing abroad” Text Marjo Kosonen

ERKKI LEPPÄVUORI, PRESIDENT and CEO of VTT, hopes that Finnish industrial enterprises do not rush abroad, lured by low-cost labour. ”Investments should not be made with only cheap labour in mind; consideration should also be given to the location of markets. High transport costs can easily swallow up the savings brought by low production costs.” If a product’s end market is in Europe, it may be more beneficial to invest in production in Finland. ”Production methods exist that are practically independent of labour costs. If production costs are less than 10 per cent of total costs, you can say that production is independent of location,” Leppävuori observes. Help from automation

Another way of standing out from the competition is to offer genuine added value to the customer. ”In an ideal case, the final product allows the user to further improve the competitiveness of its own operations,” Leppävuori adds. If a product is unique, it cannot be easily replaced with a competing product. This gives the company more leeway in pricing. A new way to compete is by introducing intelligence to a traditional product. ”Remote servicing and monitoring bring new opportunities. Linking digital information to objects, machines and equipment improves their usability and reliability.” This is also how companies can distance themselves from competing with cheap-labour countries.

Significant cost savings can be achieved by automating and rationalising processes.








Text: Heikki Seppä

The future of sensor networks The future of sensor networks holds great promise. Before developing new technologies, it may be worthwhile exploring


possibilities of existing solutions.

his article seeks to shed light on the current state and future perspectives of both wireless and wired sensor networks from the consumer’s point of view. Even though the advance of technology provides the foundation for developing sensors and wireless systems, new technologies must provide significant added value to the consumer as well as create profitable business for companies within a reasonable time span. The development of sensor networks has reached an interesting stage. Sensor use has been commonplace in industry, cars and consumer electronics for a long time. However, mere baby steps have been taken in the fields of real estate, environmental monitoring and, in particular, healthcare. Sensor systems are usually installed where wires can easily be drawn. Where the construction of a wired network is impossible or too expensive, sensor network development has fallen by the wayside, brushed off with a statement that a wireless network will be the solution for these applications. The main purpose of this article is to describe why, despite every prediction, wireless networks have not broken into the market, and how sensor networks should be implemented. Call for sensor networks Process optimisation in industry, increased safety and minimisation of fuel consumption in cars, saving water and energy in household appliances, and usability in consumer electronics determine the need and benefits of sensors. 20

In real estate automation and, in particular, environmental monitoring, the situation is much more complex. It is very important to minimise energy and water consumption in properties, but how to achieve this without huge investments and making it easy for the user are the key issues. If the buildings constructed in the 1970s had been equipped with moisture sensors, we would have avoided the current building moisture catastrophe. Household appliance manufacturers boast about the low energy consumption of their appliances. However, the equipment service life is so short taking the use of natural resources into consideration the situation is actually worse. In other words, the ecological footprint of a product’s entire life cycle is more important than, for example, the energy-efficiency of an appliance or lamp. In the realm of healthcare, everyone knows that we cannot care for the ageing population nor ensure quality healthcare with the current methods. Pre-emptive treatment is the key to keeping healthcare expenditure in check. Sensor technology can support independent living, and surveillance in assisted living facilities, for example, can be enhanced by monitoring the inhabitants’ condition and activities. Depression, the illness with the most detrimental effect on working capacity, is often brought on by stress. Overburdening and stress can be measured and corrective action taken immediately. The situation is comparable to an athlete overtraining – when overtraining is discovered, the athlete’s training programme is altered immediately. VTT IMPULSE – SCIENCE

Environmental monitoring is necessary, but it remains unclear what we should measure and how the data will be transferred to the data network. It is unlikely that monitoring the state of the environment would have had a significant effect on carbon dioxide emissions, but it would have played a crucial role in the conservation of waterways. Continuous monitoring of the state of waterways would even provide data on the discharges of individual farms, which would unavoidably affect consumer behaviour and thereby force politicians to rein in agricultural discharges. The same applies to the mining industry, energy production from peat, and other industries that have an impact on waterways. The effects of natural disasters could be significantly mitigated if they could be anticipated as early as possible on the basis of sensor data, allowing people to be warned. Even though problems can often be solved without the use of sensors, they have a crucial role in increasing safety, mitigating the effects of disasters, optimising energy consumption and determining the state of the environment, as well as in welfare and health. Unrealistic expectations We can justifiably ask why sensor networks are not used enough, especially in buildings. The needs are evident. The required technology exists and is, in most cases, very affordable. I maintain that the unrealistic expectations placed on wireless sensors are one of the reasons for the current situation. Wireless sensor networks have been the subject of intensive research for two decades, but very few have actually been built, with the exception of military applications. Applied research is usually conducted on a scientific basis, but the research subject is not seen from the consumer’s point of view or from a business logic perspective. Unfortunately, “innovation policy” has even reduced the commercialisation of sensible inventions in many fields of science. When energy supply became the central issue for wireless sensor networks, energy-harvester development proliferated. It is my assertion that more than 90 per cent of these projects have been a complete waste of time. In actual fact, the harvesting of energy from the environment in such a manner that the reliVTT IMPULSE – SCIENCE

ability of measurements can be guaranteed is only possible in a handful of cases. Complex self-organising networks have been proposed for many applications, even though topologically simple networks could have solved the problem in most cases. The important thing is to understand the problem and find the simplest solution to it. In this process, technology is the means, not the end.

Monitoring the state of nature would have a major impact on waterway conservation.

Various sensor networks There is an enormous number of variables to be measured, and sensor solutions, so covering them all within the scope of this article would be impossible. In this regard, the essential fact is that highly affordable sensors exist for the construction of sensor networks. The bottlenecks are related to data transfer, control devices and data systems. I have divided sensor network technologies into five categories: wireless sensor networks, mobile technologies (NFC, WLAN and Bluetooth), systems making use of mobile telephone networks, wired solutions, and systems that mix wireless and wired sensors. I will also discuss sensor networks, in which a social network conducts the measurements and transmits the data to a server. Wireless sensor networks The development of wireless sensor networks, which began in the United States in the early 1990s, aimed at wirelessly communicating sensor networks with low energy consumption. Examples include the commercialised ZigBee and the AOM7, which was slightly simpler in network architecture. Efforts were made to minimise energy consumption by constructing the data transfer network so that the data from one sensor node is transferred to the base station via other nodes. The microwave transmission power can be minimized this way but all the sensor nodes have to be active all the time, so only a marginal amount of energy is saved. Furthermore, it is often necessary to transmit data to the system only a few times each day, or when threshold values are exceeded. This infrequent transfer of measurement data often consumes less energy than the measuring does. If, for example, the sensor network uses a 2.4 GHz frequency, data transfer is difficult 21


File: Heikki Seppä Research Professor, Doctor of Technology Heikki Seppä began his career at Helsinki University of Technology in the 1970s, studying the practical applications of quantum mechanical phenomena. In the early 1990s, he introduced the study of RFID technology to Finland, and is one of the world’s foremost pioneers of NFC technology. In the late 1990s, Seppä focused on nano­scale quantum mechanical components, and midway through the 2000s activated research in Finland ­relating to inorganic, printable ­nanoparticles. Since 2005, Seppä has been the Deputy Director of the Quantum Mechanical Devices Centre of Excellence of the Academy of Finland. He has written some 150 scientific publications in various fields, and has roughly 150 patent applications to his name.


indoors. In such cases, cells must be installed solely for purposes of data transfer. Minimising the number of cells and ensuring successful data transfer often also requires expensive, professional installation. The development process is ongoing, but no real breakthroughs have been made. The core problem of wireless sensor networks is securing the energy supply. Sensors mostly operate on batteries. Even though the service life of batteries has been extended significantly as a result of the development of microchips, batteries will always cause maintenance and reliability problems. In addition, the bands reserved for wireless sensor networks have very small transfer capacities, causing the system to easily clog up as sensor networks become more common. Portable terminal devices do not specifically support the data transfer methods developed for sensor networks. Since several terminal devices make use of Bluetooth, using it for wireless networks is a very economical solution. It is easy for companies to resort to this technology, since it is very cheap and the company does not have to invest in readers. Short-distance communication by mobile phone In the early 1990s, technology for integrating RFID readers into mobile phones was being developed in Finland. Today, this technology is called Near Field Communication (NFC), since the reading range is only a few centimetres. I thought that NFC technology would be used to transfer information directly from sensors to mobile phones, activate services, or facilitate the so-called Internet of Things. Instead, its first wide-ranging application is ticketing and payment solutions. RFID-based sensors can be passive, requiring no battery. The energy required by measuring and communicating can be drawn from the mobile phone. Sensors can be mass-produced for less than a euro apiece. When the only quantity measured in temperature, RFID sensors can even cost less than 0.1 euros each, but this requires large production runs. Nokia launched the first NFC phone in 2004. In 2005, the NFC Forum started the task of standardising NFC technology, which was beginning to make its breakthrough, as evidenced by Google Wallet.

It is self-evident that NFC technology will be widely exploited in sensors and interfaces with sensor data. The most significant advantage of NFC, in addition to the passivity of sensors, is the simplicity of the required interface. Simply touching the sensor is enough to transfer the data from subject to mobile phone or other way round. If longer reading ranges are required, RFID technology that operates in the UHF band must be used. In logistics applications, the range can be increased to up to 10 metres. However, if the sensor requires a high power level, the maximum range can be as low as two metres. Unfortunately, we will not see UHF readers in mobile phones for some time yet, so in the near future, the technology will mostly be used to read sensor data in logistics applications. Bluetooth and sensor networks A short-range radio operating in the 2.4 GHz waveband, called Bluetooth, was being developed for mobile phones in the 1990s, mostly by Ericsson. The first Ericsson Bluetooth phone was launched in 2000. The immediate goal was to implement wireless communication between telephones and other nearby telephones, computers, printers and similar devices. The latest versions of Bluetooth can make use of any available wireless networks for fast data transfer. A single terminal device can be connected to up to eight other devices simultaneously. I believe that Bluetooth use will continue to increase and the technology will have wide applications in sensor solutions related to individual welfare or health, for example. WLAN The first wireless local area networks (WLAN) were developed in the 1980s, and standardisation of the technology began in the early 1990s. WLAN’s premise was to establish a wireless connection from a device to the Internet. The first WLAN phones came to market in the mid-2000s. It is unlikely that WLAN will be integrated to very many sensors, instead functioning as part of a sensor network for the transfer of data from sensors based on Bluetooth or NFC technology to a data network, for example. VTT IMPULSE – SCIENCE

Sensors relying on mobile telephone networks Wireless sensor networks can be constructed to rely on ordinary mobile networks. If grid electricity is available, and if the sensor or measuring device creates significant economic benefits, the most straightforward way of setting up a sensor network is to make use of GPRS or 3G networks. The automated measurement of electricity consumption, generally called Automated Meter Reading (AMR), is a good example of such an application. A mobile telephone network is also efficient for environmental measurements, since the network covers practically the entire country. If electric power is available near the measurement point, and there are several measured variables, using a mobile telephone network is particularly feasible. Mobile networks are perhaps at their best in situations where data from a wireless sensor network is transferred to a mobile telephone network via a single GPRS node. Data transfer via the electric power lines Sensor networks can also be constructed to use electric power lines. In Finland, the Valmet meter plant and, later, Enermet developed a remote reading system for kilowatt-hour meters that made use of high voltage and low voltage power line networks. Since then, however, these applications have been replaced by mobile telephone networks and fixed, most often wired data transfer networks. The exploitation of power lines for data transfer is experiencing a renaissance as the data transfer medium for real estate sensors. The technology is called Power Line Communication (PLC). A few years ago, PLC was even explored as a solution for transmitting TV transmissions from one room to another, but sufficiently fast data transfer proved very difficult over the power lines, mostly due to interferences and fluctuations in network loading. PLC technology has also been hampered by a lack of standards, but that matter will be rectified soon. I am inclined to think that PLC will play a pivotal role in the transfer of sensor data from building automation systems, devices connected to sensor networks and, in some cases, individual household appliances. VTT IMPULSE – SCIENCE

Wired sensor networks In the future, new buildings in particular will be fitted with Ethernet-type data transfer networks, which will also be used to transfer sensor data. There is no point in connecting a single sensor to an Ethernet network, but if all significant sensors are brought together, data transfer over a wired network becomes sensible. The network should be constructed so that the operating voltage is supplied via the data transfer network. Nothing is threatening the position of traditional, wired sensor networks in factory automation or vehicles, the reason being the superior reliability of wired networks.

The important thing is to understand the problem and find the simplest solution to it.

Wires and wirelessness Wired and wireless sensor networks each have their strengths and weaknesses. Wireless sensors are easy to install, but hard to supply with energy. In such cases, the construction of a wired network, into which the sensors will be connected wirelessly, may be appropriate. If a cable is attached to an RFID sensor, and NFC or UHF technology is used to connect to the sensor, it is possible to construct a sensor network that does not require a separate power source for the sensors. The power will be taken from the magnetic field or radiation field created by the cable. Wirelessness makes sensors economical, easy to install and reliable, since there is no need for connectors. This type of solution could be used, for instance, inside household appliances, in vehicles, in building moisture monitoring or the surveillance of products stored in a warehouse. Sensor network applications I will next review some key areas of application where sensor networks have a central role, but have not been comprehensively adopted as of yet. At the same time, I will attempt to predict how the sensor networks in these applications will be constructed. Sensor network for emergencies In times of crisis, natural disaster and war, it is extremely important to get information from the scene as quickly as possible. In the future, wireless sensor networks will be constructed in areas prone to natural 23


PLC has been hampered by a lack of standards, but this will be rectified soon.

disasters. These networks will be entirely or partly based on mobile telephone networks. Precautions must naturally be taken for the malfunction or congestion of the telephone network, but there will be no problem if the sensors are capable of anticipating such eventualities. In sunny areas, solar panels connected to a battery can be used for power. The thermoelectric phenomenon can also be used to produce energy in many locations. Fixed sensor networks are highly vulnerable during times of crisis, which is why quickto-construct sensor networks are equally necessary. The post-tsunami nuclear accident in Japan illustrates this point well. One possible solution is to install a selforganising sensor network into the ground or deploy one by helicopter. Such sensors can be battery-operated, since they are only intended for temporary use. Conserving energy in buildings Particular attention has been paid to the energy consumption of buildings in recent years. It goes without saying that real estate heating and air-conditioning cannot be controlled efficiently without data. Efficient control requires the support of a data network, but room-specific control can also be implemented locally. According to studies on the subject, residents will adjust their behaviour even without control systems, if they have access to data on the property’s energy and water consumption in an easily assimilated form. The indoor temperature of single-family homes is often adjusted solely through radiator thermostats or by adjusting the air conditioning, even though it is common knowledge that proper calibration could significantly reduce energy consumption. The costs of sensor installation are relatively minor, but the regulating units required to make the calibrations are costly. However, energy costs only constitute a small part of the costs of housing. The most significant expenses are caused by the price of land and high price of construction, so the willingness to invest in the conservation of energy is not always there. Even if sensor data were available, the control system interface would require special attention. Otherwise, the consumer would be unwilling or unable to effectively control the system.


