Kokkola specialises in battery chemistry and circular economy
For a long time, battery chemistry has been at the forefront of innovation in the City of Kokkola. Battery chemistry is actively studied by local research and innovation teams and is taught at all educational levels after comprehensive school. What is more, the Kokkola Industrial Park (KIP) has become the largest inorganic chemical industry ecosystem in Northern Europe. Materials for lithium-ion batteries, for example, are produced in the park.
Because of its significant role in the region, battery chemistry was chosen as one of the strategic focal points when the City of Kokkola made an ecosystem agreement – along with other Finnish university towns – with the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment of Finland in 2021. The objective of these agreements is to develop innovation ecosystems as well as strengthen regional key competences and competitiveness.
“In Kokkola, we are focusing not only on battery chemistry, but also on circular economy and smart industrial solutions. Different industrial circular economy concepts have been developed for years in KIP, so we have a lot of expertise in this field as well. As a city that has a very close-knit cooperation network connecting businesses, education, and research, the platform for creating new innovative solutions is already there”, says Piia Isosaari, the City of Kokkola’s Strategy Manager.
The agreement is financed with the EU’s sustainable urban development funding in 2021–2027.
The ecosystem agreement is strongly linked to the national RDI roadmap that emphasises the importance of close cooperation between businesses and research in developing new technologies. The R&D teams at the Kokkola University Consortium Chydenius, for example, are working closely with the local business community.
“We have multiple ongoing national and international R&D projects regarding battery chemistry and circular economy solutions. One of them is the BatCircle 2.0, or Finland-based Circular Ecosystem of Battery Metals, that aims at improving the Finnish battery value chain. Multiple companies from different cities, including Kokkola, participate in these projects”, states Ulla Lassi, Professor at the University of Oulu and Head of the Research Unit of Applied Chemistry at Chydenius.
While battery technologies are studied at Centria University of Applied Sciences as well, promoting circular economy solutions is the main research theme of the university’s chemistry and bioeconomy research groups.
“Together with multinational research groups as well as local companies, we study different topics, such as future recycling methods and the creation of industrial symbioses”, says Jennie Elfving, Director of Education at Centria.
Kokkola’s cooperation network opens up an excellent opportunity for innovation
Offering versatile education in battery chemistry and circular economy has an important role in enhancing expertise and competitiveness in these fields in the Kokkola region.
“In 2022, Centria started a new battery technology programme aimed at engineers who have already graduated. This programme is the first of its kind in Finland. Although we have been offering education in battery chemistry for bachelor students for many years, this new programme gives us an opportunity to strengthen the know-how in our region even further”, states Elfving.
On top of bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Kokkola offers doctoral education in battery chemistry.
“Chydenius has offered doctoral education in applied chemistry in cooperation with the University of Oulu for over 10 years”, Lassi mentions.
When it comes to building a competitive region, Isosaari, Elfving, and Lassi all highlight the significance of attracting international talents.
“By investing in future technologies, cooperation, quality education, and of course a good living environment, we bring more international students and workers to the area”, they say.
“To help new residents settle here, we have also established our own Welcome Office that offers them information and advice about, for example, education, working, and housing”, adds Isosaari.