Last week I had a pleasure to join the 2nd ever NORDEEP 2023 Summit, to see and hear what’s happening in Deep Tech scene within the Nordics.
The opening keynote insights were given by Risto Siilasmaa, and that paved the way for this 2 days conference for a good crowd of attendees mainly from Finalnd and other Nordic countries. Risto urged the audience to think and act accordingly, and find answers for “How to increase the likelihood of creating a winning strategy” at NORDEEP. Siilasmaa’s talk provided a unique glimpse into the heart of Nordic Deep Tech and Innovation, and his insights resonated with the audience, emphasizing the Nordic region’s commitment to nurturing groundbreaking technologies and fostering a culture of research backed entrepreneurship, and acted as a warm-up for the opening panel discussion.
Panel: What Makes Nordics a Deep Tech Powerhouse?”
Stine Sorensen from Alliance VC, Denmark was running the panel, with Ilkka Kivimäki from Maki VC and Maija Itkonen from Onego Bio filled into the Nordic Powerhouse approach. The panel was very easy-to-follow, interesting and fast paced discussion on the state of Deep Tech in the Nordics, and I am only highlighting the key takeaways in this article. Hopefully there will be a recording available afterwards, to complement these notes.
Stine opened with her own introduction, and with the main questions of What, Why and How about the topic, and Ilkka and Maija introduced themselves with their views on the topic, summarized here after Stine’s openings:
Stine: Why (what and how) Deep Tech and Nordics are the winning formula?
Ilkka: I love the deeptech startups and hard IP. We got those in the Nordics
Maija: As I am a designer by heart (and by education), at Nordics we are thinking how design is part of everything
Ilkka: And in Nordics everything just works! We are wellfare state, backed up by a good education. That makes nordics a good place to found and grow
Maija: And we have the passion for impact, we love fixing the burning problems. And there are great chances to be part of the ecosystem, part of the movement
Stine noted the global Nordics phenomena, how the Nordics a lot looked from outside, and how for example US based investors are really interested in the Nordics
Ilkka: Yes, now we see the long term fruit, seeds have been planred a long time ago
Maija: All eyes on us – one reason is also the Nordic lifestyle and attitudes, with quite a lot of freedom of thinking. Fir example with ” researcher’s freedom” it is possible to develop and test ideas further and further
At this stage the discussion was vibrant and Stine lifted it to another level by looking at the long term future
Stine: We have to do more – to keep developing for the future generations. In order to win big and win long term, what do we need to do? What is the winning strategy?
Ilkka: We are defonitely on the top, but how to scale this. Globally. So many great concepts, but small markets cannot invest in all of them ourselves? The question is how to find and get the right investors as deeptech is not for everyone to invest. IQM Quantum Computing is a great example of something unique and specific. And with these kind of companies the main question is “where we get enough money for the sufficient scaling to happen, in the speed required?”
Maija: To have great innovations out there, and then just get ready to scale. After 1,5 years the biggest food companies in the world getting in touch with Onego Bio, they have found us, and want to sample with us. Also it is important what Onego Bio’s CTO said: “We never looked at what others are doing, let’s focus on our own thing” – and this is the more we can and have to do more to launch something new to the global markets from the Nordics
Stine: Ok, so there is a strong research background in the Nordics, with great innovations and enough freedom. But as we don’t have enough access to capital, nor enough experience of working with the fortune500 pepople, should we look up to Silicon Valley and other such places to really succeed?
Ilkka: Money and people are the keys, and as the ecosystems for early founding and funding need to work within the networks, to enable scaling globally, from the Nordics
Maija: Do not build for Finland or the Nordics, not selling to neighbors but to the world. Nordics make a perfect partner, and are always welcomed to talk, so no need be “scared” of Silicon Valley, bu just do it our way
Stine: What would be your most important learning?
Ilkka: Talk with people, investors, fellow entrepreneurs, grow your network. Listen and understand, they are either right or wrong, and that is called learning
Maija: Don’t put yourself in silo, thinking outside of it, tha’s how people learn. Allow yourself to grow and go to new hights
During the discussion, Stine, Ilkka, and Maija illuminated the pivotal contributions of Nordic deep tech startups in various industries. These companies are at the forefront of technology, driving advancements in fields such as quantum computing, biotechnology, food technology and sustainable energy solutions. Nordic innovative solutions are not only redefining industries, but are also making a significant impact on a global scale.
Investment and Government Support for Deep Tech
The panel discussion also highlighted the role of investments and government support in propelling Nordic deep tech startups to success. Investors have recognized the immense potential within the region’s deep tech ecosystem, providing crucial financial backing and mentorship. Also the government initiatives, including grants, subsidies, and a conducive regulatory environment, further foster deep tech innovation.
Collaborative Spirit and Challenges
One key factor contributing to the success of deep tech startups in the Nordic region is the collaborative spirit that defines the ecosystem. The sense of community, open communication, and networking opportunities create a dynamic environment that promotes innovation. However, the panel also acknowledged challenges, including the high cost of research and limited early-stage funding, which have only driven Nordic deep tech startups to become more innovative and resilient.
Nordic Deep Tech Startups on the Global Stage
In conclusion, the Nordic startup ecosystem, with a particular focus on deep tech, is making remarkable strides on the global stage. The opening keynote by Risto Siilasmaa and the insights shared during the panel discussion underscored the region’s commitment to innovation and the significant role deep tech startups play in shaping the future. As the world increasingly turns to deep tech innovations to address global challenges, Nordic deep tech companies are well-positioned to lead the way, demonstrating that innovation knows no bounds in this dynamic region.
In essence, the event served as a testament to the Nordic startup ecosystem’s vibrancy, deep tech innovation, and its ability to influence global technological trends. And as the organizer Jan Ameri has said before: “Nordic Deeptech will save the world” – so let’s recycle that sentence also for the NORDEEP 23 key takeaway.
P.S. As always, the food part is one of the most praised thing at Arctic Startup events, and once again Levant Helsinki was serving amazing dishes