The heart of the problem lies in the partial conflict between energy saving and comfort. Some kind of compromise is required in this matter. Towards device-specific consumption data VTT has studied how the electricity consumption of even individual appliances could be deduced from apartment-specific electricity consumption measurement data. The method is based on the facts that appliances usually only use a few or even just one power level, their reactive power is appliance-specific, and they cause different kind of transients when turned on. The same system also establishes the residents’ activity level. This information is useful in assisted living facilities and the care of older people, for example. If we add power readers to every fuse and use PLC for data transfer, we can measure the power consumption of each individual power line inside the household we can determine the energy consumption of individual appliances very accurately and switch them on or off even via the Internet. Separate power meters for every appliance or a data transfer network are not required; rather, the situation can be monitored by a very simple method. This way of thinking illustrates how much benefit can be gained at very little cost. From measuring to optimising energy consumption If a sensor system is installed in an air conditioning pipe to measure airflow, temperature, humidity and the carbon dioxide levels of both incoming air and return air, it will provide all the data required to optimise the energy consumption and air quality of the apartments served by the pipe. Saunas or other humid premises are a case in point. When the return air valve detects an increase in humidity, it will increase the airflow until the humidity has been sufficiently reduced. This arrangement can be managed locally without the need for a data system, making the related investment costs minuscule. The carbon dioxide content of indoor air can also be regulated locally. If the airflow of each room is measured, the data system can also determine the energy loss caused by opening windows. VTT IMPULSE – SCIENCE

RFID reader

RFID humidity sensor Transmission line Data communications channel

CPU Electrical network

Figure 1. An example of a sensor network for a property containing several apartments. The type of property has been chosen for its green roof, which entails a significant moisture risk.

Fuse panel PLC Wattmeter


Incoming air Returning air Hot water Cold water

Water meter

In other words, the situation in the entire property can be controlled and the energy consumption of premises optimised at the system level. If electricity meter readings are also used, the room-specific energy consumption of radiators can be determined on the basis of radiator settings and thermometers installed in each room. By applying a corresponding method to water meters, water consumption of a resident or property can be monitored. If a separate water meter is installed for warm water, the energy costs of using warm water can be determined. Possible leaks and their locations can likewise be discovered by measuring the volume of water passing through all the water meters in the building. The precise location of leaks can be identified if the data of several locations are compared and pressure is measured in addition to water flow. A sufficient number of measured variables is required to enable the optimisation of energy use, for example. Instead of installing many individual sensor nodes in a building, it is considerably cheaper to only install a few nodes that will carry out all the measurements required for decision-making. The costs of data transfer per sensor can thus be reduced significantly. The case of the green roof Figure 1 illustrates a multi-apartment property. The building has a green roof, which is currently ery popular for the cultivation of fruit and vegetables. A building with a green roof has been chosen for this example due to the VTT IMPULSE – SCIENCE

Apartmentspecific wattmeter and water meter

Home computer

significant moisture risks that the roof entails. In addition to normal, apartment-specific kilowatt-hour meters, the building’s electricity network will be fitted with a power meter capable of measuring power, reactive power and possibly distortion and transients as well. By analysing the meter readings, it is possible to determine, on some level at least, which appliances are switched on at any given time. This in turn allows deductions to be made on which appliances might be faulty and/or on energy consumption in general. The figure presents a situation in which the fuses have been equipped with power meters and electrically controlled relays. This solution improves markedly the possibility to monitor power consumption of each appliance and other devices, such as home electronics or lamps. The calibration of the system can be done by measuring the consumption of each appliance with a wireless power meter. On the basis of this data, the system knows the characteristics of each appliance. Thanks to the system, individual appliances will not normally require power measurement, but adding an NFC module to an appliance can provide data on faults and maintenance needs. Users can use their mobile phones to directly send the data to the manufacturer for analysis, for example. Water meter solutions can be implemented in a similar manner. The property also features a sensor system integrated into the air conditioning valves, providing all the necessary data on air quality in each room and airflow between rooms or out of windows. 25


Real estate companies grow more important Monitoring the condition of a property is vital. Figure 1 illustrates an RFID-based system where battery-free humidity sensors have been installed in the wall structures. A very thin cable that generates a magnetic field produces the energy required by the sensors and transmits the data to the system. If the location of sensors is unknown, it can be easily determined using a single reader. If NFC technology is used in the sensors, the customer can check the moisture situation without the need for a cable connection simply by touching the sensor with his or her mobile phone. By combining the data with the humidity and temperature data of outside air, the system can deduce whether any water has entered the wall structures due to a leak or condensed water. By combining temperature data and humidity from different sensor with the location of pipes, the location of the leak can be identified. Figure 2 presents the prototype of an NFCbased moisture sensor developed by VTT. In the future, this sensor can be integrated with an RFID chip and humidity sensor printed on the chip, reducing the production costs of the sensor to less than a euro, at least in theory. As indicated in Figure 1, sensors are an integral part of real estate, which is why the role of real estate companies in the conservation of energy will become pivotal. In the future, the property owner will make the required investments in equipment and integrate the data they produce into their own data management system. The property owner will also shop around for the most affordable electric power and sell energy to the residents, benefiting both residents and property owner. The property owner will make tailormade agreements with its customers, who will be able to adjust certain settings using their own phones, tablets or computers. Customers will also receive data regarding the property through these channels. In such operating models, sensors should be integrated into the property and connected to its data system, with wires if possible. It is a question of reliability, but only sufficient data and, preferably, a room-specific distributed control system will enable real reductions in energy consumption. Real estate management is a good example of the prolonged attempts to implement 26

wireless sensor technology. However, customer-oriented analysis has shown that wireless technology may not be necessary at all. Wireless sensors can be used, in older properties in particular, but their only benefits are derived from changes in the behaviour of consumers. Since the real benefits are created by controlling the devices, it is of little consequence whether they are installed with a wireless or wired network architecture. Since the controllers are equipped with a power source, there is no need to use wireless sensors. The example presented in Figure 1 indicates how an appropriate combination of sensors and data transfer systems can create an affordable and efficient real estate control and monitoring system. Environmental monitoring It is practically impossible to imagine that the authorities could comprehensively monitor the crucial variables indicating the state of the environment. Such measurement is relatively easy to organise, provided that the measurement area is reasonably well known. However, this information often becomes available only when it is already too late. Another alternative would be the construction of a sensor network based on wireless communications. Batteries are required as the power source of the sensors almost without exception, however, and their replacement will incur intolerable costs. The only conceivable, efficient system would entail the construction of a social network where citizens would measure the basic variables, with their mobile phone cameras and GPS positioning devices at first and using NFC technology in the future. An NFC interface is extremely easy to use, and it enables the measurement of a large number of different variables with affordable sensors. The data is transferred to a server via mobile phone, and the server analyses the data and displays the results on a map. In many countries, citizens mistrust information produced by the authorities or are afraid that the results of their measurements will be ignored or distorted. Another important premise for this system is that individual companies will not be able to influence it, thus guaranteeing the independence of the activity. One option would be to organise the social network through a foundation or trust. VTT IMPULSE – SCIENCE

Discussion forums could also be created for the service, enabling users to network and discuss matters relating to nature or their own environments. Sensor networks relating to welfare and healthcare Sensor networks related to welfare and healthcare are perhaps the most significant applications for entirely wireless sensor networks. Factors such as the increasing number of elderly people who require care, the rising prices of hospital care and increasing labour costs will strongly increase the need for home care. Home care requires simple sensors, measuring devices and alarm systems that are connected to healthcare databases via the mobile telephone network, for example. Scales, blood pressure monitors and blood sugar meters used at home can be connected to the database via telephone or computer, using Bluetooth or NFC technology. Sensors attached to the skin (Smart Plaster) provide patients with a simple way of monitoring their own state of health, both in hospitals and home care. Data from these sensors can also be transmitted to the nearest health centre via the mobile phone network. People suffering from sleep apnoea can use sensors that measure snoring and nightly movements and the results can be analysed through an online service. In several cases, it is possible to prevent illness altogether if data on the patient’s health is available soon enough. Athletes and exercisers make extensive use of pulse counters that often only measure the user’s pulse, or pulse variance at most. However, such measurements can reveal much about the user’s state of health. Those with an increased risk of cardiac arrest in particular should monitor their pulse, at least during periods of stress. It is frustrating to note that research is concentrated on needlessly complex subjects, such as implanted sensors or measurements made from sweat, when we could be studying how the diverse application of existing sensor technologies could allow even rough estimates of a person’s state of health to be made. In many cases, simply monitoring pulse, breathing, speech and, especially, changes in these, could provide significant information on stress, for example. VTT IMPULSE – SCIENCE

Figure 2. The prototype of an NFC-based moisture sensor developed by VTT.

One example of an excellent innovation is a method of measuring pulse and variations in blood pressure using an ordinary camera and enhancing the variation of the colour red. Summary Wireless sensor networks will see widespread use, but many problems can also be solved through traditional, wired sensor networks. Measurement technology and data transfer still pose many challenges, which require further study. New and affordable sensors are required, for example, for the monitoring of health and the environment. The correlation of sensor data with a subject’s health requires further study, as does energy harvesting from air-conditioning pipes or differences in air temperature. Nevertheless, much can already be done, and problems can be identified for basic research to resolve. The history of sensor networks illustrates how a discrepancy has arisen between applied research and practical application. Scientists look at the world from the perspective of technology, and often only the technology they are familiar with through their work. Absurdly enough, applications are sometimes stubbornly sought for technology, when we should be looking for suitable technologies to answer current and future challenges, or develop new technologies for the purpose. Basic research is valuable in itself, since all development springs from understanding the facts. This work must not be sacrificed on the altar of the pursuit of short-term monetary gain. 27


Text: Marko Kallio

The future: personalised cancer treatments The diagnostic methods and forms of treatment for cancer are being developed towards personalised care, but conquering the disease for good is not yet in sight.


ancer is a general term for a large group of diseases that share one feature: abnormal multiplication of cells beyond their usual growth boundaries and their possible spread, i.e. the formation of metastases in other body parts and organs. Cancer is an extremely diverse disease. In principle, every patient’s tumour is a unique collection of billions of cancer cells, most of which differ from each other in terms of their genetic and epigenetic features. The genome of most cancer cells is constantly changing and producing new variations to test, as the cells search for the best combination of survival and growth potential. Cancer originates at the cellular level Although the underlying mechanisms of cancer are not yet fully understood, it is known that cancer originates at the cellular level (Figure 1). The development of cancer is influenced by several external and intracellular factors that cause harmful changes (mutations) in the DNA of genes and disrupt the normal function of proteins encoded by genes. For example, the p53 gene that normally regulates the growth and vitality of cells has mutated or disappeared in approximately eve28

ry second tumour. This contributes to the uncontrolled growth of cancer cells. Factors that may harm genes and thereby cause cancer include carcinogens such as tobacco chemicals, benzene and acrylamide, the sun’s UV radiation, and possibly certain food additives, such as nitrites. Some viruses can also trigger genetic mutations. The human papillomavirus, for example, is known to cause cervical cancer. DNA damage may also occur in cells by chance due to DNA replication errors. In addition, there are certain hereditary genetic mutations known today that entail an increased risk of breast, ovarian or lung cancer. For example, the hereditary mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are involved in about five per cent of all breast cancer cases. Leading cause of death worldwide According to the WHO statistics, cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide. In Finland, 30,000 new cases are diagnosed annually and approximately one in three of us will develop cancer at some point in our lives. The most common cancers in Western men and women are prostate and breast cancer, respectively. Cancer has proved more difficult to cure than anyone could have imagined a few decVTT IMPULSE – SCIENCE

Carcinogen, genotype, nutritional and environmental factors

Healthy cell

New DNA lesions, gene mutations and/or epigenetic alterations

DNA damage, gene mutation and/or epigenetic change

Cancer cell

Primary tumour Proliferation of cancer cells

Metastasised cancer

Figure 1. The development and spread of cancer are the results of multiple cellular alterations.

