Back to particles - service
The role of ultrafine particles (UFP), i.e. particles with less than 100 nm diameter to health and climate starts to be well understood. More research is still required e.g. for reducing the sensitivity of climate models to such particles, but this research is well managed by us Finns. Following the web pages of the Fine Particle Forum (www. fineparticleforum.com) keeps you updated on the research issues.
It is still, however, unclear how the research results affect the business around ultrafine particles. One thing is for sure: as the ultrafine particles affect two global megatrends, climate change mitigation and health of (aging) population, someone will make money out of them. Currently business is concentrated on particle measurement equipment (in Finland we have three outstanding equipment manufacturers, Dekati, Airmodus and Pegasor) and on filtration technology (the newest company in Finland being Tassu ESP Oy with an elegant solution for electrostatic filtration).
These companies have been well present in the Fine Particle Forum's occasions: in March various Finnish solution-providers introduced their technology and products in St. Petersburg and in coming September Finnish measurement equipment will be presented in Chinano 2012 conference. In November all major Finnish ultrafine particle research organizations and companies will join their forces and travel to China for a comprehensive presentation of Finnish research and business within UFP.
Business with equipment, either measurement devices or filtration machinery, is the first step. Our target should, however, be more ambitious. As we have learnt from the ICT, the big business does not lay with the equipment but comes with the service and applications. With the fine particles we do not yet know, what such service business could be. Is it better climate models for weather forecasting? Is it health indicators for risk groups (such as asthmatic patients) or public? Or something totally different? Probably we are limited by lack of imagination, UFP-area is still missing its own Steve Jobs. A sorcerer, who forgets the technical limitations and concentrates on the needs of large public.
"Service" is not a magic word, which secures business. Actually totally on the contrary: as service business requires less money for investments, it is even more important than with hardware sales that the products are unique and show excellent quality. Even if we have a great business idea, we may lose it, if we do not implement it in a right way. Although companies tend to look for external help in turning research results in natural sciences into business (e.g. in various projects funded by Tekes), we do not seem to realize that there is help available also in generating superb service business.
Aalto University describes service economy well: "Developed economies are increasingly service-led but many of these services are internationally portable. This is challenging governments in developed economies to up-skill their workforces and promote innovation in their domestic service capability. Academia is helping to understand the shift towards services but also needs to provide new teaching and research required to improve service capabilities and skill levels".
Already in 2009 Aalto published a white paper "Making Service Science Mainstream" which provides basic understanding of the area.
Papers are great, but implementation is really the issue. Aalto University has some great tools for Service Design, projects which are combining the know-how of School of Arts, Design and Architecture, School of Economics and School of Engineering. This is the way we should look for also within UFB business: combining our great knowledge in ultrafine particle physics and technology to the world-class expertise in service design.