IN A WORLD more complex than ever, companies need to find new ways of working in order to stay on top of the game. This was the starting point when Wärtsilä began to plan the project that was later named the Smart Technology Hub.
“We wanted to create a whole new ecosystem and concept, not just build new production and office facilities”, explains Hannu Mäntymaa, Director of Power Supply at Wärtsilä.
The Hub will be a state-of-the-art centre for research, development and produc- tion, both for Wärtsilä and for chosen partners. The overall goal is to find new technological solutions that promote a renewable and sustainable future. The investment of 200 MEUR makes the Hub Wärtsilä’s biggest investment ever.
THE SMART TECHNOLOGY HUB is built in Vaskiluoto, close to the port of Vaasa. Wärtsilä has had a strong presence in the city of Vaasa since the 1930s, however, it was not self-evident that the centre would be located there.
“We explored different options all over the world, but in the end, it turned out that Vaasa was the best place for us. The location by the sea with the nearby port is logistically ideal for exports and for marine solutions. Even more importantly, this region has a very strong tradition of co-operation and a huge accumulated expertise in energy technology”, Mäntymaa explains.
Vaasa is home to the biggest cluster of energy technology companies in the Nordic countries, Wärtsilä being perhaps the most important of these companies. Wärtsilä also has a long history of working closely together with the other compa- nies in the cluster.
WHEN WÄRTSILÄ announced the news of the new Hub investment, many inhabitants of Vaasa were deeply flattered by Wärtsilä CEO Jaakko Eskola’s words: “Here we have found the best model for co- operation in the world.”
What then is the secret behind this superior co-operation model? According to Mäntymaa, Vaasa has the advantage of its relatively small size; people know and trust each other, which
in turn means that co-operation is smooth and non-hierarchical. This goes both for co-operation between academia and companies, and for co- operation between different companies. Even companies that may compete in some areas can co-operate in others – a textbook example of how a dynamic business cluster should work.
“Here we have an ecosystem that fits us per- fectly. This ecosystem has a strong track record of innovation, not least because of the good educa- tion opportunities”, Mäntymaa states.
ORIGINALLY, the driver for the Smart Technology Hub was the fact that Wärtsilä was growing out of its premises in Vaasa. However, it was soon clear to everybody that there was a common will to do something more than merely enlarge the factory or rent more office space.
“We didn’t just want to move to new facilities, but rather change the way we work. In today’s world, new agile ways of working are key to succeeding, not just for a single company, but for society as a whole. If we want to fight climate change, new ways of working are needed.”
Both of Wärtsilä’s main business areas – the marine business and the energy business – are closely linked to sustainability issues and the company has for a long time already worked towards a 100% sustainable future.
THE SMART TECHNOLOGY HUB will be filled with state-of-the-art energy-efficient solutions, such as solar panels. The new ferry – Aurora Botnia – which will start operating between Vaasa and Umeå, Sweden, in 2021, will be filled with smart technical solutions and will act like a floating test laboratory for Wärtsilä. The biggest innovations in the Hub, however, will not only come from new technical solutions, but rather from the way in which people will work.
“We have done some worldwide benchmark- ing, and I can honestly say that we haven’t found anything quite like this”, Mäntymaa sums up.
SMART TECHNLOLOGY HUB
Co-creation is the name of the game
In fighting climate change, old ways of working are not enough. Wärtsilä therefore invited a group of players from different fields into its new Hub, with the humble target of finding new technologies that will help save the world.
AN IMPORTANT part of the new Hub is the Smart Partner Campus, which features a completely new way of doing research and product development. “In today’s fast-changing world, one company does not have all the knowledge needed for in- novating the best new solutions. We have acknowl- edged this fact by inviting others to collaborate with us in our new Hub”, says Hannu Mäntymaa.
When Wärtsilä announced that it was looking for partners for collaboration – or, more precisely, co-creation– it got over 200 applications from different companies and institutions from all over the world. Among the lucky ones to be chosen in the first round were: Royal Caribbean Cruises, NLC Ferry, Danfoss, University of Vaasa, Demos Helsinki and Vaasan Sähkö.
WÄRTSILÄ AND ITS PARTNERS started the co- operation by creating a so-called Open innovation Playbook, i.e. a set of guidelines according to which co-operation is done, and according to which future possible rewards are divided.
“We did not want to create strict and rigid rules for the co-operation, because, naturally, that does not encourage the open-minded innovation atmos- phere we aim at. Rather we focus on having the same vision and values. Naturally, this way of work- ing is based on trust and mutual understanding.”
In the future, new companies and institutions will be added to the list of partners. Mäntymaa points out that Wärtsilä itself is not necessarily in- volved in every project at the campus; the partners may very well sometimes work together without Wärtsilä.
“Moreover, the partners do not need to be present in Vaasa. With modern technology, it is possible to work closely with people from all over the world.”
Business sector: Lifecycle solutions for the marine and energy markets
Turnover: 5.2 BEUR
Employees: Approx. 19,000 globally, of which 3,800 in Finland