Apila Group was in the right place at the right time – taking part in the education export trip to Chile and Peru organised by Business Joensuu in 2019. Now they are enjoying the fruit of their effective groundwork; Apila Group provides consulting on the utilisation of side streams from the energy and mining sector in new, renewable products. The aim is to develop low-carbon products for the global construction market.
– The trip to South America was an important experience! There is a huge global need for circular economy solutions. People are now looking for rapid solutions for the future, and we are able to help with this,’ explains Kirsi Mononen, Director of Development at Apila Group.
“If all the people in the world consumed as much as the Finns do, we would need 3.8 planets.” This was the message broadcast by environmental organisation WWF in 2019. It is the end of the road for the linear economy. This has been the uncompromising message of Apila Group since 2006.
– Indeed, the whole concept of the circular economy did not yet exist in 2006. Ten years later, Finland was the first country in the world to publish its circular economy strategy, and now such a strategy is in place also at the European level.
Mononen’s call for action is ultimately also a question of money – so companies should be able to get the message.
– Living in a linear economy will become very expensive. In time, those companies seeking out material-wise circular economy solutions will be the winners. Their victory will be seen both in consumer confidence and in company profits.
Understanding of the business interface
Apila Group’s Development Manager is full of praise for the education export project of Global Education Park Finland, also known as Edupark.
– It wasn’t just about the training, but also about connecting with potential business partners. The travel programme had been organised brilliantly, and it was possible to have discussions with precisely the right people from both the public and private sector. Participating were companies both large and small from the forest industry, mining industry and waste and energy sectors.
Apila Group carries out material-efficient product development and research that is based on solid material chemistry expertise. With regards to the business interface, Mononen highlights the importance of the timeframe.
– In our own laboratory, we are able to carry out quick experiments, a kind of ‘quick and dirty’ material development. We delve deep into the world of chemical bonds. Compared to academic research, our strength in all of this is our speed. We are able to move things forward in two weeks rather than two years. The best solutions and most productive concepts can be quickly productised and commercialised. We are working for industries, to bring things directly to market.
Stuff in buckets
Apila Group’s core operations are based in Lehmo. The warehouse, laboratory and office space have been expanded many times, and they currently have 11 employees.
A lot of physical space is needed, as there are many types of materials that Apila Group receives from its customers. The industrial side streams include ash, waste rock from the mining industry, sediments, and different kinds of rubber and plastics – and for all of these copious materials the chemistry needs to be analysed and the valuable parts utilised.
Apila Group helps to create effective combinations and ways to manufacture new and useful things from these materials.
– This is where we cut, grind and mix. In many cases, the material is stuff you can carry around in a bucket. One person’s waste can be another’s valuable raw material. We are not afraid to dig in and get our hands dirty.
Added value also comes from the fact that the company provides access to business ecosystems – those seeking cooperation find suitable partners.
Welcome to the sharing economy!
Open-minded, innovative, and keen to cooperate – this is truly the culture of Apila Group. The company keeps its channels open both to the global market and to those nearby. In 2017, Apila Group won the Joensuu Start Me Up business idea competition with an innovation which is able to remove over 90% of the heavy metals and other metals from industrial wastewater. The process is emission-free and highly competitive.
In 2020, the company once again won a prize in the Business Joensuu business idea competition, receiving the business pilot prize sponsored by Kontioloikka Oy. In addition to the pilot prize, the company took the prize in the Start Me Up business idea competition which was sponsored by the Bioeconomy and Circular Economy Growth Programme and intended for the acquisition of expert services.
In January this year, the company announced that a noise wall constructed with the Gepocit® material developed by Apila Group is reaching completion in Lappeenranta. The project is one of the first structures in Finland to make use of this geopolymer composite.
– In my opinion, we have here in North Karelia a great deal of untouched soil – valuable material whose raw ingredients should be looked at from a fresh, new perspective,’ Kirsi Mononen concludes, and asserts once more that the time is now for the sharing economy.
– By combining forces, we can achieve a great deal.
Text: Sirkka-Liisa Aaltonen/Viestintä Ässä Oy
Pictures: Jarno Artika