What do you think of when you think of R&D? After over three decades at its heart, I want to share just five of the reasons I love the research and development department at Wärtsilä. Maybe some will surprise you?
I’m Juha Kytölä and I’ve been at Wärtsilä for 33 years. Most of this time I’ve been in R&D and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love the technology, I love the innovation and above all I love the people! In my current position as Director of R&D and Engineering, I lead the R&D team to meet targets and innovate new opportunities. But what stands out is how much of a difference the R&D unit is making to the world – and has always made. Here are just five of the things I love about the technology, innovation and people that make up Wärtsilä R&D.
Wärtsilä’s strategy is built around decarbonisation and by 2030 the company wants to have a full portfolio of engines that can run on sustainable fuels. In R&D we get to both create these products and support in decarbonising the company. I find it really inspiring to see that our work is making such a difference – it makes me very optimistic for the future! The company strategy shows us where to go, but it’s the passion of our people who are taking us there.
The R&D unit is made up of engineers, scientists and researchers, but we don’t work in isolation. We also collaborate extensively with universities and research organisations. A good example of this is in our work on zero-carbon fuels. We are developing and testing with ammonia and hydrogen, which are non-traditional fuels for marine and energy engines. To do this, we have collaborated with companies, universities and research institutes who can add to our knowledge and expertise, making our development path much more efficient. Having more brains coming at problems from different directions helps us to progress further and faster. We are also connected into national and EU-level programmes, expanding the network of people working on the challenges we’re solving. Teamwork makes the dream work!
Take dual-fuel engines, for example. LNG vessels all used to be propelled by an inefficient steam-turbine based system that ran on both LNG boil-off gas and gas from the cargo. Wärtsilä’s R&D expertise helped to develop a much more efficient engine-based alternative: the dual-fuel engine. This engine could run on just boil-off gas, so more LNG could be carried to the destination. It was a revolution in the shipping of LNG – it wasn’t long before all new carriers moved from gas turbines to dual-fuel engines. Operators could carry more LNG, increasing profitability, the vessels were more efficient and therefore better for the environment, and they were cheaper to run. They were also safer and simpler to operate for the crew. The way in which the R&D team rethink how things can and should be done inspires me every day!
Innovation never stops in the R&D unit! Over the years the team has managed to significantly increase the efficiency of 4-stroke engines to better use the energy in the fuel. Across the industry the fuel cost and efficiency savings must be huge! We’re also developing new engines with greater fuel flexibility, notably ones that can run on sustainable fuels, with multi-fuel engine options for carbon-neutral or zero-carbon fuels.
Today’s biggest challenge for maritime R&D is the speed needed to transition to carbon neutral. Nobody believes there is a silver bullet; instead, lots of small changes will help us to make quick, decisive moves forward. The R&D unit will play an essential role in this transition and I know the team is up to the challenge. We have a can-do attitude and we invite customers and stakeholders to join us on this journey. I’m excited to see how together we’ll solve the challenges of the future!
Without a doubt, working in research and development is the best job in the company. It’s an opportunity to break boundaries and move beyond where we’ve been before. I find it highly motivating to see how we can achieve new things! I love meeting and collaborating with the talented people working in Wärtsilä R&D across Europe. The company has close to 700 people in the department, mostly working in Finland, Italy and Spain. Wärtsilä is flexible about working location and always keen to attract new talent – with the right person, it doesn’t matter in which unit they are based. Looking at the big picture we’ve proved that the limitations of the past can be broken with dedication and systematic work and we’re moving forward fast. R&D is the perfect fusion of technology, innovation and people – and the people in Wärtsilä R&D are the best in the world!
If you’re inspired by our work in R&D and you’d like to be part of it, then I’d love to hear from you. Check out our open positions here, or make an open application by creating a candidate profile here.