Building like an entrepreneur
Sustainable plant production is crying out for innovations like Pasi Herranen’s windowless wood-structured greenhouse. His invention could find demand in construction more broadly. Compared to a traditional glass greenhouse, his design conserves energy, water, soil and nutrients.
Technology has fascinated Pasi Herranen since a young age. His matriculation examination grades had already earned him a place at Tampere University of Technology, but a childhood friend convinced him to apply to Helsinki University of Technology while he was performing his national military service.
Herranen chose to major in strength of materials with production technology as a minor subject. Both are fields that he finds useful in his present job as a project manager.
As a student, he lived in a seven-person shared apartment, where the flatmates passed time by drinking coffee and throwing darts, in addition to which they played online poker.
Online poker was a popular hobby at the beginning of the new millennium, and some players even managed to make a living at it. Herranen also started playing professionally and his studies were sidelined for some ten years. He played online and travelled to casinos around the world, winning and losing money.
Success in poker enhanced his faith in his own decision-making abilities. Herranen says the confidence derived from poker is precisely why he was able to trust his calculations and believe in his invention.
Herranen had three alternative subjects for his Master’s thesis. Two of them related to metal, which he was familiar with because of his mechanical engineering studies. But the properties of plywood represented something new and intriguing.
His original plan was for the wall modules to be used in the construction of houses and office buildings, but after reading a Natural Resources Institute Finland LUKE report on growing cucumbers, he realised his wooden modules were a perfect fit for greenhouse applications, as the commercialisation possibilities were better for greenhouses.
And the rest is history.
Having an entrepreneurial mindset means...
"Wild visions and mathematical modeling. Continuously develop the big picture. For what could this particular idea be useful? Search for information across disciplines and combine these where possible. With the help of mathematics, you can perceive the scope of effects and model your idea's functionality in advance.
Mental readiness. It isn't easy to make ends meet during the early stages of a project, and your team must be mentally prepared to penny-pinch and possibly work long days alongside other work.
Social skills. Continuously develop your ability to converse with different people and communicate your actions efficiently to the outside world.
With Aalto University's communications team, we have gained a lot of visibility for our project, which would not have been possible otherwise. Besides, Aalto's other staff have advised and helped us many times during the project.
Multidisciplinary expertise. During the TUTL project, we have met several researchers from different fields at Aalto. In particular, discussions with young researchers at the Department of Bioproducts and Biotechnology have significantly helped us understand the future of education researchers' needs for new research facilities with full indoor climate control.
To create a new business, it is vital to involve economists in the project at the beginning of the project. They can either be used to demonstrate future commercial potential or gain information on whether it is better to stop development work due to a lack of potential. Aalto University is a great place to make such contacts.
It also helps to discuss your idea with as many people as possible in as many different fields. These discussions can provide a lot of information for the future development of the project. Multidisciplinary expertise is invaluable in an ever-changing world.
Sustainable development. Tailor your future business to help the world in the field of sustainable development. Climate-friendly products and services are earmarked for massive amounts of funding, starting at the EU level, and this support will likely only increase in the future."
– Pasi Herranen, founder of Vacuum Insulation System
Text: Riikka Hopiavaara ja Pasi Herranen
Pasi Herranen, Vacuum Insulation System
Multidisciplinary expertise is invaluable in an ever-changing world.