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Using innovation to drive competitiveness

An integral part of Finland's innovation system, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland draws on its multidisciplinary R&D expertise to facilitate the development of new products, services, and methods with the potential for significantly enhanced competitiveness. VTT is also involved in producing visions and roadmaps on future trends in a wide variety of technological fields.
VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

VTT is the largest technological research and development organisation in the Nordic region, covering all fields of technology from electronics to construction. With a staff of 3,000 and a number of unique research facilities, VTT provides a wide range of technology- related and applied research services to customers in Finland and elsewhere.

Heavy involvement in EU projects and national innovation networks, including participation in close to 500 international projects a year, only strengthens VTT's potential for successful cooperation, partnering, and technology transfer.

Avoiding accidents

One example of a particularly interesting area that VTT is currently working on is car safety, through a joint effort with Volvo, Fiat, DaimlerChrysler, and Siemens.

Advanced sensor and data-processing technologies being developed by VTT and its partners for the car of the future will enable vehicles to monitor their own performance, driver behaviour, and the surrounding environment ?and should mean fewer accidents.

Focusing on active safety for the car of the future, this project is a good example of what cutting-edge advances in IT can offer, and it also underlines how important human-technology interaction is today in the development of new technology.

The project envisages the driver in the car of the future being assisted by an active support system based on a rich set of sensor and data-processing technologies. This support system will enable the vehicle to monitor itself, the driver, and the environment, including how alert the driver is and the proximity of other road-users ahead, alongside, and behind. If necessary, the vehicle will be able to make decisions independently if the driver does not react quickly enough to changing situations.

Wireless microwave access

A new type of microwave link allowing wireless access to fixed network services highlights what has been developed together with partners in VTT's EU-sponsored projects.

The link in question provides broadband multimedia and Internet services cost-effectively to homes and small and medium-sized companies located close to a fixed network. Test equipment built as part of this work has extended the speed of the fastest wireless Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) standard (ETSI/HiperMAN) to data rates in the region of 50 MB/s. The test equipment is now being used to demonstrate the functionality of the technique.

VTT has been responsible for the radio channel estimation algorithms, which are used to measure the radio channel during transmission to optimise both the transmitter and the receiver in line with the state of the channel.

Instant drug test

In the field of biotechnology ?an area that VTT, like many others, expects a lot of in the future ?VTT has successfully developed an instant drug test to provide a quick, accurate, and inexpensive method for detecting the abuse of medicines, drugs, and performanceenhancement substances.

The test can give results from a saliva sample, for example, in a matter of just a few minutes; and it is the only test of its kind able to differentiate precisely between very similar substances.

In addition to detecting the presence of drugs, VTT biosensors can also be used to screen food, industrial process lines, and environmental samples for contaminants.

To date, the test has been field-trialed to identify morphine from saliva, and is capable of being used to screen foods, industrial process lines, and environmental samples to see whether they contain dangerous hormonal compounds, toxins, or other contaminants.

The antibodies used in the test, and which lie at its heart, are produced from bacteria using a new method that eliminates the need for animals and enables antibodies to be produced both quickly and inexpensively.

Patternless casting

Patternless casting ?a new production technique developed by VTT ?allows developers to completely bypass the traditional need to make a casting pattern for a new product, and opens up the opportunity for companies to make major savings in product development costs.

By eliminating the need for a pattern, the time required for design and manufacture can be reduced by up to two months, and development costs cut by between 10% and 40%.

The technique is based on a robot preparing the mould directly from a CAD model. The shape of an item can also be derived directly from an existing spare part or an artist's sketch.

The model is converted into control data, used to control the robot, while the system operator directs the robot to machine the shape of the casting into the mould, which is made of hardened sand. The mould is then cast in the normal way. When test casting is satisfactory, the same robot can be used to make the casting tools required for serial production.

Competitiveness through R&D

With the multidisciplinary R&D expertise and global and domestic networks of its six research institutes, VTT can help customers create new and improved products and processes, and use innovation to drive competitiveness.

> Irma Lind
(Published in High Technology Finland )