Coming soon The Smart Technology Hub

Coming soon: The Smart Technology Hub

In an increasingly complex world, the hope of brainstorming the next big innovation in a garage is slimmer than ever. The name of the game these days is collaboration and open innovation. Wärtsilä’s new Smart Technology Hub promises to be just that. Here’s a look at what forms the core of its structure.

Text: Alexander Farnsworth Photo: Wärtsilä

The energy and marine sectors are two very different animals for Wärtsilä in terms of theory, practice and business execution. But they do share a commitment to enable sustainable societies (and tackle climate change) with the use of smart technology.

This is why Wärtsilä’s new Smart Technology Hub, a unique EUR 200 million technology centre to be built in Vaskiluoto, the port neighbourhood of Vaasa, in Finland by the end of 2020 promises to keep the company’s Smart Marine and Smart Energy visions at its heart.

“We are investing in a new Smart Technology Hub to innovate and develop our products and systems to the next level,” says Hannu Mäntymaa, Director of R&D and Engineering at Wärtsilä. “It will be a platform for innovation and collaboration with all the competencies needed to make industry transformations happen.”

“Collaboration, or co-creation as we like to call it, is the only way to stay in a market-shaping leadership position in a rapidly changing world. Collaboration improves the speed of innovation by bringing together diverse views and competencies. By collaborating, we are able to combine different ideas that can lead to new, disruptive innovations and technological solutions,” he adds. “Collaboration also adds inspiration and energy to R&D with faster idea generation, learning, employee engagement and the ability to test and bring ideas forward.”
 

Introducing the Smart Partner Campus

The Smart Technology Hub will include a Smart Partner Campus where research, product and system development will be conducted together with companies, start-ups and academia as well as with Wärtsilä’s collaboration partners, customers, and suppliers.

However, the Smart Partner Campus is not only an incubator. The idea here is to build a new ecosystem and operating model in which cooperation helps bring new innovations to the market. 

The investment consists of a whole new office and technology centre for advanced manufacturing, automated logistics, development, simulation, and testing and will employ more than 1,000 people, helping link together, even more closely, the company’s existing centres of excellence around the globe.
 

Helping create synergies

While Wärtsilä is already keenly aware of its existing contacts within academia and supplier circles, relationships with start-up companies are being fostered through the SparkUp Challenge competition which was started in November 2017 as an open innovation tool. You can read about one inspiring case here.

“With the Smart Technology Hub and the Smart Partner Campus, we are addressing some of the biggest global challenges that we have today. The Smart Technology Hub will be the framework for us to develop and cooperate around these smart technologies to bring them one step further,” continues Mäntymaa. “Cocreation and partnerships will allow us to be much faster and more precise about what we develop, in order to really meet customer needs and also to ensure cooperation with key suppliers.”

According to Mäntymaa, the focus areas for the new hub will include projects related to future energy and smart marine solutions, waste reduction and optimisation of the whole marine ecosystem which consists of engines, new fuels, hybrid/battery systems etc., work that is already in full swing across the group. The sharing of big data sets to help improve maintenance routines of customer applications and systems is also high on the agenda. 

“The challenges of a 100% emissions-free and renewables future are the same between our energy and marine sectors, so the synergies are obvious,” says Mäntymaa.

As of early 2019, Wärtsilä is defining, together with partners, a playbook on how best to cooperate with suppliers and customers to reach common goals, and more importantly how to share the rewards once they come.

"Constant renewal is in Wärtsilä's DNA," says Wärtsilä's President & CEO, Jaakko Eskola. "This company was established in 1834 as a sawmill in the village of Värtsilä in Tohmajärvi, and now it is the global leader in smart technology and complete lifecycle solutions for the marine and energy markets. The Vaasa Smart Technology Hub represents another generational shift for us. It will bring Wärtsilä's expertise into a whole new realm."

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