Finland-USA partnership boosts material science breakthroughs

The thematic seminar "Advanced materials and biomedical applications" arranged by Tekes Functional Material programme highlighted recent research results regarding biomaterials, nanocellulose, graphene, stimuli-responsive materials, optics and printed intelligence. These are key enablers to create spare parts for humans, personalised medicine and, for example, stretchable electronics.

New momentum for the active application of the Finnish high-level materials expertise is now being sought through cooperation with the U.S. The networking and poster session of the seminar was organised at the new Innovation Center of the U.S. Embassy in Finland that serves as an excellent example of the active adoption of new technologies.

"Modern materials science is continuously creating new enabling solutions for many application fields. The Functional Materials programme has been systematically building application- and need-driven, multidisciplinary R&D projects that have already generated a variety of results leading to new business activities. Delightfully, also a bunch of new scientific openings have been created,  and some of them were highlighted in this seminar", says the coordinator of the programme Dr. Markku Heino from Spinverse Oy.

The Keynote Speaker Professor Yang H. Yun from University of Akron, USA highlighted the development of a new amino-acid based material for biomedical applications. In his presentation, he gave concrete examples of intelligently designing biomaterials into targeted-delivery systems that result in dramatically improved potency of pharmaceutical drugs.

“Since tissue and stem cell engineering is a tremendous strength of researchers in Finland, the incorporation of cell-specific, drug-delivery systems could complement their current capabilities and spark new collaborative efforts” , said Professor Yun - impressed and keen on building new research collaborations.

Nanocellulose the key for cell culture

The pharmaceuticals industry is currently witnessing intense competition over for who will be the first to develop a living 3D cell model that can be used to cultivate and study cell clusters suited for the human body. 3D culturing would significantly enhance the possibilities to study complex human cell structures and the development of pharmaceuticals. The potential of nanocellulose (more specifically Biofibrils from the UPM company) as cell growth media has been studied in the Tekes Functional Materials programme in a research project led by Professor Marjo Yliperttula, University of Helsinki. Nanocellulose has proven an excellent substrate for cell cultures and a versatile enabler for cell research.

"The cellulose nanofibres are biocompatible meaning that they do not cause a foreign object reaction or inflammation in tissue contact. In fact, the substance is a hydrogel that contains moisture required by cells and provides a good living environment for a variety of different cells. We have already succeeded in manufacturing living cell models combining muscle cells, nerve cells and blood vessel cells out of stem cells," says Yliperttula.

The key research results have been patented and published recently in the Journal of Controlled Release. The area of application appears to hold great potential, and the company UPM is currently mapping different routes for commercialisation.

Cooperation with the U.S. to boost commercialisation

Tekes has been involved in building a technology bridge between Finland and the U.S. by organising, since 2010, networking trips to Akron, Ohio, for Finnish companies and research groups in the area of life science. The activity has focused particularly on driving the materials and solutions of biomedicine towards applications and the U.S. market. Cooperation partners in the project include: the City of Akron (North Eastern Ohio), Tekes and the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment for Uusimaa, Radvisor Oy and the HealthBio cluster.

Commenting on the seminar, Mr. Robert Anthony, Global Business Accelerator, City of Akron said: "The Akron Team is very pleased to be actively participating in this important event. It is another example of the practical and collaborative activities being put into practice as the BioFinland Technology Bridge Program gains more traction in both Akron, Ohio and Finland."

 "So far, two Finnish companies have already begun operations in Akron and two companies from Ohio have set up subsidiaries in Finland. Tekes is also carrying out similar activities in Massachusetts and California. Finnish companies have been very satisfied with these actions", states Kari Ruutu from Tekes.

The networking reception hosted by the U.S. Embassy was opened by the speech of Ambassador Bruce Oreck emphasizing the need and will for cooperation in this changing world (by chance, major news in the seminar day was the deal of Microsoft and Nokia regarding the cell phone business).

“Finland is fast-becoming the epicenter of the New North – it is the place to do business in the region, including into the markets of northwestern Russia. The cooperation between Tekes, the U.S. Embassy, and the Akron biobridge program is a prime example of the opportunities available to Finnish and American companies in Finland and the region.  Finland plays a leadership role in new technologies and is a great location for research and development.  The U.S. Embassy Innovation Center is a concrete example of the strength of the U.S.-Finnish relationship, and is the greenest embassy building in the world.  We are proud to share this venue with Tekes as a platform for networking and sharing information on the technologies of the 21st century", said Mr. Bruce Oreck, the US Ambassador to Finland.

Light at the end of the tunnel - promises high-brightness laser

The Brightlase project of the Tampere University of Technology (TUT) has developed new and promising materials technology that can be used to generate bright laser light at the wavelengths of yellow-orange (570-620 nm) for applications in fields of medicine, spectroscopy and process management, for example. The project utilises TUT’s pioneering research regarding semiconductor wafer laser technology based on frequency doubling that has been used to achieve a record-level luminousity for this wavelength range.

"In the project, we will develop the laser manufacturing process to enable its commercial utilisation and create prototypes for application developers. We have already delivered the first prototypes to an American company and the lasers have also been successfully tested in atom clocks at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The preliminary results have been highly promising, and the attention attracted by the lasers has generated new opportunities for cooperation through which our technology can be used in high-level applications developed by our", concludes Professor Mircea Guina from the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) at the Tampere University of Technology.

The event was the third part in the series of the Functional Materials Four Seasons events arranged to disseminate and discuss the outcome of the Programme during its last year of action.

Further information
Dr. Markku Heino, tel. +358 (0)40 7191221, markku.heino (at)
Dr. Markku Lämsä, tel. +358 (0)50 5577793, markku.lamsa (at)


Sanna Nuutila