Environmental investment in Iran is a ‘win-win’ game: Finnish Co. manager

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By: Maryam Qarehgozlou, Tehran Times Newspaper

TEHRAN — The 15th International Environment Exhibition which kicked off in attendance of two ministers and a deputy vice minister from Finland, Austria and Japan has paved the way for international top ranked companies worldwide to present themselves to Iranian firms and companies and set the scene for more pro-environment activities.

On the sidelines of the exhibition the Tehran Times carried out an interview with Ilkka Homanen, executive director of Cleantech Industry, and Saku Liuksia, program manager at Finpro.

Fin pro helps Finnish small and medium enterprises (SMEs) go international and encourages foreign direct investment in Finland.

Team Finland helps hundreds of Finnish companies enter the international market and attracts investments from around the world to Finland.

What comes next is the text of the interview with Homanen and Liuksia:

Tehran Times: How are you going to help Iran environment-wise?

Homanen: We can and we are more than willing to bring our expertise, all we have, what we have done in Finland along the years, what we have done in different countries in terms of technology and how to utilize them in a longer term. We’d like to bring all that experience to Iran. The situation has changed dramatically. I’d like to refer to the visit of Ms. Ebtekar (Iranian chief of the Department of Environment) to Helsinki. She was already saying that after the sanctions it would be a new era of cleantech.

Tehran times: Do you think that Iran is ready for a change?

Homanen: My interpretation during these two-and-half days is “yes”. You have some challenges and you might even have problems, but on the other hand I feel that you are really ready to make a change on that. We had many good discussions and the result was that we are heavily investing into making things better and all the big companies have stated that things are going to change. So it’s a really good start.

Liuksia: One important thing is that people seem to be really environmentally conscious here (in Iran). Everybody is annoyed about the water quality and air quality. And Ms. Ebtekar is also really concerned about those problems. So that’s like the first step and then comes the development and improvement.

Tehran Times: How exactly are going to help in each sector, for example water sector or waste management sector?

Homanen: Well we do have quite a bit of technologies for each application area and by utilizing them things can get better. It doesn’t mean that we only would bring one piece of application for water or waste-to-energy, but we can bring the whole chain starting from the collection of the waste to ending up to electrical distribution to the houses. Then it’s matter of Iranian partners to describe us the problems and then we can deliver (the proper technology).

Tehran Times: Are you only aiming to bring the technology to Iran?

Homanen: Ms. Ebtekar wants (us) not only to bring the technology but also bring the expertise. We have experience and it doesn’t really make lot of sense just to deliver the technology and leave the customer alone. We need to teach them how to use it and how to improve the situations.

Liuksia: In addition to all the technological solutions we might also have some kind of research development and collaboration between universities. It is like a long term plan between Iran and Finland.

Homanen: Actually now there are quite many students from Iran in Finland studying technologies and business.

Tehran Times: Are Iranian educated workforce qualified to work with the new technologies?

Homanen: The principal idea is that we cannot move thousands of Finnish persons over here for a long time. We basically want to deliver and install the systems and then teach the customers how to utilize them. As far as I have met people over here Iranian people are fairly well educated. So I’m sure that they can adapt how to use the technologies. In the end Iranian people need to learn how to utilize the technologies and then we move away.

Liuksia: It’s a learning process definitely. We are learning and the Iranians are learning. It’s a win-win situation.

Tehran Times: Why do you think you have to help other countries?

Liuksia: First of all while we are helping Iran we are doing business and we get some benefits as well. Of course another thing is solidarity. We want to have more equal world. And as I mentioned before it’s a win-win situation and both parties are getting benefits. And additionally climate change is not a national issue but a global problem.

Homanen: Combining business with Finland means improving environmental situation in Iran, so it really is a very strong win-win situation for both countries. For instance we are quite active in China along the years. We are also active in South America. We are promoting our expertise around the globe.

Tehran Times: Finland is now top positioned in the global cleantech innovation. How long did it take for it to achieve such an accomplishment and how long does it take for Iran to make such an improvement?

Homanen: Well it is fairly a long journey to have this status among different countries on the clean-tech expertise. In Finland we have decades of experience on technology development and it’s mainly coming from an industrial background. We have steel business and forestry business and we are just utilizing these experience combined with some digitalization and apply it to cleantech. The Iranians’ challenge is to adopt these technologies and then utilize it in a long term to get the environmental situation better. Depending on the size of the problem or challenge (it takes time).

Honestly speaking Finnish industrial history has also had problems. We did have pollution in our water for long times and it also took quite a long time to clean the water, which we did by using our technologies. It’s not maybe decades of journey but it’s not a one-year (either).

Tehran Times: Do you think that the new political atmosphere in Iran can speed this process?

Liuksia: Seeing things in these three days that I’ve been here I’m absolutely certain that things will get better. This fair has also been really successful. We had lot of visits and meetings with the local people and local businesses.

Homanen: I feel the same that both political sides and both business sides seem to be very committed for this change and after the sanctions are lifted it certainly gives possibilities for western companies to come over and help.

Tehran Times: Have you signed any contract with Iranian companies so far?

Homanen: I haven’t checked that out yet, but as far as I heard yes we have. I believe that after this exhibition we will collect the data we have made. But for sure there has been lot of good starts of the negotiations. There has been at least 100 b2b meetings arranged here within just few days. And they all have been very concrete which is a good sign.

Tehran Times: Have you got any plans for waste management in Iran and setting up waste-to-energy incinerators?

Liuksia: It’s hard to say anything detailed about the projects yet, but this is something we are definitely interested in and some of companies we have here focus on this incineration technologies and it’s definitely something we are looking into and as we know there is a waste problem in Iran. Actually waste should be seen as a resource not as a problem. We can quite easily produce energy from waste. Additionally, you don’t need to use landfill anymore which is a hygienic problem and is not very nice for the environment either.

Homanen: We are a technology supplier for local operators who run the factories. We bring all the world class technology. Studies have been done in Finland that implementing environmental technologies don’t ruin the profitability of the business. It’s actually vice versa. Environmental technologies add to the profitability of a business in terms of saving energy and saving material. It is not a loss of business but it’s an improvement.

The ministries and big companies in Iran seem to be committed to tackle (environmental) issues.

******* [Highlights]

Ms. Ebtekar wants (us) not only to bring the technology but also bring the expertise. We have experience and it doesn’t really make lot of sense just to deliver the technology and leave the customer alone.

Iranian people are fairly well educated. So I’m sure that they can adopt how to use the (green) technologies.

Studies in Finland show that implementing environmental technologies don’t ruin the profitability of the business. It’s actually vice versa. Environmental technologies add to the profitability of a business in terms of saving energy and saving material