The mining industry could benefit from Finland’s innovation ecosystem

Thu, 10/29/2020 - 11:00

ROVJOK is a company with its origins in Lapland, named after an arctic waterfall, and with founders from Western Australia. The ROVJOK journey can be traced back to the expatriation from Perth (Australia) to Lapland (Finland) of one of its founders, in pursuit of a scene change in the mining sector. Impressed and intrigued both professionally and personally by the experience of Finland, he reached out to those, who now comprise the broader team, to investigate the idea of starting a company there.

Several successful years later the company continues to grow and remains impressed by Finland, not least in how it nurtures and supports innovation. It offers many advantages; its proximity to downstream industries, its mature business environment, its rich mining history, world-class tech ecosystem, and proximity to deep talent pools throughout Europe. These features are evident in the many alliances and initiatives that exist, a cluster of more than 40 operating mines, numerous start-up programs/incubators (funded by tech giants like Microsoft and Google), and a bedrock of collaborative tech talent.

For ROVJOK, the ‘Finnish has just been the start’, but puns aside, we will now discuss some of these key features and opportunities in Finland in more detail, which will reinforce the idea that Finland is a great home to raise a technology-focussed company within the raw materials sector.

Finland is a top place to do business

Finland consistently ranks very high by most “top places to do business” metrics. In addition to extreme stability in government and business policy, it has an impressively active national funding strategy for innovation and technology, which powers its innovation ecosystem. The main funding bodies include Business Finland and Finnvera. These agencies are gateways for companies to access funding and the wider start-up scene culture.

The Finnish start-up scene is thriving. For example, 4000 start-up companies begin operating in Finland each year, 300-400 start-ups have shown significant growth over the last three-year period, and in 2019 Business Finland alone provided €168 million of funding for Finnish start-up companies. According to The Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2020 (Startup Genome), the Greater Helsinki start-up ecosystem is the fourth most attractive location among 100 emerging ecosystems worldwide with a total ecosystem value at USD 5.8 billion.

Finland has a rich mining history

Finland is a country with a rich history in mining and metals. It has a cluster of more than 40 mines producing metal ores and industrial minerals. It is Europe’s leading producer of nickel and gold, and has cobalt and lithium in its bedrock. It is also home to some major players in the world of mining equipment and technology, most notably Metso Outotec. According to Fraser Institute’s annual survey 2019, Finland is the second most attractive jurisdiction in the world for mining investments (after the founders’ home state of Western Australia). Its strengths lie in an excellent geological database, ore potential, political stability, high educational level, and high-quality infrastructure.

Additionally, compared to many mining focussed jurisdictions, Finland has operations and experience that extend over the full value chain. For example, it contains downstream raw materials processing functions including some of Europe’s largest and most efficient smelters and refineries. It also lies very close to many of the end-use products and customers in the EU market (for example, battery manufacturing plants for electric vehicles). Cheap and green power and location to the end-use manufacturing operations makes this possible. This provides Finland with a unique opportunity to serve the broader value chain. This is in contrast to many other mining jurisdictions, where the majority of their raw material products are shipped large distances for further processing.

Finland has a world-class technology ecosystem

Finland is a melting pot of innovation that has a strong history of technological success. It has brought Nokia, IRC chat protocol, SMS, 5G, the first wearable wireless heart rate monitor, Angry Birds, the Linux operating system, and many others to the world. Boasting one of the best education systems globally it produces a pool of problem solving, productive and tech savvy talent. Technology is part of the Finnish identity and IT is integrated throughout Finnish life. Finland’s national identity verification method is a digital code sent to your phone. It has adopted IoT initiatives to build ‘smart cities’, and hosts the second largest start-up event in the world (Slush). Lofty accomplishments for a country of its size. 

Conclusion: Digital transformation in mining presents a huge export opportunity 

Finland is a country that deserves attention when it comes to mining exports. Not just in the export of the minerals themselves, but also in the export of its ecosystem of technology, expertise, and innovation—to help other countries extract their minerals more efficiently and sustainably.

With such abundance of technology and talent to offer the raw materials sector, we believe that deep cross-industry and cross-geography collaborations will ensure Finland is at the forefront of an industry undergoing huge digital transformation. For example:

  1. How can we ensure cross-industry collaboration between both the mining and technology ecosystems, so that Finland’s amazing SMEs and start-up ecosystem are actively engaged and innovate within the mining industry?
  2. How do we to create mutually beneficial cross-border collaborations to ensure that the world’s largest and geographically remote mining jurisdictions are aware of the unique digitalisation skills and expertise Finland has to offer the global mining industry?

ROVJOK prides itself as being in a unique position to tackle these challenges and explore the opportunities.

Yours sincerely, from a country who are about to build a mobile network on the moon.

Scott Thomsett
CEO
ROVJOK

Tim Rose
Operations Director
ROVJOK

Finland can be a world leader in mining digitalization