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Becoming a challenger with Netum’s help – Kempower received important assistance in Business Finland’s funding competition

In 2023, Jyrki Poikkimäki, a management consultant from Netum, helped Kempower, a manufacturer of new innovations in electric vehicle charging technology, to be chosen as one of the winner companies in Business Finland's challenge competition.

Sustainable economic growth, competitiveness of companies, sustainable development—these are the goals of Business Finland. Finland needs new innovations, and Business Finland supports and finances Finnish companies in different ways. In recent years, one important form of support has been the challenge competition for leading companies.

What is Business Finland’s challenge competition for leading companies?

The challenge competitions for leading companies aim to get companies to significantly increase their research, development and innovation activities in Finland, as well as to create new jobs and billion-dollar ecosystems aimed at new business. The proposed projects are expected to solve significant future challenges and have a remarkable impact on the Government Programme’s 4% RDI (Research, Development and Innovation) and 75% employment targets.

More information on Business Finland’s website: Funding for leading companies and ecosystems

Mikko Veikkolainen, Vice President of Research and Innovation at Kempower, explains that Business Finland encouraged them to participate in the challenge competition. As this is an ecosystem project, Kempower first had to consider what ecosystem means and requires in terms of their innovation.

"According to market research, electrification of heavy traffic is a growth area in our industry, but there is no market yet. We had an epiphany and saw the opportunity to start research on the issue, specifically in terms of the ecosystem. That is how one can find the most important customer understanding for product development," Veikkolainen explains.

“However, Kempower cannot develop the entire industry of heavy-duty charging infrastructure alone, so we are working to get more operators involved through the challenger project,” adds Petri Korhonen, Head of New Businesses Department at Kempower.

Mikko Veikkolainen, Vice President of Research and Innovation at Kempower 

Last-minute funding application

When Kempower had decided to take part in the challenge competition, Veikkolainen and Korhonen were in a hurry, as it was already the end of June. The deadline of the applications for the first round was at the beginning of September.

“Even though we are experienced at filling applications, in that situation we realised that we needed help,” says Veikkolainen.

He called Jyrki Poikkimäki, a Management Consultant at Netum, who proved to be an excellent choice for the task. Poikkimäki holds Engineering and Economics degrees and has worked in the manufacturing industry for about 30 years. In addition, Poikkimäki has experience of both research and development projects and business development.

"My core competence is understanding the big picture and developing plans in a way that allows the funder to get involved. I have written dozens, if not hundreds, of funding applications," Poikkimäki explains.

 Jyrki Poikkimäki, Management Consultant at Netum

One has to be an experienced writer and visionary

When the Kempower workers are asked what is most important in such a role, i.e. when preparing a funding application, the answer is clear:

"Experience. Experience of making similar funding applications and experience of working with Business Finland," answers Mikko Veikkolainen.

"The consultant should be a certain kind of technical multitasker who is fluent in speaking and writing about different sectors in technololgy.

According to the Kempower workers, Poikkimäki, as a senior consultant, quickly caught up with an unfamiliar subject. Veikkolainen, Korhonen and Poikkimäki agreed right from the start that the most important thing is not to immediately produce finished text, but to start with one version and refine it further together.

The trio held weekly meetings—although sometimes one member of the trio was on a holiday—and Poikkimäki worked on the plan on the basis of both discussions and various materials and reports.

However, the assignment is not just about writing skills—on the contrary, the challenger competition requires the right kind of overall view as well as visionary thinking, as it involves a five-year development programme with clear goals.

“In a project like this, you have to be able to take into account changes in the world and the market, and already make the plans so that they adapt to changing situations, if necessary,” notes Petri Korhonen.

Petri Korhonen, Head of New Businesses Department at Kempower 

Digitalisation is at the heart of the ecosystem

The first phase was to prepare a ten-page concise presentation of the plan. In the autumn, they got to know that Kempower’s Heavy Electric Traffic Ecosystem (HETE) project, the development programme for the heavy-duty charging system, would continue to the next phase of the competition. After this, they worked on the ecosystem plan together, and experts from Business Finland were also available to help.

"When we talk about a charging system for trucks, we’re also talking about commercial and industrial logistics. Of course, managing such an ecosystem requires a comprehensive digital platform," says Jyrki Poikkimäki from Netum now that the results of the work are public.

"The development of a digital business is at the heart of Netum’s services.

The consultant challenges and questions when necessary

Kempower’s Veikkolainen and Korhonen are of the opinion that it is always worthwhile to use a consultant to prepare a funding application for Business Finland, even if you have plenty of time to submit the application.

"Together with Petri, we’ve worked so much on these things that it’s good to have a third party to challenge us a little. And also to have a fresh point of view in general," says Veikkolainen.

As a management consultant, Poikkimäki’s job is to challenge and question. On the other hand, a consultant is required to have a certain knowledge of the language used in applications.

“Because I’ve worked with Business Finland’s funding applications for so long, I know how to structure the application and what kind of terminology to use,” says Poikkimäki.

Trust is also one success factor

The second phase of the challenge competition ended in 2024 January when Kempower gave Business Finland the final 30-page plan. The winners of the challenge competition, who would each receive EUR 10 million in funding, were chosen in February.

"Our plan being chosen was of course great," Mikko Veikkolainen and Petri Korhonen from Kempower answer with a smile.

Of course, trust is also a prerequisite for success when preparing a funding application together with an external expert. Things like this— new innovations and development projects—are extremely important and confidential for companies. They are not shared with outsiders without a high level of trust.

"This also requires the client to be able to explain things so that an external expert can get the hang of them. And it’s not so simple, you might have to learn the other person's way of thinking first," ponders Jyrki Poikkimäki.

"Even though we're dealing with big innovations, ecosystems and technology, this is still people-to-people contact and trust must always be built before results can be generated. And trust is built by being honest and consistent, listening and respecting others.