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Project team identified business opportunities for Finnish companies in the energy sector in Portugal

The Portuguese energy market presents both short-term and long-term opportunities across various sectors
Seminaari Kauppakorkeakoululla. Kuva: Aalto-yliopisto / Roope Kiviranta
Students presented the study to Finnish companies and the Finnish Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Mr. Ville Skinnari. The event was held at the School of Business on 31 January 2023. Photo: Aalto University / Roope Kiviranta

The 20th of October marked the beginning of a remarkable and highly fulfilling journey that spanned several weeks. Nova Junior Consulting, a student-run consulting firm at the Nova School of Business and Economics (Nova SBE) in collaboration with Aalto University School of Business, embarked on an unprecedented student business project. In cooperation with the Embassy of Finland in Lisbon and Business Finland, the project's objective was to identify business opportunities for Finnish companies in the energy sector in Portugal and to provide companies with a deeper understanding of the energy policy, business environment, and technology needs in the region.

During the kick-off meeting, the project team was introduced to the client, the Embassy of Finland in Lisbon, led by Ambassador Satu Suikkari-Kleven as well as Team Finland coordinator Katriina Pirnes and representatives from the Aalto University School of Business: Project Specialist Tommi Vihervaara, and Head of External Relations Jonna Söderholm. Additionally, the team met for the first time their project supervisor, Dr. Inês Peixoto, Postdoctoral Researcher at the Department of Management Studies at Aalto University.

Despite the daunting task of navigating the vast spectrum of the energy industry within the time constraints, the students created a feasible project roadmap, which was included in the initial project plan. The first step was a comprehensive evaluation of the Portuguese energy sector, including its challenges, sustainability potential, regulations, and emission targets.

The team also analyzed current and future investments in the Portuguese energy market, including the Recovery and Resilience Plan. The goal was to research Finnish companies' potential entry into the Portuguese energy market and identify synergies between the Portuguese energy sector and Finnish companies. To simplify the outcome, five research fields of interest were defined in collaboration with the Embassy and  Business Finland: Hydrogen, Smart Grids, Batteries, Energy Efficiency and Waste Management.

Business opportunities in all fields

The team was able to identify business opportunities in all the five fields. In the hydrogen sector, opportunities include the production and application of hydrogen, while in the long-term, there is potential for further development of the hydrogen value chain. The smart grid sector has limited short-term opportunities but offers potential for data management and communication in the long-term. The battery sector presents short-term opportunities for partnerships and recycling, and long-term prospects for the development of a complete national value chain. The energy efficiency sector offers short-term solutions for industrial processes and long-term prospects for the optimization of entire supply chains. Finally, the waste management sector offers short-term opportunities in consulting and technology solutions, and long-term prospects in waste-to-energy and waste-to-biofuel projects. An exhaustive list of business opportunities and conclusions can be found in the final report.

In addition to the extensive desk research, the team conducted eleven semi-structured interviews with energy specialists and representatives from Portuguese and Finnish energy companies. On December 9th, the team presented their results at the Finnish embassy in Lisbon, to an audience that included the Finnish Ambassador to Portugal, the Team Finland coordinator, Business Finland representatives, and members of both universities. The success of the presentation prompted Ambassador Suikkari-Kleven to suggest a seminar in Helsinki to present the study to Finnish companies and all stakeholders involved as well as the Finnish Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Mr. Ville Skinnari. The team successfully carried out the seminar in January 2023. Thus, the students travelled to Helsinki and once more presented their research and findings and consequently concluded the project. Many more followed the presentation online.

Team with diverse experience and competences

Throughout the project the team was motivated by the recognition of the value of their work and the potential impact on the expansion of Finnish companies into Portugal. The project aimed to inspire others and leave a positive legacy for both Portugal and Finland. The diversity within the team added creativity to the project, fostering unity and collaboration that led to a productive and fulfilling experience for all involved. The team wishes to express their gratitude to all those who made the project possible and supported them throughout the journey.

Project supervisor Inês Peixoto tells that it was great to supervise a team of talented students from different fields with such diverse experience and competences, as well as cultural backgrounds. ‘The team tackled this project’s challenge by taking a systemic perspective to the problem posed by the client’s briefing, involving key stakeholders in their research, and delivering concrete findings deemed relevant by different actors.

The results offer a small but significant step to address the complex and critical energy issues that we still face today. They provide a sound basis for companies and other relevant actors to explore opportunities, synergies and common ground for future collaboration and business. The project shows that there is a valuable space for developing innovative cooperation to build the value chains of the future in the energy sector with a sustainability focus and mutual benefits for Finland and Portugal.’

‘A key objective of the Embassy’s trade promotion work is to identify business opportunities for Finnish companies. The green energy transition had got off to a flying start in Portugal and we felt that a detailed analysis of the sector would be useful for Finnish companies. How better to approach the issue than by combining expertise from both countries to do the analysis?  I’m really happy that Aalto University and Nova SBE embarked upon this new type of collaboration with us.’

‘We were highly impressed by the quality of the report and the way in which the students worked. They were able to identify several areas where Finnish expertise matches perfectly with the demands in Portugal. The final product provides a valuable tool for both Finnish and Portuguese companies and for us who promote trade between the two countries. Working with students is highly motivating and rewarding.’

The project team:

Fanny Vuollet is a master’s student at Aalto University School of Business, pursuing a double degree in the Creative Sustainability program with a minor in Finance and the CEMS Master’s in International Management program.
Francisca Pereira is a Nova School of Business and Economics (Nova SBE) Bachelor of Science student majoring in Management and joining the project as a consultant of Nova Junior Consulting.
Jimi Bäck is an Aalto University Master of Science student majoring in Sustainable Energy Systems and Markets and during the project he was enrolled as an exchange student at Instituto Superior Técnico in Lisbon.
João Sousa is a 3rd year Bachelor of Science in Economics student at Nova SBE and spent his last semester on exchange at Copenhagen Business School.
Michael Hofreither is Bachelor of Science alumni from Vienna University of Economics & Business with an emphasis on business strategy currently pursuing a Master of Science in management at NOVA School of Business and Economics in Lisbon with a Major in strategy. Both Michael and Joao, have joined this project as part of Nova Junior Consulting, with Joao currently holding the position of president of the Board.
Dr. Inês Peixoto is a post-doctoral researcher at Aalto University School of Business studying emerging sustainability transitions by taking an organizational theory lens, with a focus on the organization of risks, temporality, market making, and systemic change.

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