ades ago. Nevertheless, increasingly many people survive their disease, as today about 65 per cent of people diagnosed with cancer are alive five years after diagnosis. Significant progress has been made in the treatment of children’s cancers, in particular: for example, the five-year survival rate of children diagnosed with the most common childhood cancer, acute lymphocytic leukaemia, is 85 per cent. Lifestyle habits a major contributor to cancer Positive trends in survival indexes are perhaps the best indication of improved cancer diagnostics, new therapies (including cancer supportive care) and changed lifestyle habits. Smoking rates have decreased, and positive changes have also taken place in eating and exercise habits. More than one third of all cancers could be prevented by personal choices. Smoking is the single greatest risk factor for cancer. Researchers estimate that if everyone stopped smoking, cancer deaths would be reduced by at least one quarter. Another clear risk factor is exposure to ionising radiation and the sun’s UV rays. For example, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the remains of munitions containing depleted uranium (U-238), and UV-B radiation are all connected to a significantly elevated risk of cancer. If people all over the world protected themselves from the sun, more than one hunVTT IMPULSE – SCIENCE

dred thousand cases of skin cancer could be prevented every year. Other known risk factors for cancer are alcohol and a diet high in fat. Conversely, a diet rich in antioxidants, beneficial fatty acids and fibres is linked with reduced number of certain cancer types. This kind of diet contains a large amount of berries, fruits, vegetables, olive oil and whole grains. The results from these studies are, however, variable. Each of us can make choices that lower our own cancer risk and that of those close to us. Recent developments in cancer research Basic knowledge about the specific features of cancer cells has improved markedly over the last two decades. Knowledge has increased especially since the base sequence of the human genome and that of a few model organisms were determined. Today, basic cancer research mainly focuses on answering the following four biological questions: why do normal cells become malignant (cell transformation), how do metastases develop, what is the tumour microenvironment like, and what are the features of cancer stem cells? In addition to these lines of research, scientists are striving to develop new research models to better simulate tumour biology in a test tube. Cancer research has already discovered numerous differences between normal and cancer cells. These have contributed to understanding how cell transformation may occur. 29


The huge amount of information provided by cancer research is a major challenge. The current hypothesis is that the main reasons for the transformation process are the activation of cancer-causing genes (oncogenes) and/or the malfunction of tumour suppressor genes. These factors affect cell growth potential and prevent cell death. For example, the cell transformation caused by the EML4-ALK fusion oncogene was discovered in 2007. Today, it is regarded as one of the major causes of non-smallcell lung cancer (adenocarcinoma). Other similar oncogenes include BRAF, EGFR, HER2, KIT and KRAS, whose driver mutations have been shown to cause cancer in various tissues. A local tumour does not usually kill the patient; death is caused by the spread of the cancer to other tissues. This is why the mechanisms of cancer cell infiltration and metastasis formation are extremely interesting. To be able to spread, cancer cells must go through several molecular alterations that allow them to break away from the original tumour, travel through the circulatory and/ or lymphatic system and attach to a new site, while evading the body’s defence mechanisms. In the field of cancer research, progress has been made, for example, in the study of SRC, MET and integrin genes. Changes in their function have been linked to the biology of cancer spread. The inappropriate activation of the MET gene, for example, triggers several harmful intracellular reactions, which increase tumour growth and the formation of tumour blood vessels, as well as help cancer cells to spread to other parts of the body. By studying the internal structure and microenvironment of tumours, researchers can analyse the interactions between cancer cells and adjacent normal cells and tissues. These interactions have been observed to influence the growth rate of cancer cells and the spread of cancer. The interdependence of tumour cells and connective tissue cells is also a potential therapy target when attempting to prevent the development of blood vessels feeding a tumour. 30

Cancer stem cells are a hot topic of research. This is because of the hypothesis that only cancer stem cells would have the ability to initiate a new tumour in another part of the body after cancer cell migration. If this idea proves to be correct and only a fraction of cancer cells possess growth and spread potential, it will have a significant impact on the fight against cancer. It will enable earlier and more accurate diagnosis, and improve opportunities for targeted therapy. The Hedgehog and Wnt signalling pathways are crucial to normal embryogenesis and tissue formation, but both also contribute to cancer progression. Especially regarding the cancer stem cell theory, disruptions of these signalling pathways may explain why some cancer cells retain an uncontrolled ability to self-renew and spread. Both of these signalling pathways are also potential treatment targets for preventing the formation of metastases. Advances in research technologies The general development of technology promotes research and treatment of several diseases. With regard to cancers, the rapid progress made in the research equipment for molecular biology, diagnostics and systems biology, in particular, has enabled a shift in perspective from the study of only one or a few genes to simultaneous analysis of the function of tens of thousands of genes. Research is currently in the post-genomic era, characterised by the use of technologies that utilise genomic information, such as bioinformatics and various ‘omics’ technologies (e.g. transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics). Large-scale international cancer research projects are under way; examples include sequencing the genome of 25,000 tumours and identifying oncogene mutations in the lung cancer samples of over 1,000 patients. A new challenge is the enormous amount of information obtained, which hinders its opVTT IMPULSE – SCIENCE

File: Marko Kallio Marko Kallio, Doctor of Philosophy and Adjunct Professor (Docent) of cell biology, is Principal Scientist at VTT. His research focuses on the molecular biology of cancer cell division and identification of new anti-cancer compounds. Dr. Kallio has worked at VTT as Team Leader since 2004. Prior to this, he spent five years in the US, first as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Virginia and then as Assistant Research Professor at the University of Oklahoma.


Figure 2. The development of 3D cancer cell models is progressing at VTT. The co-culture of cancer and supportive tissue cells generates structures that mimic the tumour microenvironment and histology in prostate cancer. A) A graphic representation of the tumour structures. B) A microscopic image of VTT’s 3D co-culture model. C) A fluorescence microscopy image of a 3D co-culture of prostate cancer cells and supportive tissue cells stained with antibodies (DNA: blue, integrin ß1: red and actin: green). Photos: Matthias Nees and Malin Åkerfelt.


timal use. Internationally or nationally centralised biobanks and bioinformatics solutions are aimed at removing this bottleneck. The discussion below concentrates on two key areas of research technology in which VTT is actively involved. 3D cell models to aid research A major proportion of ongoing cancer research is being conducted on cancer cell lines grown on plastic that have been derived from tumour tissue or primary cell cultures through transformation. Most of the cell lines grown are clearly different from normal cells of the same tissue type, since they do not differentiate or die. Cancer cells grown on plastic also differ from tumour cells because they are unable to form tissue structures and have no interactions with other types of cells. Due to these caveats, research performed using cells grown on plastic can produce results that contrast sharply with the results of animal and clinical tests. This complicates the application of basic research to drug development, for example. It is believed that new cancer cell models will provide a partial solution to this problem. One option is so-called 3D cell models, in which normal or cancer cells are grown in a gel-like matrix instead of a plastic vessel. The matrix allows the cells to differentiate and create similar 3D tissue structures, in terms of form and function that are encountered in tissues from which the cells originate.



100 µm

The models are particularly suitable for studying epithelial and endothelial cells, since these are able to differentiate in the matrix and thus manifest many of the physiological features and functions typical of tissue cells, unlike cells grown on plastic surfaces. The most recent and highly challenging area of development in 3D cell models is the co-culture of various cell types, aimed at modelling the tumour microenvironment (Figure 2). Co-culture in a 3D environment enables the enhanced study of interactions between cancer and supportive tissue cells and their importance to cell differentiation and transformation. Cellular structures grown in a 3D environment can be treated with various drugs or growth factors, and the genome of the cells within these structures can be experimentally manipulated. Living 3D tissues can be analysed in a range of ways by means of imaging, and large amounts of them can be grown and collected for various biochemical assays. Because of these strengths, 3D cancer cell models are situated between traditional cell models on plastic surfaces and in vivo animal tests. These serve in various test arrangements related to cancer biology and pharmacology by providing more accurate and, biologically speaking, more meaningful information on the effects of experimental drugs before the initiation of expensive animal tests. In future, 3D cancer cell models will surely also be used in cancer stem cell research, which is expected to substantially improve un-



New diagnostic tools help to determine the cancer subtype and the most effective treatment.

derstanding of the development processes of cancers and their treatment opportunities. Diagnostics aims for increasingly personalised treatment When traditional diagnostic methods are used, the breast cancers of two patients may seem identical, but their drug responses are likely to be different from each other due to the genetic differences of the cancer cells. Cancer diagnostics can be roughly divided into clinical pathology and screening. Advances are made annually in both of these, as new antibodies and gene probes are introduced for cell and tissue sample analysis. In the coming years these tools will be supplemented by molecular pathology methods, such as DNA sequencing and molecular karyotyping, which will become routinely used. These methods enable highly accurate identification of genetic mutations and other DNA alterations in cancer cells. During the last decade, significant progress has been made in cancer diagnostics by means of imaging techniques. Mammography and Xray computed tomography will continue to be the basic techniques used that will also benefit from the development of new enhanced pattern recognition and analysis software. The use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) in cancer diagnostics will increase and become a routine procedure, particularly in determining the extent of metastasis and response to treatment. 32

In the future, all the above-mentioned diagnostic tools will facilitate more accurate identification of the cancer subtype and selection of the most effective treatment. They will also help to provide a more accurate prognosis, and to monitor a tumour’s response to a drug. In general, the latest developments in cancer diagnostics are aimed at increasingly personalised treatments, which will presumably raise the average five-year survival rate of patients. This will have the indirect impact of lowering treatment costs, as expensive therapies can be targeted at patients who will most benefit from them and cases of false (over)diagnosis are reduced. On the other hand, costs will increase since diagnostic personnel will be required to have more in-depth expertise and knowledge of the equipment. There will also be annual growth in sample volumes in hospitals and in the number of people screened. Development of new forms of treatment Surgical treatment will remain the primary form of treatment for solid tumours, complemented by radiotherapy and chemotherapy. More accurate diagnostics and the development of surgical and imaging technologies will enable more precise determination of the surgery area, as well as the combination of primary and revision surgery. In surgery, the challenge will be securing the required level of expertise, as the need for training is constantly increasing. Maintaining VTT IMPULSE – SCIENCE




0 hours 12 hours

The chromosomes move during the cell divide with the aid of microtubules

Picture: Marko Kallio


24 hours Hec1 protein complex

Hec1 protein complex facilitates the connections between microtubules and chromosomes

Hec1 inhibitor

Novel Hec1 inhibitors identified at VTT prevent normal microtubulechromosome interactions

Hec1 inhibitors suppress cell division leading to death of cancer cells

Figure 3. VTT’s Hec1 inhibitors suppress division of cancer cells and cause cell death.

the necessary multiprofessional teams in hospitals is also difficult in these times of costcutting in the health care sector. The need for radiotherapy will grow in the foreseeable future on account of it being effective, inexpensive and well-tolerated. New imaging technologies, such as MRI and PET, either alone or in combination, are already aiding the planning and targeting of radiotherapy. Antibodies are increasingly being used for delivery of radioisotopes to a tumour (radioimmunology), allowing for more accurate treatment. Boron neutron capture therapy (BNCT) is a promising treatment in the fight against cancers of the head and neck. If the financial problems surrounding the research reactor at Otaniemi that is suitable for this therapy can be reseolved, VTT and its partners have an opportunity to place themselves in the front line of BNCT research. A new development in the radiotherapy sector is equipment producing protons and carbon-ions, which enables extremely accurate targeting of the treatment. There is no such equipment in Finland as yet. Fighting cancer with vaccines has sparked interest and discussion. The role of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection in the development of cervical cancer is unquestionable. Hepatitis virus infections (HBV, HCV) have been found to increase the risk of liver cancer. HPV vaccines available on the market protect against the virus infection and hence VTT IMPULSE – SCIENCE

also against the early stages of cervical cancer. The immunisation programme under consideration could, in the best-case scenario, prevent approximately 150 cases of cervical cancer in Finland each year. The amount of chemotherapy and biological therapy provided is projected to grow annually, since certain new drug molecules and antibody therapies work on even some advanced cancers. Since the beginning of the new millennium, medicines agencies in various countries have approved more than 80 cancer drugs for clinical use, and 5 to 15 new drugs are approved every year. ‘Targeted drugs’, such as Erbitux (cetuximab), Glivec/Gleevec (imatinib mesylate) and Herceptin (trastuzumab), work by inhibiting certain signalling pathways that are activated in cancer cells. Therefore these drugs are most effective against those cancer subtypes that are fuelled by the defective target signalling pathway. The era of personalised therapy will truly begin once understanding of the molecular biology of cancer improves, molecular pathology diagnostics become more common, and the number of precision drugs increases. However, to achieve this, more than just research and new medication are needed. Major, expensive changes are also required at national and international levels: research institutes and hospitals will need to improve their collaboration and data transmission, and cancer treatments must be further centralised. 33


5 µm

150 µm

mm 128 1 mm Ca. 30 000 individual cell islands (spots) are grown on a small biochip developed at VTT. One cell spot has a diameter of ~150 µm and contains 50–200 cells. In each cell spot, one selected gene of the human genome is functionally silenced allowing genome-wide RNAi analyses on a single biochip.

The consequences of gene silencing are visualised using versatile high-content reporter assays with immunofluorescent probes or antibodies. On the left, parts of a biochip imaged using a fluorescence scanner. Above, microscope images of antibody labelled cells in a spot.

Figure 4. VTT’s CellSpot-Microarray method enhances the efficacy of genome-wide studies of cancer genes.

