Russia’s devastating attack in Ukraine has put energy independence at the heart of the European political and economic debate. With sanctions tightening and our eastern neighbor intensifying its grip on natural gas and oil pipelines, rapid and scalable solutions for energy shortages are absolutely necessary.
Europe still spends almost a billion euros a day buying fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas, from Russia. A European energy self-sufficiency would require massive investments in the scale of hundreds of billions into energy solutions – especially solar, hydro, wind and hydrogen, but also into nuclear energy.
Alas, the journey is painfully slow and requires significant support and energy imports from the US. Economic growth forecasts are shrinking rapidly and in the short term, a recession in the euro area due to rising energy prices will in practice be unavoidable. Still, investing in Europe’s energy independence and technological supply security is now more essential than ever. This is not only because of the war and its effects on Europe – we also need to invest to be able to fight climate change faster and preserve the planet for the future generations to come.
Striving for independence and global leadership does not end at energy. The same pressure and urgent need applies to our technological supply security. We need to secure the supply of innovative food solutions, semiconductors, safety and security innovations, mobility solutions, as well as nanoelectronics- and quantum-related innovations – the list goes on and on.
And this is where the startups scaling solutions from science come into play. So, here’s my thesis – I hope it inspires action in all of you!
1. New solutions are already out there– we just need to adapt and scale them. New technologies (like new materials, nanotech, bio based innovations, power to x, industrial solutions etc) needed for the next generation of energy, food, safety or circularity, have been developed by science, and have been in incubation for the past ten or twenty years already.
2. Startups are the fastest route to a measurable impact – to getting a “needle moving” new solution to the market – such as solutions within carbon capture, energy storage, smart grid, new protein or quantum cryptography. Why? Big companies are often just too slow and political.
3. The time has come – so act now. We have a very limited time left to start preserving our planet and gaining technological independence. Investors, employees and customers are screaming for new solutions – are the big corporations! Growth entrepreneurs focusing on global scaling and mastering the ecosystem play with big incumbents can capture a lion share of the new markets and new value created.
Fortunately Europe, and the Nordic countries in particular, have a huge number of growth companies developing green energy, food tech, and other critical environmental technologies. Currently, we have roughly 13 000 deep tech companies in the Nordics and Baltics, and roughly 50-60% of these startups are developing solutions to both the ongoing crisis, as well as upcoming ones. Often, these startups are developing the proof of concepts and technology in cooperation with research institutes such as VTT (check out e.g. Micronova ecosystem for nanoelectronics and quantum) and larger partner companies like ABB, Siemens, Fortum or Helen.
These solutions should now be rapidly brought to industrial scale and scaled up across Europe. Eventually, the clock speed of the scientific founders, their partners and early investors will define the end-game. Additionally, more money is desperately needed for the scaling phase.
It’s important to note that I am not talking about technologies of the distant future. There are many incredible solutions out there already. The efficiency of battery technologies can be improved with new bio-based materials, wind turbines can be piled on carbon-neutral concrete and car electronics can be made by printing recycled polymers. The energy grid can be controlled by artificial intelligence and hydrogen can be produced in an environmentally friendly way.
If you want to learn more about Voima Ventures investments and “bets” for a greener future and European core technology independency, please check out the following cutting edge companies from our portfolio:
- Solutions for food and protein shortage: Solar foods (food out of thin air), eniferBio (bio-side stream based proteins)
- Circularity and new materials: Infinited Fiber Company (new cotton-like fiber from circular materials), Betolar Oyj (side stream based binders for carbon neutral cement and concrete industry)
- Green data, safety & security: Kuva Space (nanosatellites and hyperspectral green data), Skyfora (weathertech IoT and hurricane AI models)
- Energy and electronics: Geyser Batteries (salt water based high power batteries), Tactotek (sustainable printed electronics for automotive and CE) and Elfys (ultraviolet sensitive photodiodes)
- Quantum: QuantrolOx (Machine learning & AI for quantum qubit optimization) and Quantagonia (virtual compiler and platform to transform legacy software to quantum age)
Effective innovation ecosystems and startups will also create a supply of technological security, ensuring the technology independence for Finland, Sweden and the whole Europe in the wider green transition. Applied research in materials technologies and high-growth companies in the region play a key role as solution providers and bringing the higher clock speed. Larger companies will test, integrate and scale up solutions and services for industry, logistics and customers – hopefully faster than ever, due to competition and consumer pressure.
And eventually, there will be peace. We will need to rebuild Ukraine and work even closer with other western economies to bring stability and peace to the whole world. And what better ways are there of building sustainable peace, than by scaling green energy, new food solutions or more effective healthcare and education for developing countries and societies?
That is why startups – and specifically, startups scaling solutions from science – play a key role in all of our futures.
Written by Inka Mero, Managing Partner at Voima Ventures.