Urban Mill

  • 15 Nov

    Karostech invites top European H2020 SME Instrument experts to Helsinki

    Karostech and the leading European SME Instrument fundraiser Inspiralia (Spain) invite you to the Horizon 2020 – SME Instrument event that will take place on Tuesday Nov. 29 at 18:00–21:00 in the Radisson Blue Royal Hotel, Runeberginkatu 2, Helsinki downtown.

    Registration to the event: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/H5BY5LS.

    The SME Instrument is a funding tool under the Horizon 2020 program from the European Commission. Its main target is to make the European Union more competitive and innovative by funding European Innovative SMEs with grants from 0,5 M€ up to 2,5 M€ to help them developing new products and launching them successfully to the market. See more detailed information: http://ec.europa.eu/easme/en/horizons-2020-sme-instrument

    In this informative workshop experts from Inspiralia will introduce the funding opportunities from the EC to Finnish Innovative SMEs. The event is co-organized by: Oy Karostech Ltd, Lähienergialiitto (Finnish Clean Energy Association), Urban Mill, ReWork of Work Facebook community, and Kasvusaari Oy. There will be also an opportunity to have a face to face meeting with Inspiralia’s SME Instrument experts on 30.11. at the same venue. Optionally, tue 29.11. before the event is also possible to meet Inspiralia’s expert Guillermo Palacios. Contact Ilkka Kakko ilkka.kakko (at) karostech.fi to book your time.

    The Agenda:

    • Welcome and introduction
      • Ilkka Kakko, Karostech
      • Pilar Cocera, Inspiralia
    • Inspiralia : What we do?
    • What is the SME Instrument?
      • Structure Phase1-Phase2
      • Topics and typical funded projects
      • Next opportunity and timeline
    • How to know if you are a winner?
      • Excellence in the technology
      • Market impact
      • Implementation
    • Inspiralia’s Key Differentiator
      • Validation
      • Rigorous Process
      • Dedicated teams of experts
    • Q&As
    • Coctails and snacks


    About Inspiralia

    Inspiralia is an international New Product Development Company which helps SMEs bring their innovative products and solutions to the market. Inspiralia offers a 360º innovative development process from validating the idea, finding financing, developing the project into a product within our technical facilities and laboratories as well as launching it to the market. You can have an overview of what we do best in the attached video link: Clip Inspiralia.

    At Inspiralia, we are always on the search for innovative ideas that will change tomorrow´s society and the necessary funding to bring these to market.  Our results have enabled us to become European Leaders within Horizon 2020’s SME Instrument funding programme:

    • Inspiralia has an accumulated success rate for Phase 1 financed proposals of 80%, compared with a 6% European average. Currently we are supporting 182 happy clients with their applications for Phase 2.
    • Inspiralia won the 10% of all available SME Instrument Phase 2 funding EU wide for their clients so far, with 33 delighted clients currently executing Phase 2 projects.


  • 24 Jul
    New international partners from Japan and Korea for Karostech

    New international partners from Japan and Korea for Karostech

    We in Karostech have been active this summer in streamlining the global partnership network for the benefit of our customers.

    During the Open Innovation 2.0 Conference on June Ilkka Kakko had a great chance to spend one afternoon in a workshop together with the directors of JIN (Japan Innovation Network). It was an awesome two and half hours and Ilkka got also an invitation to come and visit JIN in Japan in the near future. In the cover picture Ilkka is after the workshop alongside Urban Mill orchestrators Kari Mikkelä and Lars Miikki together with the top management team of Japan Innovation Network (JIN) Prof Konno, former President of Sony Corporation Dr Ando and Chief Executive Officer of JIN Dr Nishiguchi. 

    Karostech organized also a visit for our Korean contact Dr Seo from Innopolis Foundation. Dr Seo made an European tour visiting UK, Sweden and Finland and was interested in studying the latest developments on innovation platforms. Ilkka took Dr Seo to LADEC to show how the local science park in Lahti has merged with regional development company and what kind of experiences they so far have from this re-structuring process. We also visited an Lahti – based entrepreneur Jarmo Järvinen, who is running two amazing businesses, Lean Park Oy and Methator Oy.