Furthermore, to maintain Finland’s ability to generate new innovations for defeating cancer, the funding for the development of cancer research and diagnostics must be secured. VTT’s contribution in the fight against cancer Since 2003, VTT has been conducting internationally recognised cancer research and developing new technologies for cancer and systems biologists. VTT’s R&D in this field is concentrated at the VTT Biotechnology for Health and Well-being unit in Turku, Finland. Here research focuses on the molecular biology of hormonal cancers, such as prostate and breast cancer as well as on general questions of cancer biology, such as why cancer cells divide without control and how they spread. Also carried out is translational research with focus on identification of new drug targets and novel small molecules that restrain the growth of tumours. Examples of the most significant recent achievements include characterisation of the HES6 gene function in glioma, clarification of the importance of integrin signalling errors for cancer cell migration, determination of the role of lysophosphatidic acid and sphingosine-1-phosphate in the spread of prostate cancer, and discovery of novel compounds targeting Hec1 (Figure 3), which has generated interest in the pharmaceutical industry. 34

In addition, VTT is involved in a number of international cancer projects, the largest of which is PREDECT, funded by the EU and the European pharmaceutical industry. This 17-million-euro project, scheduled to run for five years, aims to develop novel cancer models and to compare the results from the models with the data from clinical studies, thereby improving the process of early-stage drug discovery. On the technology side, VTT has developed three new research platforms – CellSpot-Microarray, Arrays-in-Wells and Protein Lysate Array – as well as new 3D cancer cell models. CellSpot-Microarray is a miniaturised gene chip that enables rapid functional genome-wide gene analysis (Figure 4). Arraysin-Wells is a microarray platform for a range of diagnostic purposes, and Protein Lysate Array is a miniaturised biochip for versatile protein level measurements. The pilot projects for these technologies are nearing completion, and the aim is to commercialise, in collaboration with industry partner, those applications and platforms that make it to the finish line. Vision for 2025 In 2025, the number of new cancer cases diagnosed annually will be 30 per cent higher than today. The main reasons for the growing numVTT IMPULSE – SCIENCE

Photos Petri Saviranta and Juha Rantala

20 µm 85 mm

In 2025, the number of new cases of cancer diagnosed annually will be 30 per cent higher than today.

ber of patients are the ageing of the population, more accurate diagnostics and a rise in the standard of living in developing countries, which means that hundreds of millions of new people will have access to cancer diagnostics for the first time in their lives. The rates of death from cancer have continued to decline in Western countries, but the deep gap between Western and developing countries in the treatment of cancer has not changed. More than 70 per cent of deaths from cancer still occur in low- and middle-income countries. New personalised forms of cancer therapies have become more common, especially in Western countries, but their high cost has limited their widespread use. By 2025, a few significant advances have been made in cancer research, and scientists understand better the underlying mechanisms of cancer and why cancer spreads. In addition, new knowledge of the genetic and functional differences between normal and cancer cells as well about the biology of cancer stem cells has enabled development of novel therapies that are in clinical practise in 2025. Research will also be advanced by new biobanks and centralised data-mining workshops. In the future, innovative 3D cancer cell models support basic research and drug development, and accelerate the launch of new drugs. New forms of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy have been introduced in cancer treatment, enabling local cancers in particular to be cured increasingly often. Metastasised cancers and cancer recurrence continue to be major problems in 2025 but new precision drugs, for example, ones that inhibit tumour angiogenesis or kill cancer stem cells offer better disease management. Drug development and diagnostics continue to be driven by new technological breakthroughs, such as fourth-generation DNA sequencing instruments, which will enable cost-effective deep-sequencing of the genome of a patient’s tumour in a matter of days. VTT IMPULSE – SCIENCE

Sequencing information and new biomarkers will permit earlier and more accurate diagnosis, selection of drugs for individual patients on the basis of the tumour genome, and near real-time monitoring of treatment response. In the future, people will be paying more and more attention to their own health and avoid exposure to factors that have been proven to cause cancer. In 2025, the number of known carcinogens will be much higher than today. Despite these advances, it will take at least several decades before the fight against cancer can be won – if it is ever possible. On the other hand, the disease can be managed much better in the future, and an increasing number of cancer patients are cured permanently. In 2025, VTT will be a leading technology institute developing innovative solutions for cancer research and systems biology as well as for diagnostics. The first applications, such as Arrays-In-Wells and CellSpot-Microarray, will be widely used and benefit cancer research all over the world.

References Finnish Cancer Registry website, syoparekisteri/tilastot/ Greaves, M., Maley, CC. 2012. Clonal evolution in cancer. Nature. 481, pp. 306–316. Hermanson, T., Vertio, H. ja Mattson, J. 2009. Syövän hoidon kehittäminen vuosina 2010–2020, työryhmän raportti. ISBN 978-952-00-2971-5. Nguyen, L.V., Vanner, R., Dirks, P., Eaves, C.J. 2012. Cancer stem cells: an evolving concept. Nat Rev Cancer. 12, pp. 133–143. Pao, W., Girard, N. 2011. New driver mutations in non-small-cell lung cancer. Lancet Oncol. 12, Feb;12(2), pp. 175–80. Soda et al. 2007. Identification of the transforming EML4–ALK fusion gene in non-small-cell lung cancer. Nature. 448, pp. 561–566. World Health Organization – Fact sheet on cancer,



Text: Lasse Makkonen

Surface physics revised Despite the progress made in nanoscale measurement and modelling methods, certain fundamental phenomena in surface physics are poorly understood. A new way of thinking is needed.


he surface of a solid material plays a key role in countless everyday phenomena and industrial processes. Understanding surface physics and developing new types of surfaces are therefore great technological challenges, and VTT conducts a large amount of research and development in this field. Examples of R&D targets are wear-resistant, extremely slippery surfaces and water- and dirtrepellent surfaces. Functional surfaces, whose properties vary depending on the conditions, are also being developed at VTT. Many highly advanced methods are used to measure surface phenomena and characterise surface properties (Figure 1). For example, atomic force microscopy enables the study of surfaces at the nanoscale. Surfaces can also be studied theoretically by means of molecular dynamics modelling. This involves modelling the behaviour of a large group of molecules on a computer when the interactive forces between the molecules are assumed to be known. However, the connection between such atomic-scale and practical phenomena is not that simple, and there are many surface phenomena that molecular dynamics modelling has not been able to explain. Classical physics is therefore still needed. Ice – slippery, yet adhesive Take ice, for example. The slippery surface of ice contributes to tens of thousands of car accidents each year throughout the world. In Finland, more 36

people die or are injured in slipping on ice accidents than in car accidents. Here the slipperiness of ice is a major factor. In winter sports, slipperiness is a useful property, also experimented on at VTT (Figure 2). All in all, improving the theoretical understanding of the slipperiness of ice would help steer the development of various applications in the right direction and help generate new ideas. Michael Faraday and Lord Kelvin argued about why ice is slippery as long as 150 years ago, but new ways of applying classical physics were needed to solve this question. In his doctoral thesis, Pekka Oksanen, Senior Scientist at VTT, developed a thermodynamic model based on lubrication provided by a film of water formed by frictional heating on the surface of ice. This model continues to be developed at VTT. Lasse Makkonen, in turn, disproved the old explanation for why a liquid film exists on the surface of ice even in temperatures below 0°C. According to him, the surface melting of ice results from the surface pressure caused by the surface itself. These models have been applied at VTT to the development of tyres, for example. Ice adhesion to surfaces is also studied at VTT, and there are a number of related applications. Ice formation is a major cause of aircraft accidents and hampers the operation of wind VTT IMPULSE – SCIENCE

turbines in arctic conditions. With the latter in mind, VTT has developed a system for preventing icing on wind turbine blades, whose use is constantly expanding. Some of these studies were reported on in the summer in the news section of Science magazine.

Measuring friction and wear

Surface has energy Surface energy is a key concept in the theory of surface physics. It refers to the minimum amount of work that must be performed to form a surface. Splitting an object, for example, requires work. Part of this work may be spent on deformations. Surface energy is defined as the work required creating a surface even if no deformations occur.

Solids possess surface energy, but do they also have surface tension? This concept, introduced by Willard Gibbs, is a thermodynamic quantity, and thermodynamics does not explain where such energy is stored on the surface at the atomic level. The surface energy does, however, exist on all surfaces, and it can be thought of as being connected to the imbalance of atomic forces across the interface. In principle, it should also be measurable. However, determining the surface energy for solids has been problematic. It is equally difficult for the solid-liquid interface, and this has hindered the understanding of microphysics of melting and solidification. Microphysics of this kind is an essential element of metals production, for example.

Figure 1. Technology Manager Aino Helle getting ready for a laboratory test measuring friction and wear at a high temperature.

Figure 2. Senior Scientist Risto Hakala conducting a field experiment by pulling a sled on snow to measure friction. Research Scientist Erkki Järvinen provides the normal force required for the measurement (photo from 1986).

Do solids have surface tension? The surface energy of liquids is the same as their surface tension. This is easy to measure on the basis of the size of a drop formed in certain conditions, for example. VTT IMPULSE – SCIENCE



Figure 3. Leonardo da Vinci’s sketch illustrating the independence of friction force of the contact area when the normal force is constant. Source:

A question that naturally follows is: since solids possess surface energy, do they also have surface tension? The question is important for the development of electrocapillary phenomena and microsensors. This also has implications for nanotechnology, in which forces related to the curvature of surfaces are significant. The so-called Shuttleworth equation sought to answer this question 60 years ago. The equation maintained that solid materials have surface tension in the same way liquids do, although not of the same magnitude. The Shuttleworth equation has generally been regarded as one of the basic equations of surface thermodynamics. However, three years ago British scientist David Bottomley and VTT researchers Lasse Makkonen and Kari Kolari claimed that the Shuttleworth equation is incompatible with the thermodynamic theory, prompting lively debate in scientific journals. A new approach to the subject was needed. Lasse Makkonen went on to show mathematically that the disputed equation has no connection with the energy required to create a surface, since it reduces to the definition of mechanical surface stress. Consequently, surface tension on a solid does not exist in the conventional meaning. The manuscript met with opposition at first, but later became the most popular article in Scripta Materialia, and was reported on in Materials Today magazine. What causes friction? Another key problem in surface physics is friction. Sliding friction, which is related to the 38

motion between two surfaces, can be considered as one of the most important phenomena in applied physics. Sliding friction affects almost all everyday phenomena and technological processes. To provide an example, VTT’s studies show that globally in 2009, over 200 billion litres of fuel were used in passenger cars to overcome friction. Introducing the best available technical solutions for overcoming friction in all cars worldwide could, theoretically speaking, generate cost savings of over 500 billion euros each year. In the section on the slipperiness of ice, it was mentioned that the thermodynamic model of ice friction developed at VTT is based on melting caused by frictional heating. But what are the fundamental causes of friction and frictional heating – i.e. when two bodies are moving relative to each other without any lubricating liquid? When an object slides on a surface, it may plough across it, creating a groove and wear particles. Their creation involves a force that opposes the motion. Friction research related to wear is therefore conducted actively by VTT’s tribology research team, and the associated phenomena are explored by means of the laws of mechanics. Nanoscale experiments, however, have demonstrated that a large friction force is also present in sliding when no melting, wear or deformation occurs. No wonder that the fundamental origin of friction has been studied scientifically for hundreds of years, starting with Leonardo da Vinci’s pioneering work (Figure 3). Later on, VTT IMPULSE – SCIENCE

File: Lasse Makkonen Lasse Makkonen, Doctor of Philosophy, is Principal Scientist at VTT. He is best known for his models of ice accretion, which are used worldwide in designing structures such as communication towers and power lines. Makkonen is Adjunct Professor (Docent) at the University of Helsinki and has also worked as Academy Senior Fellow in Finland and as Visiting Professor at the University of Alberta in Canada and Hokkaido University in Japan. His publications include 70 scientific papers in international journals, and he holds ten patents.

Charles Coulomb used this work to introduce the concept of the coefficient of friction. This was based on tests according to which the friction force that opposes the motion of an object is directly proportional to its weight, i.e. the normal force. In the 1950s, University of Cambridge researchers argued that the friction force is created on small contact areas whose total area is much smaller than the apparent contact area and that the force is directly proportional to this total area. Contact mechanics, in turn, help in deducing that the total area is proportional to the normal force. This advancement led to further development of the theory of contact mechanics, and a variety of explanations have been sought for the ultimate cause of friction on small contact areas. These attempts have not, however, been very successful. No agreement has been reached even on what causes kinetic friction, and much less on the cause of the heat invariably generated by friction. Even today, most physics text books state that the fundamental origin of friction is unknown. New explanation for sliding friction The attempts to model friction occurring on small areas of contact have been based on the idea that friction and frictional heating are created within the area limited by the contact or when contacts are broken. The new approach developed by VTT’s Lasse Makkonen is entirely different. This states that the relevant friction and friction-



al heating processes occur at the edges of the contacts. Therefore, the edges of all real contacts must be accounted for and examination performed from the perspective of the smallest possible areas of contact. These are in the nanoscale (Figure 4). This new theory is based on the thermodynamic concept of surface energy, i.e. that work is required to create a surface. The simplest case is two objects of the same material sliding against each other. The real nanocontacts between them have no interface. Since new nanocontacts are constantly being formed and old ones disappearing during the sliding process, both growing and diminishing nanocontacts are continuously present at the interface. More free surface is forming at the edges of the diminishing nanocontacts, resulting in the storage of surface energy. The force that sustains the motion must do work to form these contacts. This is how friction force is created. At the edges of the growing nanocontacts, free surface is disappearing and surface energy is being released. Makkonen’s theory has demonstrated that the surface energy thus released at the edges of the contact area must be converted to heat. This explains frictional heating. This theory can easily be expanded to contacts between surfaces of different materials. New theories are often opposed. Getting this idea published in scientific journals proved very difficult despite the fact that it is based only on the fundamental laws of physics and a new way of defining sliding through the formation and disappearance of surfaces.



Figure 4. Contact examined at various scales. Source: Makkonen (2012c).




In the new friction model, friction and frictional heating occur at the edges of nanocontacts.

One reason for this resistance was the so-called classical theory of friction, which is based on the concept of shear strength related to the breaking of contacts. Shear strength is the force measured prior to the breaking of a static material. Since nothing is static during a sliding process, such a static parameter cannot be applied to sliding. Established views are nevertheless hard to change. Opponents undoubtedly also included developers of the so-called adhesion hysteresis theory, introduced in the 1990s. In this model, friction is thought to originate as a result of the elastic behaviour of the material. The theory based on the new mechanism of friction was only accepted for publication after results supporting its findings were discovered in nanoscale friction tests conducted in the US. The publication can now be accessed freely in the AIP Advances journal of the American Institute of Physics at link/doi/10.1063/1.3699027. In June, the article topped the journal’s most-read list. From theory to practice The results of the new friction model are compatible with known experimental laws of friction. Compared to the above-mentioned nanoscale experiments, the model also provides a good explanation for the dependence of the friction force on the material, and predicts correct numerical values for it when the size of an average nanocontact is assumed to be a realistic constant value. For the first time ever, this enables the theoretical calculation of coefficients of friction for material combinations. The results also suggest that the only unknown issue in application of the theory, i.e. the size of nanocontacts, is fairly independent of the material. If this proves to be valid more generally, the applicability of the theory will increase considerably. On the other hand, the new theory provides a new perspective to controlling friction, if the size of nanocontacts can be changed in 40

a sliding situation. There have been signs of this on certain polymeric surfaces, where the orientation of molecular chains has been observed to affect friction. The theory may be used in future to find ways of controlling friction with optimised material combinations. In the new friction model, the release of surface energy occurs at the edges of nanocontacts. According to this theory, frictional heating is thus extremely localised. This view and its modelling by means of molecular dynamics models may lead to better understanding of how frictional melting changes the properties of materials in wear and burnishing processes.

