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Case 13.01.2022

Startup Finnrunner is reinventing hydropower

Finnrunner is a new tech startup looking to introduce a novel high-quality product in the global hydropower industry market. Founded in May 2021, Finnrunner is set to design and manufacture turbines for small and medium Hydro Power Plants – as well as supply spare parts, provide comprehensive engineering services and financial solutions to help its customers upgrade small hydro power plants in a sustainable way.

Photo: Finnrunner

Based in Lappeenranta, Finland, Finnrunner was founded by Russian entrepreneurs Anton Lashin and Viktor Shevelev. They feel that since Finland is "synonymous" for high standards, technologies and stability, the Nordic country is simply the best place for their tech company.

"Being in Finland guarantees wide, ample opportunities in both domestic and international market. It gives us confidence to be competitive and to take a more active position in negotiations with prospective Finnish, European and global customers," Lashin believes.

Olga Makeeva, Senior Advisor for Business Finland situated in St. Petersburg, had a big hand in the entrepreneurs' decision to establish a business in Finland. Lashin says that their company has been supported every step of the way: "We received support in each case when there were challenges – and sometimes even before we faced them," he says, crediting Makeeva and other Business Finland experts with a high level of professionalism.

"With the help of Business Finland, we could engage in a dialogue with industry experts and authorities for better understanding of our product niche and local customer needs."

Fast track service

Olga Makeeva says that when Russian customers are willing to move fast, Business Finland is ready to accommodate. "We've been able to make things happen very quickly which is of course very important for tech startups. Furthermore, I'm happy to say that Finnrunner has been able to build its local networks very rapidly, as well."

Viktor Shevelev. Photo: Finnrunner

Right now, the startup is at the stage of detailed design in its pilot project and looking for funding for the execution. "We found a place for a pilot installation during the founding of our company with the help of Business Finland specialists, who organized joint discussions with representatives and experts of the Finnish energy community," Shevelev explains.

The plan is to install a pilot turbine at the Vakkola hydroelectric power station. "This project is very important for our company, as we plan to replace classic stainless steel hydraulic turbine parts with composite ones and test these materials in normal operation," Lashin says.

Rooted in science

Finnrunner has partnered up with LUT University – for the benefit of both parties. Lashin comments that for successful business, it's very important to establish relations between science and entrepreneurs. Hence, Lashin contacted Leonid Chechurin, Professor for School of Engineering Science and vice director for Global Management of Innovation and Technology (GMIT) MSc program, and explained his idea.

Anton Lashin. Photo: Finnrunner

"At the time, we were preparing the applications for our startup visas and received positive feedback from Chechurin. Now we are here in Lappeenranta, and he guides our collaboration activities with LUT students," Lashin says. Two students from the GMIT program are employed part-time in the company for a four-month internship.

"I think Finnrunner has a potential. Small hydropower plants are to be given second life and they can contribute to green energy manufacturing," Leonid Chechurin says, pointing out that in addition to being environmentally wise and economically viable, the smaller plants are a nice fit locally and culturally.

In addition, the company is taking the first steps of collaboration with Rafal Jastrzebski, Docent of LUT School of Energy systems, in order to find solutions to implement magnetic bearings in its equipment.

Tempo funding from Business Finland

In November 2021, Finnrunner received a Tempo grant from Business Finland. Under the grant, the startup is putting together a detailed study of the demand for composite hydro turbines, equipment, and the over-all service package in Nordics and Baltics.

Lashin believes that the Tempo grant gives the company the opportunity to reveal just how big the small hydropower market really is in these regions. Conducting such a detailed market study will give the startup an advantage in the market and the option to fully customize its strategy and product.

"With the help of Business Finland, we could engage in a dialogue with industry experts and authorities for better understanding."

Lashin is happy with the progress his startup has made so far – and excited to be in Finland. "Finland is fun!" he declares, citing the open-minded, nature-loving natives as a big reason for this. "What we like most is the feeling that nature is everywhere – boating on Lake Saimaa, fishing and other outdoor activities are our favorite free time activities in Finland."