    After Lahti we continued the program and visited also Espoo Innovation Garden in Otaniemi, where Ilkka explained how 3rd generation science park concept is implemented and what it requires in practical terms.  During the afternoon tour Dr Seo had the chance to meet people from Design Factory, Start-Up Sauna, Urban Mill and a recently established business accelerator Vertical.

    Dr Seo was impressed and promised to take some of lessons back to Korea and start implementing them in his organization. He also invited Ilkka to visit Korea on November to conduct some training sessions in their innovation workshop.


    Näyttökuva 2015-07-30 kello 14.01.35Näyttökuva 2015-07-30 kello 14.01.13

    In photos: Dr Seo visiting LADEC, where our host was Essi Artima-Sulkinoja and the Vertical accelerator in Otaniemi, where our hosts were Hanna, Kenneth and Paolo.


  • 04 Dec
    Karostech contributed to the 3rd Innovation Forum in Zheleznogorsk

    Karostech contributed to the 3rd Innovation Forum in Zheleznogorsk

    Karostech’s Founder and Partner Ilkka Kakko has participated in a traditional annual Innovation Forum in Zheleznogorsk, Russia, 29.-30. November.

    On Thursday Ilkka has presented a two hour keynote  to the participants of Youth Forum. The topic was “Professional Communities as Part of Innovation Ecosystem” and the event was attended by about 60 people, students, start-ups, officials and university personal.

    Kuvankaappaus 2013-12-4 kello 8.34.49

    On Friday Ilkka Kakko contributed as a member of panel discussion (picture above) on how cluster development can be improved by some new concepts and structures. Ilkka introduced some Finnish examples like Demola and Urban Mill, and the top experts from Russia, including Technopark Skolkovo, presented their viewpoints. The discussion was dynamic and the Finnish approach received  a warm response.

    Ilkka’s Thursday presentation can be viewed here

    The city of Zheleznogorsk hosts one of the most advanced research centres in Russia focusing on nuclear and space research. The two day Innovation Forum attended by the most important stakeholders from academia, business and regional development sectors was intended to support the innovation activities in the area .

    This invitation highlights the strong position and reputation, which Karostech has achieved in Russian innovation sphere as an acknowledged expert organization. There will be further negotiations on how Karostech’s expertise can be utilized in order to build a sustainable innovation ecosystem in Krasnoyarsk Krai region.

  • 27 Mar

    Coworking – a gimmick or the real solution for future challenges

    netWork Oasis - a coworking hub inside Joensuu Science  Park

    netWork Oasis – a coworking hub inside Joensuu Science Park

    The early signs were recognizable already years ago

    ”Traditional business incubators will fade away, replaced by new kinds of spaces for entrepreneurship and collaborative research. Pop-up labs, co-working hubs, mobile incubators and disposable research parks will provide flexible physical spaces for R&D. Rather than warehousing workers, they will meet a need for communal collaborative meeting space in a world of increased mobility within and between worksplaces. They will be neutral places where networks of investors, entrepreneurs, hackers ans customers converge for collaborative knowledge creation and trust building, cementing relationships initiated and  cultivated online.”

    Rather than warehousing workers, they will meet a need for communal collaborative meeting space in a world of increased mobility within and between worksplaces

    This is how the report from Institute for the Future described in 2009 an emerging trend called ”The Social Life of Small Research Spaces”. Sounds familiar ?  Later on that year I was interviewed by a reporter from an independent supplement of Media Planet within the Wall Street Journal. The article ”What is the Future of Research Parks?” was part of the publication  and my outspoken vision in December 2009  was pretty incisive:

    “There should be places where people could meet more randomly and ad-hoc. Research parks should work on trying to increase the diversity among their clientele. So far, it looks like science parks are no longer very attractive to the younger generation. Young people feel the parks too rigid or too business like. They like this more relaxed environment. You have to develop methods for “serendipity management” and “open innovation” to discover ways to best facilitate the ad hoc collaborations. Otherwise it will happen in coffee shops and bars.” 