References Bottomley, D. J., Makkonen, L., Kolari, K. 2009. Incompatibility of the Shuttleworth equation with Herman’s mathematical structure of thermodynamics. Surface Science, 603, pp. 97–101. Donaldson, L. 2012. Refuting the Shuttleworth equation. Materials Today 15(4), p. 139. Holmberg, K., Andersson, P., Erdemir, A. 2012. Global energy consumption due to friction in passenger cars. Tribology International 47, pp. 221–234. Holmberg, K., Ronkainen, H., Laukkanen, A., Wallin, K. 2007. Friction and wear of coated surfaces – scales, modelling and simulation of tribomechanics. Surface and Coatings Technology 202, pp. 1034–1049. Makkonen, L. 1997. Surface melting of ice. Journal of Physical Chemistry B101: pp. 6196–6200. Makkonen, L. 2000. On the methods to estimate surface energies. Langmuir 16, pp. 7669–7672. Makkonen, L. 2002. The Gibbs-Thomson equation and the solidliquid interface. Langmuir 18, pp. 1445–1448. Makkonen, L. 2010. Solid fraction in dendritic solidification of a pure liquid. Applied Physics Letters 96, 091910. Makkonen, L. 2012a. Ice adhesion – theory, measurements and countermeasures. Journal of Adhesion Science and Technology 26, pp. 413–445. Makkonen, L. 2012b. Misinterpretation of the Shuttleworth equation. Scripta Materialia 66, pp. 627–629. Makkonen, L. 2012c. A thermodynamic theory of sliding friction. AIP Advances 2, 012179. Oksanen, P., Keinonen, J. 1982. The mechanism of friction of ice. Wear 78, pp. 315–324. Underwood, E. 2012. Of ice and men. Science NOW, http://news.






KEY TERMS aerodynamics, driver assistance equipment, emission reductions, traffic safety KEY PERSONS Kimmo Erkkilä, Petri Laine KEY MESSAGE Energy-efficient and intelligent heavy vehicles reduce fuel consumption. VTT CONTACTS MORE INFORMATION


STREET SMART Heavy commercial vehicles are catching up with passenger cars in fuel efficiency. Aerodynamic solutions and a driver assistance system create savings. Text Joni Svärd Photos Vesa Tyni




uel costs are typically the largest cost item for transport companies after wages. Consequently, there is much interest in reducing fuel consumption. The issue has been explored in the justcompleted HDENIQ research project (Energyefficient and Intelligent Heavy-duty Vehicle). This jointly funded three-year project was extensive in terms of both the areas studied and the number of actors involved. VTT Senior Scientist Kimmo Erkkilä says that the HDEnergy project, implemented between 2003 and 2005, was aimed at cutting fuel consumption by around 5 to 10 per cent. In HDENIQ, this target was exceeded by a wide margin. The considerable achievements were the result of successful cooperation. Funding was provided by both the public sector and businesses. One drop goes a long way

Improving the aerodynamics of heavy vehicles has proven particularly effective for reducing fuel consumption. ”You could easily imagine that once a combination vehicle weighing 60 tonnes is moving, air resistance does not matter much, but measurements show that at typical road speeds it accounts for about half the total resistance,” Erkkilä notes. VTT engaged subcontractors in the project and ordered the necessary pieces for improving aerodynamics from them. As part of the aerodynamics package, air deflectors were installed between the cabin and cargo space and air panels between cargo spaces. A streamlining structure was mounted at the end of the trailer’s cargo space to enhance the flow of air. Tyres and chassis structures were also covered. A heavy combination vehicle equipped in this way was thoroughly tested for the effect of the various parts, and the results were very positive. The drag coefficient dropped by 29 per cent. Depending on mileage, fuel consumption dropped by 12–13 per cent when compared to a vehicle fitted with a standard-type air deflector. ”In principle, the solutions are in compliance with the Finnish Road Traffic Act, but vehicle length is strictly regVTT IMPULSE – TECHNOLOGY


The aerodynamic combination vehicle built by VTT reduces fuel consumption by 12–13 per cent. Research Scientist Petri Laine demonstrates the test vehicle.

ulated in the EU for competitive reasons, among others. Never­theless, the trailing edge plays an important role in the aerodynamics of a vehicle, which is why we wanted to include it in the package,” says VTT Research Scientist Petri Laine. Since the aerodynamic structures do not increase cargo space, they have no effect on competition. Erkkilä notes that legislators have woken up to the situation and the EU has ini­ tiated discussion on allowing the maximum length for combination vehicles to be extended with aerodynamic aids. Encouraging results have now been achieved, so it is time to assess the opportunities for commercialisation. The challenge in making aerodynamic solutions a natural part of transport vehicles lies in the old-fashioned, deeply-rooted structure of the production chain for heavy-duty vehicles. ”One manufacturer makes the cabin and chassis, while the appropriate bed or other structure is made by a bodywork manufacturer. No one party has responsibility for the overall package. It’s therefore slightly challenging to find a partner to take responsibility for aerodynamic development,” Erkkilä says, describing the current situation.

It is hoped, however, that the positive research results and profitable solutions will generate discussion and interest in improving aero­dynamics. Erkkilä does not believe in seeing a ”bullet train” on the road any time soon. However, more practical aerodynamic solutions that require smaller investments could be put into production and mounted on existing vehicles fairly quickly. Go faster, says the driver assistance system

City buses are gradually becoming intelligent. This trend will also be accelerated by a driver assistance system developed by VTT, should this reach production. Research has shown that a real-time driver assistance device including a timetable and route effectively reduces fuel consumption and instances of speeding. It also helps the driver keep to the timetable. The driver assistance system has been fieldtested in 15 buses of the Nobina Group on the Jokeri route between Itäkeskus in Helsinki and Westend in Espoo. The system informs the driver if the speed is too high or too low and

Improved aerodynamics reduced fuel consumption by 12–13%.



tells him or her to accelerate or decelerate. Fast acceleration and low top speeds between stops are a good rule of thumb. If all buses running the same route are equipped with the driver assistance system and drivers follow the instructions, headway will be better maintained on busy and congested routes. ”Some drivers are so skilful that their driving is already in line with the system’s instructions. Then there are those who benefit from the system significantly,” Erkkilä says. In tests, some drivers received instructions from the assistance device, while in other buses the device only collected data on the route for analysis. The differences in fuel consumption among drivers on the same route were remarkable: more than 20 per cent between the smallest and largest amount of fuel. Driving in accordance with the instructions resulted in considerable savings: on average, fuel consumption fell by 4.6 per cent. If a bus is driven 100,000 kilometres a year with an average consumption of 45 litres, over 2,000 litres of fuel is saved every year. Standing in the aisle on a rush-hour bus

The HDENIQ project has also managed to improve the safety of bus passengers. The assistance system reduced speeding of more than 10 km/h by 85 per

cent, and higher speeds were practically eliminated. As a result of less jerky driving, standing in the aisle on a rush-hour bus was safer than before. An automatic slippery-road detector developed as part of the study is now a protected invention. Using the vehicle’s own sensors, the device collects data on minuscule changes in the level of grip. The data is relayed to a back-end system that quickly assesses changes in road conditions. If the system notices that an area is becoming slippery, it immediately alerts all vehicles in the area. ”According to a large company providing a fixed-route service, one of their city buses is damaged beyond repair each year owing to slippery winter conditions, and several others receive dents of various sizes. The monetary value of a bus is, of course, high, but automatic detection of slippery roads can also contribute to the prevention of passenger injuries,” Erkkilä observes. The detector is close to commercialisation, a few steps behind the driver assistance system. Erkkilä says that the detection system has been widely recognised as useful and functional, and is believed to have good prospects for entering the market. n

Competitive alternative to low-emission public transport EFFORTS ARE UNDER way to gain a strong position in global competition for Finnish electric commercial vehicles and the manufacturers of their components. The ECV project coordinated by VTT connects 25 to 30 research organisations and companies. Concrete research data will be provided by VTT’s new test bus environment. The eBus test platform, assembled on a Kabus Oy bus chassis, gives component manufacturers an opportunity to test batteries or other power-train components, for example, in their real operating environment. The


revised operations of VTT’s battery and vehicle laboratory are also optimised to better meet the development needs of electric vehicles and electric traffic. ECV is part of the EVE programme of the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation Tekes, aimed at boosting the development of operations related to electric vehicles and machinery in Finnish companies. Growth is sought by bringing together dispersed development. The aim is to grow from around 200 million euros in 2010 to around 2 billion euros by 2020.


KEY TERMS biotechnology, cell-based screening method, cell array screening, Turku KEY PERSONS Johanna Ivaska, Riitta Lahesmaa, Merja Perälä, Kaler vo Väänänen KEY MESSAGE The cell-based screening methods developed by V T T researchers open up new opportunities for personalised cancer treatment and targeted drugs. VTT CONTACTS MORE INFORMATION

Blocking cancer cells Cell array screening is paving the way for targeted drugs. Text Vesa Kaartinen Photos Vesa-Matti Väärä





VTT’s automated high-throughput robotics is also utilised in cell array screening.


TT and the University of Turku have gained worldwide recognition with their three cancer studies prompted by the cellbased screening methods developed by VTT researchers. The research team of Professor Johanna Ivaska made headlines with its discovery of gene silencing mechanisms that inhibit the spread of cancer cells. The movement of these cells is the key to metastasis. If cancer cells do not move, metastasis is impossible. ”The idea was that we would not attempt to guess, on the basis of existing literature, which genes slow down the movement of cancer cells. Instead, we used VTT’s gene silencing library and a new revolutionary cell array screening method. With the help of these, we began to search for shared factors that affect the efficiency of cell movement in 14 cancer cell lines,” says Ivaska.

Dozens of findings were made. The spread of cancer cells can be directly influenced by silencing the activity of two genes. The research teams of Ivaska and Professor Marko Salmi, in turn revealed that the movement and activity of inflammatory cells and of lung and prostate cancer cells is regulated by the sharpin protein. It is likely that sharpin also plays an important role in inflammatory diseases, such as psoriasis, rheumatism, MS and Crohn’s disease. Aiming at targeted drugs

The research results open the way for new personalised cancer treatments and targeted drugs. ”By performing a relatively easy measurement, you can identify the disease characteristics of a person diagnosed with cancer and the likelihood of metastasis. If the movement of genes could be inhibited with a drug, this could also prevent the spread of the cancer,” Ivaska says.

The spread of cancer cells can be directly influenced by silencing the activity of the two genes. 48


Collaboration creates critical mass VTT ESTABLISHED THE Medical Biotechnology knowledge centre in Turku in 2002. Cooperation with the University of Turku began immediately. Additional momentum to research at the Turku biocampus is given by Åbo Akademi University. A recent proof of the power of collaboration is the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU 2012), in which the University of Turku’s ranking was between 301 and 400 among the best 500 universities. In the QS World University Rankings by Subject, Turku made it to the top 200 in the world. Turku’s assets were biology and biochemistry, molecular biology and genetics, microbiology, immunology, neurosciences, ecology and environmental sciences and agricultural sciences. ”Active contacts and collaboration generate the critical mass required to achieve results in science. What is needed is a sufficient number of competent people interested in similar issues who provide each other with new insights as well support,” says Johanna Ivaska. She is herself a model example of collaboration à la Turku, being a Professor at both VTT and the University of Turku. Many other VTT research scientists are adjunct professors or students at the university. ”Finland is a small country, and our scientific communities are small compared to many campuses in the world. When you bring two communities together, the result is more than the sum of its parts,” Ivaska explains. Campus resources jointly used According to Director Riitta Lahesmaa, Turku Centre for Biotechnology has striven for more than 20 years to provide equal access to the resources of the various parties for all teachers and researchers on the Turku campus. ”When VTT came to Turku, the idea was that they would introduce and provide new technologies that the university does not yet have.” Lahesmaa feels that in a close-knit community, it is easy to offer your own know-how and make use of that


make use of others’ knowhow and offer you own. Young researchers, especially, have a better chance of getting off to a good start in this kind of environment. ”For example, VTT makes available new research technologies that are not yet known at the university. The university, in turn, has a great amount of equipment that VTT does not have,” Ivaska points out. Kalervo Väänänen, Rector of the University of Turku, emphasises that the top results have been achieved costeffectively. ”Collaboration has led to the creation of more activities, and this has been done more economically than if both of us had made the same investments on our own.” Väänänen also encourages sector-specific research institutes to engage in more active cooperation with universities. Basic research – the foundation for business Riitta Lahesmaa notes that research and the commercialisation of inventions in the bio-sector are at a major turning point. ”Basic research is essential, so that we can at least understand what the results mean and in which direction business should be taken,” Lahesmaa says. She uses the discovery of sharpin as an example. ”Research results do not even need to be directly linked to business if they help us to better understand cell biology or the mechanism of a disease. With new methods, we can approach issues that could not be studied previously. In this way, we can make novel discoveries.” According to Ivaska, early-stage basic research conducted by companies has, on the global scale, recently moved back towards universities and research institutes. She sees this as a good trend. ”However pure an academic researcher you are, I believe that at least in the biomedical field, everyone is essentially motivated by the desire to conduct a study that will some day benefit a patient.”


Prostate cancer in cell array screening Research team: Teijo Pellinen, Antti Arjonen, Juha Rantala, John-Patrick Mpindi, Olli Kallioniemi and Johan­ na Ivaska Key results: • Cancer cell activity, which can easily be measured in a laboratory, is directly linked to the ability of these cells to metastasise. • Gene silencing can prevent the spread of cancer cells in the body. • Screening for regulators of cancer cell activity can lead to the discovery of new candidates for pharmaceutical development. The study was published in the distinguished Journal of Cell Science.

