It is well known that the foundation of the Finnish welfare society is the educational system, which offers equal opportunities in education for all, irrespective of their differences in such aspects as economic situation, cultural background, or language. Finland is also known to have a leading environment for and approach to university-business cooperation in Europe. In a country with a high respect for science and a common understanding that university-business cooperation plays a core role in the prosperity of society, multidisciplinary and multi-field cooperation between companies and universities is widespread.
On 13 June the Embassy of Finland and the Finnish company AirFaas invited representatives from Vilnius University Law Faculty to discuss the future of business-science cooperation in Lithuania. During the global AirFaas launch event in Vilnius, ideas for future collaboration opportunities were exchanged.
AirFaas: If you have the product – we have a factory
AirFaas is a Finnish company which, during this year’s “Digital Europe SME award 2018” (which aims to reward SMEs that have the potential to become future European tech giants), was awarded by the European Commissioner for Digital Economy & Society, Mariya Gabriel, for growing the world’s most innovative factory.
AirFaas (Faas means “factory as a service”) is a digital portal where you can upload the specifications of any product to the system and it will analyze, locate, budget, finance and implement the production of the product at the most competitive price and in the most convenient format in a factory somewhere in the world.
“It will revolutionize the manufacturing industry the same way UBER and Airbnb revolutionized consumer behavior. People will no longer need to own a factory for their production. They will find the best factory for their production in the global AirFaas ecosystem. What makes AirFaas innovative and unique? It is the only business platform in the manufacturing world that combines several automated platforms for RFQ, including a purchase transaction platform, logistics platform, and financing and insurance platform. AirFaas is win-win for manufacturers as well as for the environment as it is an ecosystem that makes sure that we use existing capacity as opposed to always building more. AirFaas is today already used for manufacturing tractors, landfill compactors, waste shredders, windmill components, solar panels and so on,” says Edward Blomstedt, CEO of AirFaas.
The key to a successful and innovative factory?
A few days ahead of the global launch of AirFaas at the Embassy of Finland in Vilnius, the CEO of the Finnish company took part in one of the biggest industry events in Estonia, Industry 4.0 in Practice. During the international conference, the importance and the future of business-science cooperation was also mentioned.
“Traditionally led by technical universities, university-business cooperation in Finland has also been adopted in recent years in more ‘generalist’ universities. By saying more ‘generalist,’ I mean the universities which focus on social sciences. As with any major shift, there are challenges inherent in adopting an Industry 4.0 model, and sometimes those challenges are connected specifically with social sciences: for example, data security issues are greatly increased by integrating new systems, diverging customs procedures, tax and VAT procedures in different countries differ, etc. That is why the role of social sciences and law in particular plays crucial role,” says Blomstedt.
Holding an M.Sc. in industrial management and mechanical engineering from Helsinki University of Technology (now Aalto University) Blomstedt, who was voted Young Entrepreneur of the Year in Finland 2010, says that the key to building future innovative factories is people, in attracting bright young minds and not concentrating just on those who study or studied at technical universities. “AirFaas, through our mother company Combi Works, has many years of experience, dating back to 1980s, and has spent several million euros in development in recent years. What we feel and the message that we are sending to the world is that Industry 5.0. (and by saying Industry 5.0. I am referring to ‘factory as a service’) will require different kinds of specialists, coming from different educational backgrounds and working in different fields of science. Hopefully, AirFaas’ cooperation with Academia in Lithuania can start through common projects with Vilnius University Law Faculty,” says Blomstedt.