Smart Energy Transition research project's exceptional solutions and communication propel it onto a further funding term

STN’s new funding instrument offers funding to quality research with a societal impact.
The report, titled New Perspectives on Finland's Energy Transition, in which experts propose a full renovation of the energy sector, was received and promptly commented on by Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Kai Mykkänen (on the right). Professor Sampsa Hyysalo (on the left) and Director Mari Pantsar from Sitra.

The Smart Energy Transition (SET) research project, led by Professor Raimo Lovio, received significant funding in Autumn 2015 from the Strategic Research Council at the Academy of Finland (STN). The SET research project outlines how Finland can be successful in the global energy transition. After Professor Lovio became a Professor Emeritus at the end of 2017, Professor Armi Temmes took over to lead the project’s 2018–2020 term.

STN is an entirely new funding instrument which supports societally significant and impactful high-level science. Cooperation between knowledge producers and knowledge users is a central feature of projects receiving the funding.

Alongside academic output, quality of stakeholder interaction is as important for receiving this STN funding. The project's Stakeholder Relations Director is Researcher Karoliina Auvinen.

‘In order to promote interaction, we have written a lot of easily understandable articles, such as blog posts, articles for Tekniikka&Talous magazine, discussion papers and policy briefs. As a foundation for STN’s assessment, we have kept an indicator work book into which we have recorded all publications and presentations with details of who has been in touch with what media or parliamentary contacts, as well as time, place and size of the audience or readership. In addition, we have created four impact case studies through which we explain how we want to impact society and, in particular, where we have succeeded in this, explains Professor Temmes.

Finland can benefit from the energy transition by actively participating in technological and market development

The Smart Energy Transition project analyses international publications on new smart energy business models and ecosystems. For example, strong expertise in ICT and technology, large forest resources and varying weather conditions could provide Finland with a competitive advantage and bolster Finland’s success in the global energy transition. The project will research the changes in the businesses e.g. in market players and value chains, business models, institutional obstacles and new business ecosystems.

The current energy production system's operators, practices, technologies and markets have become established over time. It is difficult indeed for new technologies to become competitive, even where the operating environment starts to break down the functionality of the current system. Through experimentation, it is possible to develop new innovations, and such experimentation also leads to important learning. Those bringing about the change also seek to influence policy decisions.

Top results from a top team

Armi Temmes mentions many research tasks have been completed during the first two years of the research project. For example, a data bank has been put together for the web page which covers over a hundred new energy pilot projects, demonstrations and experiments dating from 2010 onwards. These experiments make use of new technology, new applications or new operating models.

Delphi research has also been carried out on the development of technologies and how experts' thoughts on technological change have developed. The research found a huge change in the thinking of experts, who just a few years ago did not have the slightest expectations of such an energy transition and how today everybody talks about it.

Comparisons have been made of how the energy transition has progressed in Germany, the UK and Denmark. A focus of interest has been how energy market organisations in these different countries have engaged with, benefited from and organised internal and external operators in their innovation processes. In Germany, a country whose energy transition is often compared to Finland's, much has been done but production costs have also increased. In the UK, things are still in the early stages, while Denmark used coal for a long time until eventually distributed energy production began to be promoted. In recent times, wind power has grown to be a significant form of energy production and exports of energy technology have grown massively.

Currently, the project is working on creating a data bank for businesses, which is similar to The data bank's 250 companies, who have all seen their business impacted by the energy transition, share their views on how Finland could benefit from new forms of energy. The data bank will be made public in February.

One significant achievement for the project has been the Energy Transition Arena, an extensive series of specialist workshops led by Professor Sampsa Hyysalo. The resulting report, titled New Perspectives on Finland's Energy Transition, was published and delivered to the parliament's Energy Renovation Group in November. The report, in which experts propose a full renovation of the energy sector, was received and promptly commented on by Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Kai Mykkänen.

‘Cooperation between project participants has been exceptional. Involved in the project are over twenty top-level specialists. In addition to professors and researchers from the School of Business and the School of Arts, Design and Architecture, a key role has also been played by Professor Eva Heiskanen from the University of Helsinki, Professor Jero Ahola from Lappeenranta University of Technology, Director Mikael Hildén from the Finnish Environmental Institute (SYKE) and Dr. Paula Kivimaa from the University of Sussex. It has been good to work with this kind of expert team and good to form concrete solutions to big challenges that demand a multidisciplinary approach’, Professor Temmes concludes.

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