Sharpin in cell array screening

Principal Scientist Merja Perälä points out that every cancer is different. Her team participated in a study that showed that compounds such as heparin may prevent the spread of breast cancer to bones. ”The vision is that cell array studies could some day be conducted on individual cancer patients. This would mean that patients could be better classified and everyone would be given just the right kind of drugs,” Perälä says.

Research team: Juha K. Rantala, Jeroen Pouwels, Teijo Pelli­nen, Stefan Veltel, Petra Laasola, Elina Mattila, Christopher S. Potter, Ted Duffy, John P. Sundberg, Olli Kallioniemi, Janet A. Askari, Martin J. Humphries, Maddy Parsons, Marko Salmi, Johan­ na Ivaska Key results: • The sharpin protein regulates the movement and activity of inflammatory cells and of lung and prostate cancer cells. • It is likely that sharpin also plays an important role in other diseases, such as Crohn’s disease, psoriasis, rheumatism and even MS. The study was published in November 2011 in Nature Cell Biology, the most respected journal in the field. In September, the study was awarded the national Medix Prize as the best scientific paper of the year in biomedicine.

”Crawling replaced by rolling”

Breast cancer in cell array screening

In spite of the expectations and promising prospects, Ivaska cautions against hoping for quick solutions. Basic research has shown that metastasis and cell movement is an extremely complicated process. ”When I began to work on my doctoral thesis, it was believed that if all attachment receptors could be blocked, we would have the perfect drug for cancer. But when we learned how to stop the activity of attachment receptors, cancer cells changed their mode of movement from crawling to rolling,” Ivaska explains. ”Follow-up research could, in any case, provide physicians with new means of determining how likely a cancer is to spread and how aggressive the treatment required by the patient.”

Research team: Sirkku Pollari, Rami S. Käkönen, Jhalid S. Mohammad, Jukka P. Rissanen, Jussi M. Halleen, Anni Wärri, Liisa Nissinen, Marjo Pihla­ visto, Anne Marjamäki, Merja Perälä, Theresa A. Guise, Olli Kallioniemi, Sanna-Maria Käkönen Key results: • Compounds such as heparin (an anticoagulant) reduce the growth of breast cancer cells in the bone and the resulting bone fractures. • Such compounds may prevent breast cancer from spreading to bones. The study was published in the online version of Molecular Cancer Research in April.

Tumour cells isolated from a patient, on the surface of a cell microchip. Cell array technology enables rapid screening of the genetic functions of cells.



The functions of tens of thousands of genes can be screened simultaneously with one microarray.

What is cell array screening? CELL ARRAY SCREENING is an umbrella term for various research methods used in genome-level cellbiologi­cal testing on a microscopic glass slide. The father of the method is Olli Kallioniemi, Director of the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland FIMM. Before his current post, he was Academy Professor and Executive Vice President, Strategic Research at VTT’s Medical Biotechnology unit in Turku. He was also involved in launching research collaboration on the use of genomic data between VTT and the Universities of Turku and Helsinki. Juha Rantala helped Kallioniemi in the development of the method. Today, he is a Research Scientist at VTT and a research assistant professor at OHSU Knight Cancer Institute in Portland, USA. The result was a gene silencing technology that revo­lutionised the functional research of gene products. Now a single microarray can be used to screen the functions of tens of thousands of genes simultaneously by means of RNA interference. Traditional methods only allow a few hundred genes to be screened with each microplate.


The benefits of cell array screening are: • Can be performed on the basis of a gene library. • Enables the simultaneous study of the activity of all genes in a genome (in traditional hypothesis-based research, only one gene, protein or sample is studied at a time). • Provides information on the consequences of gene expression (not only on levels of expression). • Significantly increases the likelihood of valuable research findings and breakthroughs (the large amount of research data calls for efficient methods of analysis and prioritisation). • The large number of samples brings cost savings and requires less human resources, in addition to speeding up research work. • Accelerates the application of genetic data to diagnostics, pharmaceutical development and patient care.


KEY TERMS research collaboration, researcher exchange, international research, Politecnico di Milano KEY PERSONS Pierangelo Metrangolo, Roberto Milani, Anne-Christine Ritschkoff, Giorgio Visetti KEY MESSAGE The tight research collaboration between V T T and Politecnico di Milano benefits both parties. V TT CONTACTS MORE INFORMATION

Italy and Finland: a synergy of a maiden and a boot Promising collaboration bridging Finnish-Italian business and research is on the rise – thanks to one man. Text Joanna Sinclair Photos Daniela Berruti, iStockphoto



Through his own efforts Professor Pierangelo Metrangolo has accelerated research cooperation between Finland and Italy.


n the map of Europe, two countries stand out for their shape. Italy is known as a majestic boot, Finland as a fair maiden. Incidentally, shape is a top priority to both: their design is world famous. In addition to aesthetic ingenuity, Italy and Finland are also known for outstanding scientific achievements. In years to come, more research will be conducted as a joint effort. VTT’s cooperation with one of Europe’s leading universities, Politecnico di Milano, PoliMI has been further strengthened with an agreement of collaboration. Great synergy and business benefits are anticipated from this partnership, which is to a large extent the brainchild of one man: Professor Pierangelo Metrangolo. Metrangolo needs no introductions in the field of supramolecular chemistry. Much of VTT IMPULSE – TECHNOLOGY

Metrangolo’s own research has concentrated on the use of halogen bonding in the self-assembly of functional materials. Building bridges

VTT and PoliMI have a general agreement stating the intention of working together and have decided upon issues such as the exchange of research students, conducting research together and sharing material. “We make a great pair,” says Pierangelo Metrangolo. “PoliMI is a talent pool that meets any expectations. As a research institute, VTT creates solutions directly valuable to business, something a university rarely achieves alone. Furthermore, the Milan university has the means to conduct long term fundamental research that benefits VTT in many ways.” “In the future, I aim to boost the exchange of scientists and students between VTT, PoliMI 53

Value networks, EU funding and love

Everybody wins ITALIAN AMBASSADOR TO Finland Giorgio Visetti is a keen promoter of collaboration. He declares that Finnish and Italian skills complement each other especially well in both research and design. Visetti was no stranger to Finland when he was appointed Ambassador. His earliest experiences of Finland date back to the 1960s, when Visetti – a young boy at the time – lived in Finland with his parents for four years. “Already back then, design was a part of everyone’s life in Finland. Even the infrastructure was a tribute to great design. Helsinki’s satellite town Tapiola epitomised this,” Visetti reminisces. “When Finns and Italians create, they aim at producing masterpieces. Another thing we have in common is our ambition in research; we both genuinely aspire to have an impact on the world,” Visetti says. Ambassador Visetti has high hopes for future research collaboration between Italy and Finland. “Important cooperation between universities and research centres are being established or already in full speed. One relevant realization is the COSMO-SkyMed Receiving station in Sodankylä,” Visetti explains, referring to the partnership between the Finnish Meteorological Institute and Italian e-GEOS, which aims to have a satellite system monitoring the formation and movement of ice in the Baltic and Arctic regions before the end of 2012. VTT’s newly established collaboration with PoliMI is a prime example of the kind of joint efforts Visetti is promoting. “I have great expectations of the research these two will achieve together. The combination is a winning one. I look forward to findings that will simultaneously advance science, enable new business and have a large scale positive impact on our wellbeing as societies, through for example advanced healthcare and infrastructure”, Visetti lists. 54

Top research often comes from collaboration that spans borders created by institutions, countries, or fields of science. VTT strives to make the most of international cooperation, whatever its origin. VTT’s Vice President of Strategic Research Anne-Christine Ritschkoff explains why. “We do not pursue international collaboration for the sake of being international. There is always an underlying purpose. Our goal is to create research results that benefit Finland’s economy by driving our businesses to create new growth. Everything we do is done with this aim in mind. We build cooperation that adds to international awareness of Finnish business and enables Finnish businesses to build value networks around the globe.” Ritschkoff emphasises that all VTT’s international collaboration is vigilantly managed, but that there are absolutely no set rules on how collaboration should begin. “It would be foolish to close doors by establishing exactly how collaboration is born. Sometimes it is EU funding, sometimes business needs drive us to seek new partners, and sometimes a foreign researcher marries someone Finnish, or a VTT scientist finds love abroad.” “We know from experience that new synergy, innovations and great collaboration can come from most anywhere. We take every cooperation opportunity seriously and give it thorough consideration. When it makes sense, we make it happen,” Ritschkoff proclaims.


Italians and Finns make a surprisingly good team in research.

and IIT, the Italian Institute of Technology. The synergy will be even greater. I am also generating joint initiatives for EU research programmes.” Businesses already benefitting

VTT and PoliMI are already making their mark on the Italian markets. Some time ago, Metrangolo brought attention to a challenge a leading Italian oil company needed to solve effectively. Together PoliMI and VTT set up a project that uses biotechnology to improve the company’s oil recovery process. The project is half way through and its results highly positive. “This project is but one example of the impact we hope to have together. Our cooperation will be multidisciplinary, spanning most

any field of research we find mutually beneficial to work on together. We will pool resources from both to create high impact results to the world of academia and business alike,” Metrangolo asserts. Sometimes establishing collaboration is a result of years of team work – and at times it takes only one man to start a positive ripple effect spanning two countries. What inspired Metrangolo to work towards establishing collaboration between VTT and PoliMI? “The best reason,” Metrangolo smiles, “is that my life partner is Finnish. As I got to know Finland and VTT, I saw that collaboration would make perfect sense. We have so much to gain from conducting research together. Thus I started working towards that goal.” ■

Eureka moments meet meticulous planning ONE OF THE Italian researchers currently working for VTT in Finland is Roberto Milani, who is following suit with Pierangelo Metrangolo by bridging collaboration between different departments. “I previously conducted much of my research on surface chemistry, now I am looking at it from the bionanomaterials perspective. Fascinating areas to work in,” Milani affirms. “I am excited about our new Academy of Finland funded project, Unraveling Biomolecule-Halocarbon Interactions. It will play an important role in strengthening our collaboration between Finland and Italy,” he adds. Milani initially came to Finland for one year, but once the year was nearing its end, Milani realised he did not want to leave. He has now been at VTT for two and half years. “Research is of course the main inspiration to stay; VTT offers exceptional opportunities and great minds to work with. This is a very good work environment.”


“Also Finland as a country has played its part in luring me to stay. I enjoy being here. English is spoken everywhere, Finns are dedicated, hardworking and they create impressive results,” Milani lists. “People will go out of their way to help you. They will not count the hours they spend or the effort they make to ensure things are working for you. I think this is an aspect of Finns that many do not know about.” As Milani explains, cultural stereotypes seem like historic relics in today’s global world. Nevertheless in research, some age old images ring true. Finns are meticu­lous planners, Italians more prone to bursts of energy and Eureka moments. “Italians and Finns make a surprisingly good team in research. Perhaps it is our strengths balancing out each other’s weaknesses,” Milani laughs.


KEY TERMS navigation, cargo transport, Arctic climate, ice regulations KEY PERSONS Jaakko Heinonen, Seppo Kivimaa, Pekka Koskinen KEY MESSAGE Increased traffic in Arctic regions sets new demands on the performance of ships. VTT CONTACTS MORE INFORMATION



The Arctic arms race has begun Global warming has increased the demand for Arctic expertise. Finland can deliver. Text Katri Isotalo Photos iStockphoto, ABB Oy


n the summer of 2012, the floating ice cap on the North Pole was smaller than at any time during the three decades its surface area has been measured. The melting of the ice cap and the opening of new sea lanes has evoked a frenzy of interest in countries bordering Northern seas. Were the North-East Passage to open, it would cut the sea voyage from the Far East to Europe in half, compared to the current route passing through the Suez Canal. The discovery of significant oil and gas reserves under the receding ice, hitherto impossible to exploit, is anticipated. Minerals and other potential riches also excite Arctic activity. Power versus efficiency

The frenzy of Arctic activity creates new challenges for navigation. Current icebreakers are capable of breaking ice several metres thick,


but using icebreakers requires brisk shipping in the area. Until maritime traffic equal to that on the Baltic is flowing around the North Pole, cargo ships are on their own in the ice. “A ship can be built to withstand any conceivable amount of ice,” state Seppo Kivimaa and Pekka Koskinen of VTT. “Such a high-performing ship, however, is expensive and heavy, giving rise to needless energy consumption and a reduction in carrying capacity.” The optimisation of a ship’s power and durability is the key issue in Arctic seafaring, and increasing demands on the environmental friendliness of ice-protected vessels make the issue more topical than ever. Efforts are being made to restrict the use of vessels that use an inordinate amount of energy. A ship should nevertheless be functional both in open waters and in ice. Whether the


vessel will navigate on its own or be assisted by an icebreaker must be taken into account when sizing its hull, engines and thrusters. Energy-efficiency and safety can be promoted through technology and design, as well as guidelines and regulations.

The partner of VTT, Aker Arctic Technology Inc., has even developed an asymmetric icebreaker and a Double Acting vessel designed to sail ahead in open water and astern in ice. An asymmetric hull shape allows the opening of a wider channel, if required.

Power and versatility through design

Top propeller expertise in the world

Familiarity with the operating conditions is where it all starts. What kind of ice is usually present on the sea lane, and what can it be like at its worst? What is the hull’s ice resistance under different conditions? How will ice accumulate in the vessel’s structures? What will be the strain on the propeller when it hits a block of ice detached from a wall of ice? And how will the propeller’s angle of incidence affect the load? “Apart from the ice, the movement of the ship must also be accounted for,” says Seppo Kivimaa, Technology Manager of VTT’s Vehicles, Transport and Logistics knowledge centre. “A vessel proceeding straight along a channel opened by an icebreaker requires different characteristics from those of ice management vessels moving in ports and near oil rigs, for example. Maintenance vessels need to be agile, as well as durable and efficient, and capable of advancing side-on, if necessary.” The Sampo, Urho and other old Finnish icebreakers are tubby in the middle and have sharp bows. The bows of new icebreakers tend to be more rounded. Research has demonstrated that although a rounded bow is less effective at breaking waves, it requires less power to break ice.

