One of Finland's most significant and international centers of photonics research is located in the Joensuu region. The new photonics center, which will be opened in 2021, will create new business opportunities on the sector and attract new companies from Finland and overseas to the region. As the center opens, the city of Joensuu is pursuing an even bigger part on the industry that is currently growing at an annual rate of 20%.
Photonics is one of the six centers of expertise of the Academy of Finland’s Flagship Programme, and domestic business activities in the field grow at an average annual rate of twenty per cent . In Finland, the Joensuu region has been profiled as an international forerunner of photonics research, product research and commercialisation, and the city of Joensuu has named photonics one of its four leading sectors.
The region is already renowned for long-term work in photonics education and research. Now investment activities are also focusing on commercialisation and business growth. With the launch of the Photonics Business and Research Center Joensuu in 2021, the city is promoting business activities of photonics businesses in the region and is aiming for an ever increasing share of the growing goldmine.
“Our goal is that by 2030, the photonics sector will employ more than 1,000 people and generate a turnover of 200 million euros in the Joensuu region. Founding the new photonics center is one of the most important steps in Joensuu’s vision for growth in photonics and is a key enabler of our goals,” says Harri Palviainen, CEO of Business Joensuu and the coordinator of the project.
At the new photonics center, companies utilising photonics will be supported with business development, capital acquisition and networking. Companies will be supported to promote innovations nationally and internationally, and to find new experts to work at these companies. The center might also have an accelerator program which would help start-up companies on the sector to advance faster to international markets.
Several well-known photonics companies already operate in Joensuu, including Dispelix, Hypermemo, Nanocomp and Seetrue. The goal is to improve the operating conditions of companies utilising photonics in Joensuu, to create new business and to attract new companies and jobs from Finland and overseas to the region.
Long-term work for a mutual cause
During the first phase of the project, the new photonics center will be established on the Joensuu campus of the University of Eastern Finland. However, plans to expand the center are already under way, and in a few years’ time the center will move to its own premises.
The new center will help establish a mutual framework, but cooperation has already been happening for a long time. Among other things, the university has rented facilities and equipment for companies in the field of photonics, and students have also been able to train with equipment from real companies. Karelia University of Applied Sciences has supported companies in designing products based on precision technology and producing prototypes.
The center will increase the opportunities for business and research cooperation between educational organisations and help get access to devices that the organisations would not be able to acquire on their own.
“When it comes to cooperation with businesses, photonics has been a kind of pioneer: we have been building a shared ecosystem for a long time, and we believe that other sectors will also move in this direction. The new photonics center creates not only a better framework for sharing facilities and equipment, but also for sharing expertise and knowledge. The center is an important attraction for both the university and the entire region,” explains Dean Jukka Jurvelin from the UEF Faculty of Science and Forestry.
“Karelia and UEF photonics experts are used to working together, and, for example, product development in many companies takes place in the premises of universities of applied sciences or regular universities. With the new photonics center, our cooperation will take another leap forward,” Petri Raivo, Rector of Karelia University of Applied Sciences, describes the photonics sector in the region.
The letter of intent on establishing a new photonics center was signed on 22 June 2020. The parties of the agreement are the City of Joensuu, Business Joensuu, University of Eastern Finland, Karelia University of Applied Sciences, Riveria Vocational school in North Karelia, University Properties of Finland and the Regional Council of North Karelia.
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Joensuu is a growing university city and region with over 120,000 inhabitants and 6,000 companies. It is the economic hub of North Karelia and is located within easy reach of the Russian border. The 20,000 students studying in the city’s different educational institutions are very visible at street level. Joensuu is one of the most entrepreneurial cities in Finland, being a home to the largest forest machine factory in the world, the headquarters of the European Forest Institute, a world-renowned forerunner of locking and access control systems, and a cluster serving the international pharmaceutical industry. In addition, Joensuu is one of Finland’s four photonics hubs. It is a vibrant city full of young people and is also well known in general for its wide also range of tourist attractions and events, and in particular as the home of the Ilosaarirock Festival.