    Today we will see this happening in ever increasing speed and mostly outside the walls of STPs.  The new innovation scene is attractively set mainly by coworking spaces and by new innovation platforms like netWork Oasis, Demola, Urban Mill etc (this was discussed in my previous blog.)


    Location, location, location

    While the coworking movement is gaining momentum and STPs loosing it,  maybe we should analyze some of the fundamentals behind this trend. My understanding is that one of the decisive elements is location.

    There are hardly any STPs in the downtown locations of the metropolises.

    Coworking spaces are mainly located in downtown areas, where the people density and diversity is high naturally. The STPs are located in suburban areas, in university campuses or industrial zones. There are hardly any STPs in the downtown locations of the metropolises. Why is this an important difference?  Watching the old classic by William ”Holly” White – a 55 min film ” The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces -The Street Corner” might give you insight. 

    The vibrant and random action on the streets and the possibility to serendipitous encounters  – the coincidensity! – can be harnessed in the nearby located coworking spaces but not in the STP glasstowers in suburban locations.  And like the video proved even small changes in the settings can be decisive. Our behavior is very context dependent!


    Linking surrounding communities into the innovation processes

    A week ago Stowe Boyd published a great blog where he interviewed Jennifer Magnolfi. Jennifer is widely acknowledged for her reputation in the field and the visionary way of thinking. Her applied research work explores coworking and co-creation, the technologies and practices that support workspaces for innovation, collaboration and community development. In 2012, Jennifer teamed up with Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh to support the company’s new headquarters redesign.  Jennifer explains in the interview the magic of coworking spaces:

    “Coworking spaces have the capacity to support productive work because of the very human-centric approach to how they are created: the community, or network, comes first, followed by studying and stabilizing the network, and then creation of an environment that supports the behaviors and needs of that network.”

    The creation process was based on self-organising principles and the core tribe members were selected because of their passion to the topic.

    We surely can confirm that. In our 3GSP pilot project we noticed that the implementation of netWork Oasis, a coworking space inside the existing STP, was the vital element in understanding how the communities are created and supported. We discovered in the very beginning the importance of the core tribe. The creation process was based on self-organising principles and the core tribe members were selected because of their passion to the topic. Actually to be precise – our idea of creating a revolutionary collaborative working environment (CWE) – like it was called at that time (2002) – was so attractive, that it was evident that we could gather the masterminds of this topic into our planning team. The community building was further supported by using our Training Camp approach. As a result we had in the spring 2004 the most diverse and motivated team consisting of core tribe members, substance experts and networking members. By the way, who would have imagined that our task attracted also a monk, Father Andreas, from nearby Valamo monastery to join our team….So passionate lead users and core tribe members were leading the way to create the concept.


    Harnessing the benefits of a vibrant coworking space

    A properly organized coworking space is essential in hosting various communities. The design of the physical space is extremely important, like Jennifer explains :  “The properties of space –- volume, texture, materials, proportions, light — have the capacity to trigger neurochemical reactions in the brain. It is believed that when this is understood correctly, it can be a tool to design for a certain kind of behavior: concentration, energy, focus.”  In fact with the design and implementation of netWork Oasis we went one step further, our leading design principle for  the space was to support and generate serendipitous encounters of people with diverse backgrounds.

    And as important as the physical space is the virtual collaboration platform. Like Jennifer says: “Our digital social space has implicit laws (it’s based on distributed networks), speed and acceleration. It also creates new emergent behaviors in users.  For businesses, the purpose of understanding this social context is to describe and possibly predict its future evolution. In other words, understanding these emergent behaviors helps businesses innovate faster, and thus achieve competitive advantage.

    That kind of attractive and open space will work as a camp site, similar to those of the ancient nomadic communities – a campfire which gathers the surrounding communities together to reflect, to create and to enjoy.