VTT’s Arctic studies were launched in the 1970s, in cooperation with the ship technology laboratory of the Helsinki University of Technology. Studies were first focused on the ice loads to which hulls were subjected, branching out later into the ability of vessels to navigate in ice and the ice loads on propellers. “Finland currently reigns supreme in propeller expertise,” says Pekka Koskinen, Key Account Manager of the Smart Machines knowledge centre. For measuring ice loads, propeller blades are fitted at the dockyard with strain gauges that measure the stretching of the metal and sensors that measure the impacts of ice blocks. Data systems visualise on a computer screen the impacts and axle vibrations that occur deep in the freezing water. Pekka Koskinen, who has been with the study for 20 years, makes the following observation. “Our measurements revealed, for instance, that in really bad situations propeller blades bend forwards and not back, as was generally imagined.” Graphs on the computer screen indicate a loading spike when the cavitation bubble collapses. “So far this phenomenon has not been fully understood,” says Koskinen.

Ice regulations for ships become international VTT HAS BEEN studying ice loads on Arctic waters since the 1970s. The institute has cooperated not only with the states bordering the Baltic Sea, but also with Canadian and US authorities and research institutes. In recent times, research has focused on drawing up ice regulations for thrusters. The systematic measurements carried out by VTT and the simulation models created on the basis of those measurements, have been used in drawing up both Finnish-Swedish and international ice regulations. These regulations seek to ensure that vessels possess the required characteristics for moving in ice. Finnish-Swedish ice class regulations have been in use on the Baltic Sea since the 1930s. 58

The regulations define the minimum engine power, hull strength, and engine and propeller strength for vessels moving in ice. The ice class regulations are constantly being updated as ships develop. Research is based on the Finnish-Swedish ice class regulations published in 2008. The development of international ice class regulations has been based on the same technology. Norway, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Russia have also participated in development alongside Finland and Sweden. International classification societies have incorporated the Finnish-Swedish ice class regulations in their own regulations concerning ship construction. VTT IMPULSE – TECHNOLOGY

Global warming means an increase in extreme weather conditions.



Materials must be durable, but not too heavy.

Finland reigns supreme in propeller expertise for Arctic conditions.

Increased understanding of the power and behaviour of ice has helped develop equipment such as thrusters that can rotate through 360 degrees, the most well-known being the Azipod, manufactured by ABB Oy. Beginning with the multi-purpose icebreaker Fennica, all new Finnish icebreakers have been equipped with rotating thrusters. Arctic wind power

Principal Scientist Jaakko Heinonen of VTT’s Arctic Technology team stresses the importance of international networking and cooperation between fields of research. In addition to ship technology, Arctic navigation requires knowledge of material technology, mechanical engineering, and information systems. Materials must be durable, but not too heavy, and the oil must keep flowing in the engines even in extremely cold temperatures. VTT has also carried out active research into surfaces resistant to the formation and accumulation of ice. The transport situation must also be managed by making use of ship positioning information, satellite images, and ice and weather forecasts. VTT has been developing IT solutions for these needs for some years. “The increase in activity in the fragile Arctic zone also requires consideration of environmental matters,” says Jaakko Heinonen, a specialist in offshore structures in freezing seas. Open-sea wind farms are the most topical among offshore structures at present. These farms are susceptible to ice in the same way as 60

ships. Their foundations must be able to withstand the compressive force of pack ice, while freezing over of the blades means that energy production of wind farms is less efficient in Northern areas in winter. Technology developed by VTT allows the blades of wind farms to be integrated with an electric mat that stops freezing. An ice sensor indicates when ice starts to form, and the heating is automatically switched on. This problem is also familiar for example in Spain, where wind farms have been built high up in mountainous areas. Infrastructure for the coldest conditions

Approximately 80 per cent of the world’s icebreakers have been built in Finland. There is a natural explanation for this concentration of icebreaker expertise, since maritime winter traffic off the coast of Finland is the heaviest in the world. Russia, of course, is another superpower of Arctic seafaring, while Canada and Germany also have long traditions of competence in the field. Countries that have become active in the industry in recent years include Norway, China, and Korea. Politically, competition for exploitation of the Arctic is thus reaching its height. “If the North-East Passage ever sees significant transport use,” says Jaakko Heinonen, “ports, cities, traffic routes, waste management and much more infrastructure besides will be needed in addition to ships suitable for winter navigation. All of it requires Arctic expertise.” ■ VTT IMPULSE – TECHNOLOGY





TactoTek’s touch panel can be embedded within the structure of the protective cover.

It‘s all in the touch TactoTek, founded under the wings of VTT, is seeking a slice of the global touch technology market. Text Tiina Saario-Kuikko Photos Juha Sarkkinen


actoTek develops optical touch panels for consumer electronics, e.g. mobile phones and tablets, and for industry’s needs. Before long, touch panels will also become more common elsewhere – from coffee makers to toys and

excavators. At the core of the spin-off’s success is a new production technology. ”We combine printed electronics, traditional electronics and injection moulding in an unprecedented way. The electronics are fully 62

embedded inside a plastic element,” says CTO Antti Keränen, one of the fathers of the idea. Designed for rough use

TactoTek’s touch panels provide benefits to the user by being durable, inexpensive and mouldable. ”The fact that our touch panels can be curved is a great benefit for certain devices, such as the touch screens of cars,” Keränen says. New types of integrated solutions are also offered. TactoTek’s touch panel can be embedded in a device cover manufactured by the company. VTT IMPULSE – BUSINESS

VTT Ventures provides the right connections TACTOTEK WAS INITIATED at VTT Oulu,

Antti Keränen is holding a curved and hard protective plastic cover with a touch screen function.

This makes it possible to move electronics and functionality inside the cover, thereby providing better protection for the electronics and freeing up space in other parts of the device.

which focuses on the development of printed electronics technology. The business idea also attracted the interest of VTT Ventures, which provides funding for spin-offs. The task of VTT Ventures is first to invest 100,000–200,000 euros of seed money in companies based on VTT technologies and, together with the new business, then search for finance providers from among suitable companies in Ventures’ networks. The contacts of VTT key account managers are also used. ”We have all the right connections. We sit on the boards of spin-offs and provide coaching for their managing directors,” says Erkki Aaltonen, Investment Director of VTT Ventures. Last year, the amount of external funding received by VTT Ventures was more than five times the amount it itself invested. It has helped more than 20 spin-offs to move out into the world. Some 200 proposals are presented to Ventures each year, of which about ten are selected.

Aiming high

The company is now in the product development phase. ”The next steps will be to obtain our first customers and to further develop the technology and our network to be able to serve large customers and a variety of technologies,” Keränen says. Tactotek’s near-term goals are finishing the electronics and software, while the challenges to follow are related to production technologies. Getting mass production up and running is expected to take around six months after a Yes from a customer. The global touch panel market is potentially huge, and as it grows TactoTek has high expectations of being pulled along with it. The company is targeting an annual sales run rate of over 100 million euros. Competition is fierce, and grabbing a substantial slice will be challenging. Nevertheless, TactoTek is prepared to make it happen.


Technology to transform the market?

Erkki Aaltonen, Investment Director at VTT Ventures, also believes in TactoTek. ”This technology could transform the entire touch panel market. The business is changing constantly, and TactoTek is well placed to gain a major share of the market.” The rapidly growing touch technology market could generate a turnover of billions of euros. Demand is greatest in Taiwan, but also elsewhere in the Far East and the US. TactoTek is currently negotiating with industry-leading mobile phone makers, and has also discussed cooperation with European vehicle and machinery manufacturers. It is essential to have the right technology in the right place at the right time to be able to exploit the growth prospects. n




The science of beauty

– arctic wild berries for youthful skin Lumene is the first company to release a product based on the use of berry stem cell cultures. Text Paula Bergqvist Photos Vesa Tyni, VTT, Lumene Oy, iStockphoto



Berries growing in the wild generate interest all over the world.


ince we are smaller than many of our competitors, we must be smarter, more efficient and agile,” says Tapio Pajuharju, President and CEO of Lumene. Achieving global growth in a highly competitive industry calls for strong and innovative product development and great partners. ”The best partners can often be found in Finland. VTT is a natural and preferred partner for us, because they have innovative expertise in exploiting Arctic berries using the latest technology,” Pajuharju notes. Collaboration with VTT began some ten years ago, under public projects funded by the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation Tekes. ”The projects were good, but it was difficult to apply the information gained from them in practice. It was time to start our own product development project,” says Tiina Isohanni, Vice President of Innovation & Development at Lumene. The work led to the launch of the Lumene Excellent Future product line in spring 2012. It includes a serum, a day and Tapio Pajuharju 66

a night cream, and an eye cream. Cloudberry stem cell technology is also being used to produce Lumene Excellength mascara. Effective natural raw materials

Lumene is the industry market leader in Finland. ”In international markets, we focus on the Nordic countries, the United States and Russia, where we are a contender,” Pajuharju says. ”Being Finnish is an asset, as we are known for safe, innovative and high-quality products. Impressions of Finland’s pure natural environment support our goals.” According to Pajuharju, Lumene’s strengths include effective natural raw materials and safe, proven products. ”Berries growing in the wild are unique and interesting on a global scale – as are the new technologies developed on their basis. Both purchasers of retail chains and consumers all over the world are charmed by Lumene’s fascinating story.” Cloudberry – a natural choice

Lumene has been using Arctic raw materials in its products since the 1990s. Cloudberry, its seed oils and extracts were introduced into products in the early 2000s. VTT and stem cell technology offered Lumene an opportunity to discover new properties in cloudberry and to exploit the plant more fully. VTT IMPULSE – BUSINESS

Cloudberry stem cells into production THE LUMENE EXCELLENT Future product line is based on the cloudberry plant. VTT researchers isolated cells from the plant’s leaves and proceeded to grow them in laboratory conditions. ”Cloudberry does not respond easily to cell culture conditions. Finding the right growth conditions took considerably longer than usual – one and a half years,” says VTT Senior Scientist Riitta Puupponen-Pimiä. After the optimisation of the conditions, VTT developed the production process: larger culture vessels were introduced in the laboratory step by step. VTT’s first studies on berries focused on the shelf life of fresh berries. Research into bioactive compounds in berries and the assessment of their physiological properties were initiated 15 years ago. In recent years, VTT has been developing cell culture technology. VTT currently boasts an unmatched collection of cell cultures derived from Finnish berries which, in addition to cloudberry, includes the arctic bramble, bilberry, lingonberry, cranberry, raspberry, rowanberry and strawberry. ”By using cell culture technology, we can exploit the entire biosynthesis capacity of the berry plant, thereby expanding the range of compounds beneficial to the skin,” affirms Puupponen-Pimiä.

”Our collaboration with VTT is all about combining technology and natural resources,” says Tiina Isohanni from Lumene.



The cell culture contained much larger amounts of certain beneficial compounds than the original plant.

Arctic nature in cosmetics Lumene Oy is a Finnish skincare and cosmetics company. The Group includes two brands: Lumene, which focuses on skincare and cosmetics, and Cutrin, a hair cosmetics brand for professionals. In 2011, Lumene posted a turnover of 85 million euros, up by around three per cent from the previous year. The operating margin was 12.5 million euros, representing approximately 15 per cent of turnover. The company’s main markets – Finland, other Nordic countries, Russia and the US – generate 90 per cent of turnover. Half of turnover comes from international markets. The company has about 530 employees, 330 of whom work in Finland. Lumene products are manufactured in Espoo, Finland.


”Making cloudberry the raw material for a new product was a natural choice right from the start. The product development process was slightly longer than usual – about three years – because VTT first developed the cloudberry stem cell culture and then a large-scale production process for the raw material. We studied the properties, efficacy and safety of the stem cell product,” Isohanni explains. Preserving youthfulness

One of the strongest trends in skincare is represented by products that prevent and slow down premature ageing. This is also the focus of the Excellent Future product line. Another longterm industry trend is the use of natural raw materials. ”The third trend is combining technology with natural raw materials. This is exactly what cooperation with VTT has been about,” Isohanni remarks. It came as a positive surprise to Lumene people that cultured cells contained much larger amounts of certain beneficial compounds than the original plant. Compared to fresh cloudberries, the cell culture had more proteins, for example. ”We also found different types of antioxidants, such as ellagitannins and flavanols, which interest us because they can prevent premature ageing. Antioxidants protect against harmful biochemical reactions occurring in the

skin and are thought to delay its ageing process. The amount of flavanols detected was ten times greater than that in fresh cloudberries.” Third party research confirmed results

To discover the impact of the cloudberry product on the skin, Lumene commissioned studies conducted using skin cell models. These were performed outside VTT. The studies used keratinocytes of the epidermis and fibroblasts, which are deeper in the skin. It was observed that adding the new product to the sample resulted in a clear improvement in the ability of living skin cells to withstand UV radiation and chemicals. The studies also showed that the product contributed to the formation of procollagen, which affects the suppleness of the skin. ”We confirmed the results from several perspectives. For example, VTT’s studies indicated that the stem cell product reduced oxidative stress in cells, which affects collagen degradation. The result was thus in line with other studies,” Isohanni says. Follow-up projects have not yet been agreed upon. ”It’s certain that we will continue working with VTT researchers on Arctic berries in some form. We are also interested in other expertise provided by VTT, now that we have become better acquainted with its research services.” ■




The production of berry stem cells at VTT – step by step: 1. Setting up the culture 2a. & b. Cell line selection 3. Optimisation of cultivation conditions 4. Culturing of cells in bioreactor 5. Freeze-dried cloudberry stem cells




