Photonics company Hypermemo Ltd moved into its new Joensuu premises in early summer this year. The move is the culmination of a decade’s hard work that has seen the company develop a unique pulsed carbon dioxide laser – a cost-effective, precise, and ecological glass-cutting tool. The rapidly growing global market for glass processing equipment is worth around EUR 1 billion. Strategically, the new Joensuu base is the perfect launch pad for Hypermemo's bid to become a global player in the sector.

Hypermemo was established in 2009. The company is based on technology developed by Russian-born Vadim Kiyko. Its development started at the Russian Academy of Science and continued in Joensuu.

– Joensuu’s overall educational profile and the local university’s photonics research ensure the availability of skilled labour. Joensuu Science Park’s NetWork Oasis has also served as the ideal soft landing platform for start up enterprises arriving in Joensuu from outside the region. We were using the Oasis work spaces until the product development project funded by Tekes got under way in the premises leased at Lylykoskentie, says Vadim Kiyko, explaining the reasons behind the company’s move to Joensuu.

“No overnight success”

This year marks the 50th anniversary of photonics in Joensuu. The university’s department of physics began work in the field of optics, and more latterly photonics, as early as 1970. Over time, the research gradually became more practically applicable.

In fact, the world’s most advanced 3D printer for optical components was introduced in Joensuu in 2016. The printer is capable of producing prototypes and challenging components such as prisms and hybrid lenses for use in industry. Nano- and microphotonics are manufactured in Joensuu using a range of methods, including a roll-to-roll process.

– In photonics terms, 50 years is not such a long time – in fact the German town of Jena is celebrating 150 years of photonics. In other words, this was no overnight success story, Juha Purmonen points out.

Purmonen wears many hats as part of his involvement with photonics. Among other things, he serves as photonics business development manager at Business Joensuu. Another area of responsibility sees him help drive the sector forward as part of the Academy of Finland’s flagship programme for photonics research and innovation. Purmonen is also executive director at Photonics Finland. The association connects Finnish photonics companies, research centres, and public authorities. The background to these various roles reflects the key to what makes Joensuu the perfect strategic location for Hypermemo.

– Indeed, Joensuu is one of Finland’s four photonics hubs. Business Joensuu has a wide range of business development opportunities for companies – both in general and in photonics in particular. There is strong support for start-ups in Joensuu, including financing solutions. The proverbial cherry on top of the cake is the Photonics Centre set to open in early 2021, Juha Purmonen notes.

Customer benefits are crucial

As a sector, photonics is involved in almost every 21st century challenge – from energy to mobility, the environment to safety, and from healthcare to communication. Hypermemo has developed a new method for cutting and finishing glass based on a pulsed carbon dioxide laser solution. The method enables fast glass cutting and post processing with extreme precision and complete cleanliness. The cut glass is used, for example, in mobile phone screens, vehicle glass, smart glass in buildings, and wine glasses. The processes involved do not produce dangerous glass waste. The innovative method has been productised and patented in four countries.

– Prototype and small series production for the international glass industry is now being launched at our new, larger facility. And our lasers have already been tested in our customers’ production environments, for example on a drinking glass production line in Turkey, says Hypermemo’s Director of Operations, Erik Raita.

Internationally, the glass industry is well consolidated.

– Our Turkish customer, for example, is the world’s leading manufacturer of drinking glasses, with dozens of production lines around the world. When we demonstrate the cost and environmental benefits of our technology, scaling production within a single customer base represents a significant growth opportunity, Raita explains.

Hypermemo is currently monitoring the automation opportunities in surgical techniques.

– We are pushing hard to commercialise the concept and begin regular deliveries, remarks Hypermemo’s CEO, Vadim Kiyko.

Significant financial support

Hypermemo has received financial support for its innovation. In fact, in March of this year, the company announced it had secured EUR 2.1 million of EIC Accelerator funding from the EU. This funding supports companies with significant market and growth potential in commercialising new innovative products and solutions.

A few months after being awarded this significant funding, Hypermemo announced an investment of EUR 100,000 from a subsidiary of Business Joensuu through the Joensuu Start Up Fund.

– This investment will put our company on a growth path and enable the acquisition of new international customers and the further development of the product, says Kiyko.

Rapid growth

The photonics industry is rapidly growing on a global scale. So much so that it is considered a realistic prospect that the sector will employ more than one thousand people in the Joensuu region and generate a turnover of EUR 200 million by 2030. The current growth figures would suggest that these expectations are justified.

– Currently, around 4,200 people are employed in the Finnish photonics industry. The combined annual turnover of the approximately 260 photonics companies based in Finland is around EUR 1.2 billion. Over the next three years, the business growth rate is estimated to be as much as 29%. The number of employees is expected to grow at the same rate. Joensuu and our photonics expertise play a major role in this growth, Juha Purmonen explains.

When Hypermemo moved into its new facilities in June, the company employed five people. This number has now doubled. The company estimates that by 2020 it will employ 20 people.

The photonics industry is rapidly growing on a global scale.