    A vibrant coworking space is the core platform in our 3GSP tool box! It works because the communities are alive and hence able to attract more inspiring people with diverse backgrounds to the space. That kind of attractive and open space will work as a camp site, similar to those of the ancient nomadic communities – a campfire which gathers the surrounding communities together to reflect, to create and to enjoy. And like Jennifer Magnolfi mentioned earlier on,  these mental campfire places can be created. The most attractive element in netWork Oasis in fact has turned out to be the logfire place in Serendipity Cafe, where you can watch the flames of the logs burning live.  It’s a general wisdom that  campfires are one of the most relaxing phenomenons a mankind have ever created.  Our experience shows that a natural campfire ambience is by far the best way to create insightful moments in a built environment. And insight really is, what is needed in our communities!


    Photo courtesy – Finnish Game Jam / Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151279405885369&set=pb.256699080368.-2207520000.1364371251&type=3&theater






  • 12 Mar
    Science parks at the crossroads

    Science parks at the crossroads

    I have been involved with international science and technology park (STP) development for more than a decade. One could assume that since the world has changed hugely during that time, also STP world would have transformed accordingly. Let’s have a look if that has happened.

    The outlook is a bit scattered, the overall picture is that nothing has really changed in the STP scene. However, one may see encouraging signs at least in Finland, which is widely recognized to have one of the most productive innovation systems in the world. I will describe our findings later, but first let’s have a look at the fundamental foresight work completed.

    One important milestone in a global STP world was the publication of the results of the scenario work organized by Institute for the Future and Research Triangle Park in 2009. The report ”Future Knowledge Ecosystems – The Next 20 Years of Technology-Led Economic Development” presented three scenarios for the future STP development:

    1)   Science and Technology Parks 3.02013-03-12 08.50.50

    “The progress is incremental, new parks are upgraded versions of the predecessors, but the structural change in surrounding environments will  stay unnoticed. The main highways of Science 2.0 pass by the parks, but not through them”

    2)   The Rise of Research Clouds

    These workplaces are peppered with sensors that “mine reality”, helping the inhabitants be more effective and engineering chance encounters. They are a place of open discourse among people from business, academia, startups, craftsmen, policy people, amateurs etc.”

    3) Dematerialized Innovation: Parks in Decline

    “Existing parks fail to provide value to virtual networks, and don’t create local and regional systems to create sticky know-how. High energy costs, falling R&D productivity and global recession will force to cut the costs and STPs are in trouble in getting funded.”

    The report was published in the connection of IASP World Conference in Raleigh, N.C., USA, and can be downloaded here. As expected, it generated future related discussions there at the event, but to our surprise, it never really had an effect to the mainstream thinking in the STP field.  One could even sarcastically note that in many STPs the future is predicted and actions planned by looking at the rear view mirror. This approach really reminds me about the statement by Yogi Berra (who wasn’t really recognized as the brightest guy on earth): ”You gotta be very careful, if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there!”. Sad enough, it’s true in too many organizations still today.

    Almost four years after the launch of the report, many of the trends indicated in the report are getting momentum. One may observe at least following trends affecting the landscape. We will analyze these in our forthcoming blogs, here is just the list.

    • The Group Economy3D printing workshop at ADDLab
    • The New Scientist
    • New Global Map of Science
    • Lightweight Innovation
    • The Social Life of Small Research Spaces
    • From Knowledge Diffusion to Sticky Knowledge
    • From Research Parks to Regional Knowledge Ecosystems

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Photo: 3D printing workshop @ADDLab

    It’s great to discover that at least Finnish innovation players are taking the scenario of “The Rise of Research Clouds” seriously and adapting their activities by implementing the third generation science park model in practice.  The interesting point here is that while the long time leading Finnish STP, Technopolis, has become a sole provider of facility management services with a strategic decision of the publicly quoted company’s board, other players have entered the scene. There has been a rapid development of new innovation environments, an emergence of several operational models and widespread commitment to link different communities to harvest the innovation potential. The key actors in Helsinki metropolitan area at the moment are Aalto University and Aalto Entrepreneurship Society. Such newly evolved platforms as Design Factory, Startup Sauna, Urban Mill, Open Innovation House with AppCampus, Aalto Digital Design Lab, FabLab and InnoOmnia are the physical spaces where ”hacker-space”, ”maker-space”, coworking and startup cultures are flourishing. This ecosystem located at Otaniemi campus will soon be served by several coworking spaces currently under development  in downtown Helsinki.