5. 69

Preparing nanocellulose for the market Nanocellulose holds many promises for new products in various industries. UPM’s biofibrils project is paving the way for new applications. Text Marianna Salin Photos UPM-Kymmene Corporation


hen UPM launched the precommercial production of biofibrils about a year ago, relevant applications were already being developed in many industries. ”We have worked hard on applications and commercialisation with several partners. We see the potential for large volumes in applications related to paper, packaging, paints, concrete and oil,” says Esa Laurinsilta, Director of UPM Biofibrils. At UPM, nanocellulose – i.e. nano- or microfibrillated cellulose – is called biofibrils. In addition to reinforcing solid substances, such as paper and paperboard, biofibrils improve the stability of liquids, such as wet paint and moisturising cream. In the form of a film, they can protect foods and provide a platform for printed electronics. The list of ideas for applications seems endless. Are there enough biofibrils for all applications? According to Laurinsilta, not at the moment. He says that the turning point for supply will come when the first of the large process industry businesses using biofibrils makes a breakthrough in the market. After that, he would not worry about the sufficiency of biofibrils, since the raw material for this nanoscale substance comes from a mammoth-scale pulp plant – and forests. Increased strength cost-effectively

The pre-commercial production of nanocellulose and its commercially viable applications were the main goals of UPM, VTT and Aalto Univer70

sity when they established the Finnish Centre for Nanocellulosic Technologies in early 2008. The resources of 40 researchers and 5 million euro funding were reserved for each year of this five-year project. Most of the funding was arranged by the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation Tekes and the partners themselves. ”We are talking about extensive and longterm collaboration, whose scale is exceptional in Finland,” says Laurinsilta. UPM Biofibrils – along with the biocomposite UPM ForMi – is a new business project through which the company seeks to add value to wood fibre and enter new markets. ”For basic research, it is extremely important that industrial breakthroughs are made,” notes Janne Laine, Professor of Forest Products Surface Chemistry, who coordinates the project at Aalto University. ”I could list five ways of increasing the strength of paper right now, but how can you do it and improve a few other properties costeffectively?” Laine hopes that nanocellulose will provide some answers. Controlled sprawling

The project began by raking through a large area. Different types of nanocellulose were made in a laboratory, and their specific properties were assessed. Ideas were also thrown around about where they could be used to add value. Aalto University and VTT enlisted their experts from a number of disciplines and industrial sectors to the project. VTT IMPULSE – BUSINESS

Versatile nanocellulose CELLULOSE FIBRES USED in paper making are 2–3 mm long and 0.03 mm thick, i.e. slightly thinner than human hair. The fibre is composed of nanofibrils, which are about a thousand times smaller and can be separated from each other by means of beating. This also turns the uneven pulp mass into a smooth gel called nanocellulose, or nano- or microfibrillated cellulose, to be more precise. The properties of nanocellulose are affected by the size and charge of the fibrils, for example. Different grades can be produced by adjusting the beating process and through chemical pre- and post-treatment. When used as an additive, nanocellulose alters the rheology of liquids, i.e. their flow properties, and reinforces solid substances. At its best, adding nanocellulose improves the properties of a substance in both its liquid and solid states. This is the target in paints, for exam-


ple. A paint fortified with nanocellulose retains its evenness in the can and spreads easily, but solidifies quickly and forms a more durable film after drying. Similar properties are useful for numerous other substances, such as concrete, oils and moisturising creams, as well as porous materials, such as insulators and filters. Nanocellulose is not merely an additive; it can also be used to produce a transparent film to serve as a base for a flexible display, for example. These applications are mainly related to fibrous nanocellulose grades, which are the focus for the Finnish Centre for Nanocellulosic Technologies. On a global scale, there are also examples of crystalline nanocellulose, which can be used to reinforce plastic items, in a similar way to fibreglass.


A gigantic project UPM, VTT AND Aalto University established the Finnish Centre for Nanocellulosic Technologies in Otaniemi, Espoo in 2008. As an organisation, it is entirely virtual – more like a large set of projects that the partners have set up in collaboration, making use of their respective special skills. How was the cooperation of more than 40 people ensured? This is a question to which a great amount of time and attention was devoted at the beginning. Schedules tighter than usual were defined for the meetings of steering groups and project groups. Researchers were also offered opportunities for interdisciplinary – and informal – meetings. ”We have had internal seminars and Monday afternoon meetings over coffee. We also formed working pairs across organisational borders,” says VTT Technology Manager Pia Qvintus. In addition, the centre introduced a shared document management system, and part of the premises of the Nanocellulosic Centre at VTT were designated for the use of all parties. The project brought together three different organisational cultures, as well as people within the organisations. At Aalto University, for example, as many as six professors joined the project, and not all of them from the same department. Janne Laine, Professor of Forest Products Surface Chemistry, who has coordinated the team at the university, knows that this kind of cooperation is not self-evident. ”There has been no friction whatsoever, although you might think we are competing for the same funding.” Applied research in the project has been conducted by VTT’s various segments, and companies from a range of industries have also jumped on board. ”When you set out to develop a new material, you know right from the start that novel properties can be expected. It’s therefore a huge advantage to receive many views from a variety of areas,” says Esa Laurinsilta, Director of UPM Biofibrils. He believes that the collaboration model honed over the course of five years will also be exploited by the project partners in the future, one way or another. Qvintus hopes that VTT will also be able to apply the model developed here in other projects. ”It has been great to see how fast the results of such a large-scale project have been taken into practice.”



Nanocellulose can bring additional texture to fat-free yoghurt.

From the perspective of commercialisation, however, the fields have a clear order of importance. Based on that, the project was divided into two parts. The confidential part reserved for UPM included the production methods of nanocellulose as well as the applications with potential for mass production in the near future. Among these were process industry applications related to paper, packaging, paints, concrete and oil. ”The public side of the project is closer to basic research and has a longer-term view,” Laine says. Then again, partners interested in utilising biofibrils in practical applications are closely involved in this project, too. Aalto University and VTT have developed a production method for a nanocellulose film, for example, which is suitable for high addedvalue products, such as printed electronics, diagnostics and possibly some types of packaging. The roll-to-roll production technology for film lends itself to equipment already used in industry, and UPM’s biofibril is a suitable raw material. Joining the leading edge

Research on nanocellulose began back in the 1980s but waned, according to some estimates, due to the extremely energy-intensive production process. ”I’m not sure, though, if any energy calculations were actually finished. I don’t think energy consumption was the only issue here,” Laine says, laughing. It would perhaps be more to the point to ask whether the forest industry needed new products at the time and whether biomaterials were needed to replace fossil materials. Research on nanocellulose was, nevertheless, advanced by a small circle of people; over the last decade, interest in it started to come from many directions. When the Finnish Centre for Nanocellulosic Technologies joined the VTT IMPULSE – BUSINESS

game in 2008, the best industry knowledge was mainly found in Japan, Canada and Sweden. Today, there are many good reasons for saying that the centre has taken its place at the leading edge of development. Laine measures success by the dozens of scientific publications, while Laurinsilta talks about patents. The project has earned UPM more than 50 patents or patent applications related to the production and application of nanocellulose. ”We retain our freedom to operate by patenting our innovations and, on the other hand, by publishing results that we think do not merit a patent,” explains Laurinsilta. Entering the final stretch

With contemporary methods, energy consumption does not impede the manufacture of nanocellulose products. Leading developers have already started pre-commercial production. Forest industry players are the main contenders in the final stretch, although cellulose can, of course, be extracted from other plants, such as straw and sugar beet, and even produced by bacteria. ”Some type of waste or industrial by-product could be an interesting raw material, but the scale of forests and the forest industry also need to be taken into consideration,” says Laine. Laurinsilta also emphasises that cellulose is a raw material that is clean and of even quality to start with. Nanocellulose developers around the world specialise in slightly different grades, but Laurinsilta is nonetheless expecting high-level competition for the sector. ”Naturally, I’m hoping that we will be the first, but also that our competitors will be right behind us. When something new is created, it’s important that the first one to succeed will not have to work on a product and commercialise it alone.”  73

Finnish competence abroad Arctic Machine vehicles are clearing more and more roads around the world. The equipment is still manufactured in Finland. Text Milka Lahnalammi-Vesivalo Photos Arctic Machine Oy



Clearing the world’s roads of dirt and snow ARCTIC MACHINE IS one of the leading European manufacturers of road maintenance equipment. In 2011, the turnover of the family-owned business, founded in Suonenjoki in 1981, was 16.3 million euros. The company’s main offices are located in Suonenjoki and Salo. Arctic Machine is one of the few road maintenance equipment manufacturers with a product range capable of equipping complete road maintenance units – whether the requirement is snow removal, antiskid treatment or road clearing, or equipping the unit with an intelligent steering system.


rctic Machine has succeeded in keeping its production domestic despite Finland having higher labour costs than many other countries. The manufacturer of road maintenance equipment has made its production process notably more efficient by, among others, developing its design process and product selection. “We decided first to see how much more efficient our domestic production could be made, before considering offshoring,” says Arctic Machine Oy CEO Juha Jääskelä. “For the time being, our international markets are Russia and the Baltic and Nordic countries, all of which are close to Finland. If we should decide to expand further, we will naturally have to take account of the environmental factors and expenses related to transporting heavy parts.” Arctic Machine has operated in the Russian market since the early 1990s, and Russia continues to play a significant role in the company strategy. Although the machinery exported to Russia is still produced in Finland, the company opened an installation facility in St. Petersburg a year ago. The Russian share of Arctic Machine turnover doubled for the second year running, and a quarter of the group’s turnover is now created there. VTT IMPULSE – BUSINESS

Overseas operations account for approximately half the company’s 16-million-euro turnover. Product standardisation for more efficient manufacturing

One of the ways Arctic Machine has enhanced its production process is by participating in the VTT-led UNIQUE project. The project studied the core challenges in the production-strategic planning and decision-making of companies. “The best thing about projects such as this is the opportunity to network with other small and medium enterprises,” says Jääskelä. “At the same time, you can benchmark your own operations and learn new things.” In 2007 Arctic Machine cut its product selection from 300 to 100. Now, only 70 products remain. “We used to create highly customer-oriented solutions,” Jääskelä continues. “Now we have standardised our products so they consist of modules suited to different markets.” Each country to its own

Vehicle bodywork, equipment and even user habits vary from one country to another. The use of a side plough, for example, is expressly 75

Arctic Machine’s road maintenance equipment is built to withstand the harsh and unpredictable conditions of the North.

A designer’s work had surprising results FINNISH DESIGNER Harri Koskinen was brought in as Arctic Machine set about creating an entirely new range of gravel spreaders. In addition to improving the product’s appearance, the objective was to create a product that could be marketed anywhere, with no tailoring required. Another reason for involving a designer was the desire to reduce both lead time and working hours significantly. The fluency of integrating product development and design surprised the company. “Our spreader vehicle not only looked better, its use of space was optimised,” CEO Juha Jääskelä explains. “Where the bed accommodates a significantly larger solution tank, contractors can make longer rounds without needing to return for a refill.” Working with a designer also meant the company was able to improve the processibility of parts, as well as vehicle functionality, for example through careful use of ergonomics.


forbidden in Denmark, though the accessory is in common use in other market areas. In Norway, on the other hand, the main roads are winding and hilly, so vehicles need to be shorter. The figures tell you where to invest

The Unique project examined the significance of pre-processing for companies and its effects in potential outsourcing scenarios. On seeing the results, Arctic Machine decided to outsource its pre-processing, such as the machining of parts, and the cutting and edging of plate. “Large investments in pre-processing equipment would have been called for,” says Jääskelä, “and we preferred to invest in the markets. We found plenty of businesses and good capacity in Finland for outsourcing our pre-processing.” The company’s machining functions were incorporated, and the active marketing of these services now includes customers outside the group. The project also analysed the effects of robotics on production, but Arctic Machine did not consider robotics a sustainable solution considering its production-series volumes and products at the time. Jääskelä valued the numerical data, which enabled the calculation of the profitability of different production options. “We looked at what the effects of each measure would be, and decided on projects on the basis of that information.” 



Otaniemi – a future world-class ecocampus VTT AND SAMSUNG are seeking solutions for improving the energy efficiency of real-estate properties. An international consortium will invest one million euros in making use of new technology to improve the energy efficiency of the properties that make up the Otaniemi campus area in Espoo, Finland. The Otaniemi pilot project, coordinated by VTT, is part of the international Korea Micro Energy Grid (K-MEG) development project, valued at more than $100 million. Through this project, Korea hopes to create practical business models and solutions, on the basis of solutions enabled by smart grids. Energy consumption is monitored using intelligent solutions, and the information is integrated into an ICTbased energy management system. The aim is a significant reduction in energy use and carbon dioxide emissions. The vision: an energy self-sufficient, emission-free campus The international pilot project is based on a more extensive, largely Finnish project. ”The Finnish project pays particular attention to local and building-specific energy solutions. Energy can be generated in a variety of ways, for example, through ground heat solutions or by making use of the sun’s heat,” says VTT Senior Scientist Jorma Pietiläinen.

The current energy use environment of the properties will be mapped out by means of sensor networks, monitoring and measurements. The properties integrate a wide variety of technologies, including wireless data transfer technologies. ”We are exploiting expertise in the fields of energy, electricity, electronics and ICT in diverse ways. Since the idea is that solutions developed during the project will be presented and sold globally, this project will provide export opportunities for companies.”

A cross-section of technology and business Otaniemi, where VTT is located, is the largest technology, innovation and business hub in Finland and Northern Europe, in terms of the number of companies located in its vicinity. There are 800 companies, 20 R&D centres, three universities and a number of Centres of Excellence in Otaniemi, Espoo. Otaniemi and its ecosystem of companies, universities and technology centres accounts for approximately 50 per cent of the R&D value of Finland. Otaniemi has twice been conferred with the Innovation Region award by the European Union.

Further information: Janne Peltonen,



VTT Vuorimiehentie 5, Espoo P.O.Box 1000, FI-02044 VTT, Finland Tel. +358 20 722 111

Impulse 2/2012  

A magazine on science, technology and business

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