Business parks as innovation acceleratorsBy Patricia Ceja | Wed, 02/16/2022 - 13:00
Believe it or not, there is a city in Finland called Nokia. In this city, a new kind of industrial park was created in 2018. This city hosts a 120 ha complex named Eco3, which was developed by the city and a development company, Verte Ltd., in cooperation with other companies and universities. The space is strategically located in the heart of the country, right next to the crossing point of three major highways and only a 10-minute drive from Finland’s second-largest airport. This basically means that two-thirds of the national economic activity is conducted within a two- to three-hour drive from the area. The park provides physical spaces ready to be utilized, with land access roads that guarantee the appropriate logistics to facilitate the entrance and exit of machines in addition to the products elaborated by the guest companies that inhabit the park. Why put so much strategy into a business park?
The first objective of the business park is for companies specialized in the bio-circular economy to mutually inspire and get inspired, so they can, as a result, immerse themselves in a spiral of mutual influence and achieve cross-pollination that gives birth to innovation. This has been a success. There is a network of 28 companies established at the park, all of them deeply committed to conducting sustainable business and all of them poised for internationalization.
Secondly, the park serves as a model and example for other companies and industrial developments. The co-location of talent in a determined area can serve as an incentive for the concentration of all the components needed by the supply chain for the circular economy to blossom. Companies work together in what they call industrial symbiosis with their neighbors. They can find key partners for their operations right next door, making sure all ingredients (recycled matter) and users of the finished materials are nearby. This model makes logistics cost-efficient and helps to reduce the overall carbon footprint. For instance, one of the anchoring businesses at Eco3 is a waste management company that provides services to 17 surrounding municipalities. Customers can use its waste stations, providing the feedstock for a bio plant – currently under construction – that will process biowaste and sludge so that the residues can be further refined into organic fertilizer. This way, the company functions as an enabler for the expansion of the local circular economy.
As for academia, Tampere University has played a vital role as a co-creator of the whole Eco3 concept, as well as being a developer of research projects within the park. For example, a water purification technology has been studied in cooperation with local company Nokian Vesi, with the intention of building a wastewater treatment plant that processes silt produced in Nokia City. Furthermore, the decomposition of biogas is being researched together with Tampere Regional Solid Waste Management Ltd. In essence, one company’s byproduct is another’s raw material, which is the backbone of the circular economy.
Finally, Eco3 Business Park seeks to accelerate the maturity of technologies that have not yet been proven commercially. In addition to Tampere University, key cooperation partners include the advanced research and innovation institutes VTT and LUKE; this close interaction between industry and research provides a strong foundation for a testbed to pilot new products and processes. All in all, the idea is to allow a for-profit creative community to cohabitate and get inspired in an open innovation process with a common goal.
Mexico is the 15th-largest economy worldwide and a sophisticated manufacturing hub. There are over 350 industrial parks located throughout the country, more than 128,000km of roads and commercial routes and carefully tested value chains that have given rise to a noticeable industrial output. The development of industrial parks can fuse creativity, resource collocation, recycled matter and capital. We can have a profound impact in Mexico in the long term by trying this kind of experiment. Nokia City is located in an area with nearly 500,000 inhabitants. Imagine what could happen if this model were replicated in Mexico City, an area with over 20 million inhabitants. We need to take advantage of this critical mass.
When asked about this prospect, the Ambassador of Finland in Mexico, Päivi Pohjanheimo, responded: “Mexico possesses talent, market volume and countless creative minds to become a leading nation in the development of the bio-circular economy. A dedicated industrial park can bring Mexico to the forefront of environmental business innovation.” Let’s work together to make this a reality and transform the economy of the city and, ultimately, of this country.