    These workplaces are peppered with sensors that “mine reality”, helping the inhabitants be more effective and engineering chance encounters. They are a place of open discourse among people from business, academia, startups, craftsmen, policy people, amateurs etc.”

    This new operation model is creating Virtual Breeding Environments (VBE) also outside Helsinki area. Tampere, Lappeenranta, Jyväskylä, Kuopio and Oulu have followed the model because Technopolis has bought their STPs and started to offer their general service palette in these locations. The incubation activities and development projects have been moved to separate regional development companies. So the traditional STP model is scattered between new organizations and sometimes is even geographically dispersed.

    Tampere is showing an inspiring example of a new innovation platform called “New Factory”, which is not dependent on an existing STP or any single university. It consists of three elements: Protomo is a space where ideas and talent meet to create new companies, Demola is a platform where businesses and students work together and Suuntaamo is an environment where users test products and services. The proof of the concept has been validated, Protomo has established units in eight Finnish cities so far (the latest in Lahti), Demola is operating in Tampere and Oulu and some international locations are starting their operations. When Tampere innovation scene was ten years ago dominated totally by their STP Hermia, now the leading innovation actors and intermediaries are new operators, which emerged from nowhere just few years ago.

    For us the most interesting development scene is Lahti, where we have the opportunity to pilot Karostech’s own 3GSP model. Lahti has changed the structure of its innovation companies and given also up the traditional STP approach. Since the beginning of 2013 there is one big player in the field, Lahti Development Company – LADEC Ltd as a result of a merger of Lahti Science and Business Park, the regional development company LAKES and Lahti Region Enterprise Agency. But because LADEC is located in the industrial area far away from downtown and Lahti has also other significant innovation organizations like the subsidiaries of Lappeenranta University of Technology and Palmenia unit of Helsinki University, we are currently involved with the development initiative called MALSKI. Being a neutral environment, MALSKI will become a connecting factor of all these actors and the brilliant downtown location in an old brewery building. While the construction work is still under development (opening 2014) the temporary site, CoMalski – a 400 m2 coworking space just opened few weeks ago. That will serve as a piloting platform for collaborative business models and give a lot of insight towards the further development of our 3GSP concept.

    If you want to surf on the wave of change, then your STP should maybe consider following the Finnish innovation organizations and take distance from the ”best practices” of the international STP field. Thinking in terms of 3GSP model, the sustainable community building, the implementation of virtual collaboration platforms and geographically dispersed coworking locations, highlighting the importance of global approach and connectivity are elementary. Forget traditional business idea competitions, where the teams are by definition gathered only from local talent and their ideas are presented only in written format to the jury often full of  local ”innovation bureaucrats”. Instead encourage and train your prospects to participate in national competitions,  like the ones organized by Startup Sauna, or  even international ones like this by Y Combinator .

    The crucial question to be answered at the moment is which scenario resonates with our own thinking.

    In that scheme you support the building of development teams with diverse competences, you encourage also other type of entrepreneurship than startups – like effectual entrepreneurs, freelancers, social entrepreneurs, virtual teams and virtual organizations. You put a lot of passion to develop and promote your global connections and help your customers to find the best contacts on the global scene. You facilitate the collaboration between your customers and also between the customers of other STPs and you expand the collaboration possibilities also to the dynamic innovation communities globally.

    The postnormal era is here, it’s time to open our eyes and start thinking how we can keep the existing STP customers and how we can adapt our operations to fit to the demand of the future. The crucial question to be answered at the moment is which scenario resonates with our own thinking. Looking at the rear view mirror will guarantee that the ”Parks in Decline” scenario is reality before you even notice it!


    By the way mammoths didn't survive.....

    By the way mammoths didn’t survive…..