EnergyWeek on financing growth: “Our only asset as investors is trust”

Pia Erkinheimo, Søren Berg Rasmussen, Virpi Mikkonen, and Mikko Huumo during Team Finland's Financing Growth event at Vaasa EnergyWeek 2022
Pia Erkinheimo, Søren Berg Rasmussen, Virpi Mikkonen, and Mikko Huumo at Team Finland's panel discussion. Image: Janista Sungthong
2 min

As part of Vaasa EnergyWeek’s wide array of events, the Team Finland network focused on how to fund a green tomorrow. With input from both green energy funders and fundees, the role of internationalization and export was heavily emphasised.

Digitalization to feed or fight climate change

The afternoon was kicked off with presentations by three funding institutions: the Finnish Climate Fund, Business Finland, and Nefco. The state-owned Finnish Climate Fund, the most junior of the three, was created in 2020 to combat climate change, boost low-carbon industry, and promote digitalization.

In her talk, Pia Erkinheimo, Customer & Dealflow Director at the Finnish Climate Fund, noted that digitalization is a double-edged sword when it comes to climate change:

Five years ago, I still thought digitalization would be a great solution for climate change, but I recently learned that that is not fully the case. Digitalization is creating a huge carbon footprint, which will double by 2025 from the level of 2017. However, we cannot tackle climate change without digitalization.

Great ambitions for Finland

Erkinheimo was followed by Virpi Mikkonen, Account Lead at Business Finland. Mikkonen said that Business Finland supports companies of all sizes in their endeavours to grow internationally and bring prosperity to Finland. Recently, Business Finland has named the energy transition and carbon neutrality as two of their main strategic missions.

Presentation by Virpi Makkonen from Business Finland at EnergyWeek 2022 in Vaasa
Virpi Makkonen presenting Business Finland’s strategy for 2025: “Finland defining the future”. Image: Janista Sungthong

The original impact investor

The third funding institution, Nefco, was represented by Investment Manager Søren Berg Rasmussen. Nefco was founded already in 1990 to finance the initial scale-up of Nordic green solutions on international markets. Berg Rasmussen remarked that Nefco was funding the green transition long before it was trendy:

“We are the original impact investor. We expect a return of impact long before we expect to have a return of investment”, he said.

The impact of COVID-19 on green funding

After their presentations, the three funders were brought together in a panel discussion led by Mikko Huumo, Director of Helen Ventures. Huumo noted that what 10-15 years ago was hyped as clean tech is trendy again under the name climate tech.

The panel agreed that the increased speed of the green transition is not only due to the war in Ukraine but also changing societal values, simple climate facts, and a profitable green energy market. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced funding institutions to become more agile and lowered their thresholds.

While Berg Rasmussen saw that the pandemic had made funding decisions increasingly fact-based, Mikkonen argued that post-pandemic funders also look for entrepreneurs who are passionate, innovative, and can build a company.

“Our only asset as investors is trust. Nowadays, trust is constructed in a different manner. During and post-COVID, trust is built in networks,” said Pia Erkinheimo in agreement.

Trust is built in networks.

In the second half of the Financing Growth event, experts from Finnvera, Viexpo, and the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment shared their views on how Team Finland can be a valuable local partner for companies looking to grow internationally.

This was followed by one-to-one company discussions between Business Finland Account Leads and representatives of Arcteq Relays, Aurelia Turbines, and Soletair Power.

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