"Oy" in Finnish means "Inc." as in "incorporated" and bears no relation to the Yiddish phrase that immediately came to mind when I saw the impressive list of companies on our itinerary for the cleantech blogger tour of Finland hosted by Finnfacts, a nonprofit that helps journalists learn more about the country's wealth of business and travel offerings.
Though Finland is best known for telecommunications giant Nokia, I learned the first day that there is a lot of R&D taking place in this spacious country of 5 million people. In fact, according to a presentation yesterday by Tekes, the taxpayer-funded government authority that finances innovative technology companies, Finland has the third-highest R&D funding of any country in the world as a percentage of GDP (3.5%):
Energy efficiency, power electronics, wind, biofuels, nanotechnology, thin-film deposition, smart grid, biomass, and next-generation materials, there is hardly a category not covered under the umbrella of Finland's SHOK (or business cluster) for clean technology. In the next couple of days I will post highlights from our visit to some of these companies and my thoughts on the future of cleantech in resource-rich (and immaculately clean) Finlandia.
You're probably still scratching your head about the image at the top. On the right is the medieval coat of arms from the town of Nokia (after which the company was named). It represents a sable, the town's namesake, a much-beloved animal that was hunted to extinction some time in the 18th century from what I can gather.
I'm juxtaposing the two nokias to make a point that however futuristic and high-tech the Finns can get, they are still only a stone's through (literally and figuratively) from a landscape of ancient fairy tale forests and lakes from which much of the nation's wealth derives.
Nokia is just one example. It came as some surprise to learn that the world leader in mobile technology was originally a paper company. It fact, many of Finland's most technologically advanced companies have a long history linked to the forest -- paper, bridges, laminates, boat building.
And though that forest appears to be endless, it seems the lesson of the little black sable has permanently lodged itself in the psyche of the uber-modern Finnish people. Here, conservation and innovation go hand in hand, and a quick buck will not likely be made in Finland at the expense of the natural world that so defines its identity.
The image above is from the work of Finnish artist Lea Turto, felt wrapped tree stumps.