Collaboration with startups and developers accelerates the Biofore revolution

Jyrki Ovaska
Jyrki Ovaska
UPM Executive Vice President, Technology
29 November 2016

Forests provide us with an immense scale of opportunities, greater than ever before. In order to make the most out of these opportunities, we need to be active, innovative and resourceful – together. UPM cooperates with an ecosystem of partners, since collaboration is one of the most effective tools in entering new worlds, creating fresh business models and refining the old ones. Startups play an important role in this.

In the age of IoT, all our businesses are actively looking for new solutions. Innovating touches all of our businesses. We are on an interesting exploratory expedition, and there are different horizons of growth ahead of us. Entering new businesses and refining the more traditional ones demand competences that we may not yet have in-house. This is where open innovation – or co-creation, as we call it – becomes a must.

An innovation is not just a good idea: that idea needs to create business value before it can be called an innovation. We often think that innovation is a product, a technology or a process, but it can also be a new business model, a new service concept or a new method for process improvement in a company. Digitalisation and innovation are closely connected. Digitalisation is a means to drive and accelerate transformation and transformation speeds up innovation. All of our business areas have potential for further transformation and they are constantly working on it.

Finding the right partners is essential

We are searching for new methods and technologies in the fields of analytics, robotic process automation, visuality, mobility and cloud computing, to mention a few. Startups, developers, universities and research centers are highly valued partners to us. Subcontracting has been the traditional form of cooperation for UPM, but we now have more and more cases of licencing and consortia. In the future, potential lies also in strategic alliances and joint ventures. UPM is a member of national and international innovation platforms (Clic Innovation and BIC) that create new projects and aim to find ground-breaking solutions in the fields of bioeconomy, energy systems, cleantech, circular economy and big data utilisation. Our patent portfolio has grown significantly, and new partnerships play an important role in utilising and licencing them.

Identifying the right partners is very important. According to our experiences, startups are very flexible partners and agile in finding new digital solutions. The drive and the positivity inside new startups is contagious. For us, the biggest challenge with startups used to be internal in the past. The question was: do we believe that they can truly add value to our businesses? But the more success stories we have co-created, the fewer the questions have become.

upm-slush
Jyrki Ovaska speaking at UPM’s Slush16 pre event.

Wanted: startups for circular economy and bioeconomy

We are participating in Slush for the third time now. In international innovation events such as Slush, ADIC and Junction Hackathon, UPM is searching for digitalised innovations, concepts and solutions that look at the forest industry and bioeconomy from a different perspective. We want to participate in these kinds of events because it’s a win-win-win. With our help, the startups can make their breakthrough to the markets, scale up their business and get an excellent reference, whereas we get new solutions that speed up our R&D and create true competitive advantage against competition. And last but not least, the outside world benefits greatly from our joint innovations. Bioeconomy continues to be a hot topic for governments, businesses and citizens.

Startups have proven to be strong actors in digital solutions, but in the near future I hope to see even more young partners in the fields of bioeconomy and circular economy. Together we can speed up the Biofore revolution.

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