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Pushing the boundaries of technology together in Slush

What do you get when you combine six Finnish and Swedish legacy companies, a host of the world’s hottest start-ups, and the coolest tech event in Europe? The answer is the Next 100 — an industry-leading side event at Slush that brought together more than 350 participants to innovate the future together.

Text: Mikaela Terhi Photo: Sami Virtanen
 

With 25,000 curious minds in attendance, including representatives of 3,500 start-ups and 2,000 investors, Slush is the biggest event of the year on the start-up scene. Here at the Helsinki Expo and Convention Center, you can expect to rub shoulders with talent and the technological elite who come together under one roof eager to network, find funding and tune into the numerous stage talks. This year, the motto of Slush was “Stop Waiting for Happy Accidents” and Wärtsilä most certainly took this message to heart.

Wärtsilä joined forces with fellow industry giants Stora Enso, KONE, Saab, Scania, and Husqvarna to draw in the brightest and most innovative tech minds from around the world at the largest-ever Slush side event, the Next 100, which took place on Friday 22 November.




Keeping one step ahead of the game 

With the energy and marine markets transforming and the old ways of doing business changing, there is a clear need for more collaboration between corporations and start-ups. Decisions made in the energy and shipping spheres over the next 10 years will be crucial for our planet and critical for determining what we will leave for future generations. Wärtsilä wants to make a difference, and that requires being one step ahead of the game.
 
“We can’t change the industries by ourselves. We must look forward to building a better future together with our partners. For us to fulfil our purpose and to reach the ambition for our Smart Marine and Smart Energy business visions it’s crucial to embrace open innovation and collaboration with the right partners such as start-ups, scale-ups, customers, academia and other companies even more. Slush for us is an amazing platform to get to know each other and envision the future together,” explains Steffen Knodt, Director, New Ventures at Wärtsilä.

“We have been active in the start-up scene for some years now with our SparkUp Challenges for Marine and Energy, presence in Slush, and by taking part in different accelerator programmes like the Trade & Transport Impact in Hamburg,” he adds.

Knodt believes that Wärtsilä is a promising partner for the companies of the future.

“Start-ups are interested in Wärtsilä because of our leading technologies, wide customer base and global reach. We are a very attractive partner both for our businesses, but also for our purpose. Collaborating with start-ups has made us more agile, faster in developing new solutions and picking up new technologies. It’s really a win-win,” Steffen says. 

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Matchmaking and stage program kick-off at the Next 100 side event

Scouting the most promising start-ups out of the 3,500 companies coming to Slush was quite a challenge, but with the help from Combient Foundry’s Venture Client Unit, all the corporations behind the Next 100 found the most relevant start-ups to meet their specific business interests. Wärtsilä was especially interested in AI and data-driven energy management in marine, carbon neutrality in shipping, autonomous vessels as well as additive manufacturing know-how.

During the first two hours of the Next 100 event, more than 100 short meetings with potential start-ups took place. 

 Andreas Hjort, General Manager, Smart Design, Research & Technology Development at Wärstilä took part in this ‘matchmaking’ session with the hope of finding new design services for Additive Manufacturing.

“It was like speed dating but in a relaxed atmosphere,” Hjort says about the short meetings. “We had 20 minutes to chat and then it was time to shake hands with the founders of the next company.” Hjort had the opportunity to meet with three Additive Manufacturing start-ups with interesting technologies and customised 3D printed scale-down models to offer.

For Slush-first-timer Reetta Kaila, Technology & Development Manager at Wärtsilä, Slush exceeded expectations. She found a few potential start-ups to collaborate with on circular economy initiatives.

“Oceanplastik was a great fit for Wärtsilä’s business and purpose,” Kaila says. “They have found a quick, easy-to-adapt way to efficiently clean up rivers and seasides from plastic trash and by that prevent the plastics from ending up in the seas. Plastic trash is a huge issue in East Asia, where people live in poverty but still have smartphones enabling them to use Oceanplastik’s app to seek, report and collect trash and earn cryptocurrency based on the weight of plastic collected. It’s like the PokemonGo, game but with value.”

For start-ups looking to collaborate with major industry players offering huge business opportunities, the Next 100 side event was a perfect match too. The feedback from the ones who participated in the matchmaking session was positive and many follow-up meetings were booked.

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After the hectic matchmaking session, the capacity of the Factory space at Slush was used to its maximum capacity when an additional 350 invitees came in to hear what the industry giants could offer start-ups. At the stage programme, which was based on the reverse pitching concept, the tables were turned and corporations got to pitch themselves to the start-ups. When Joonas Makkonen, VP Voyage Solutions, took to the stage for his lightning-talk, he painted the picture of Wärtsilä as a visionary smart technology company with a clear purpose and a will to collaborate with like-minded partners.

“Wärtsilä wants to work with the best talent and connect it to a wider ecosystem. Together we can build a better future,” Makkonen said.

He also took part in the fireside chat together with Karin Rådström, EVP Head of Sales and Marketing from Scania and Lisa Åbom, CTO, Aeronautics from Saab. They had a great discussion about transforming their industries on land, in the air and at sea and using automation, Artificial Intelligence and robotics to make that happen.

The Wärtsilä Slush team say they are happy with how the event turned out.

“The dedicated side event nailed it for us! Teaming up with the other corporations is a great vehicle for cross-industry collaboration and experience exchange and thereby an excellent example for our open innovation mindset at Wärtsilä. I’m eager to see how the story with the most potential start-ups will unfold,” says Steffen Knodt.

Mikaela Terhi
, Senior Manager, Transformation Communications at Wärtsilä, who was part of the core team behind the Next 100 Slush campaign, says it was an important event for the company’s future.

“I’m extremely happy that we chose to take this route,” Terhi says. “Together with our six friends we raised awareness about Wärtsilä among the start-up and tech community. We’re an innovative technology company that is keen to build a sustainable future and we want to do this together with partners. I think the Wärtsilä brand, purpose and smart visions shone brightly in Slush!”

Joonas Makkonen VP Voyage Solutions was interviewed at the Next 100 alongside with representatives from the other corporations. His session starts at 19 minutes. 



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