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How the Finns became a nation of inventors – 145 years of internationally successful innovations


December 23, 2019

The Finns are innovative people. This is evidenced by our numerous, even internationally successful inventions, such as AIV fodder, the Abloy lock and the Kohonen map. To celebrate Kolster’s jubilee year, we present nine Finnish inventions from a period of 145 years.

The year 1874 is particularly important in the history of Finnish patents, as it was then that Rudolf Kolster filed his first patent application. In the same year, he set up the oldest patent office in Finland still in business, Kolster.

The patent was for the invention of two English inventors, George Sinclair and John Nicol, which related to treating wood fibre in paper manufacturing. Charles Watt, an Englishman, had previously developed a chemical pulp manufacturing method suitable for wood fibre, that is, the soda process.

Sinclair and Nicol were developing an apparatus suitable for this method.

Read more about Kolster’s first patent here.

A lot has been invented in Finland over 145 years. Some of these interesting inventions have also been successful around the world and gained recognition, including winning a Nobel Prize and appearing in international scientific publications.

One of the internationally successful Finnish inventions is the Abloy lock patented by precision mechanic Emil Henriksson.

Henriksson developed the basic idea behind his lock already in the early 1900s: the mechanism made it possible to make an unlimited number of different kinds of keys that were very difficult to copy.

Read more about the Abloy lock’s global journey here.

Inventions: hit products of their day

Many of the inventions have also been hit products of their day, combining innovation, durability, versatility and ease of use.

One of the absolute hit products is the steel-framed sofa bed heteka. It was part of the life of two generations and a standard accessory of almost every home in the 1960s. Its production volume was at best around two million units.

However, a patent relating to the structure of the bed was granted to Heteka Oy much earlier, in 1937.

Read more about the success story of the heteka here.

Another way to relax that the Finns love, sauna bathing, has also been frequently represented in Finnish patent applications during the last hundred years. Kari Vikström’s electric stove with sauna stones, which was proposed in the Finnish patent number 29081 in 1957, can be considered a pioneering invention of the modern sauna culture.

The electric stove revolutionised saunas, as now, they could be constructed also in apartments in multi-storey buildings.

Read more about the stages of Finnish sauna stove history here

Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Finland

Further inventions by Finns that have been introduced to the world include, for example, AIV fodder and the Kohonen map developed by the academic Teuvo Kohonen.

Artturi Ilmari Virtanen, who ran the research laboratory of the Valio cooperative, was granted the 1945 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing the preservation method of AIV fodder, or soilage. The quantity and quality of the winter milk produced by cows increased significantly at farms, while the feed costs decreased.

Read more about AIV fodder here.

In 1981, Teuvo Kohonen presented an artificial neural network model, a mathematical algorithm that mimics the adaptive learning of the brain. He called the model a self-organizing map (SOM), but it is also commonly known as the Kohonen map.

The Kohonen map is probably the single most cited work in Finnish science history. Kohonen’s scientific articles have been cited in thousands of scientific publications and numerous patents.

Read about the creation of the Kohonen map here.

The Kohonen map is not the only Finnish innovation to gain worldwide fame. Almost fifty years ago, DSc (Tech) Tuomo Suntola invented how to create an extremely thin film on a material surface one atom at a time. He was granted international patent protection for ALD technology and thin-film manufacturing equipment as early as in the 1970s.

The real breakthrough of Suntola’s invention occurred in the early 2000s when ALD was widely adopted in the manufacture of semiconductors. The technology can be described as a multipurpose tool used in computers, LED lights and solar cells alike around the world.

Read more about atomic layer deposition here.

The nine inventions presented to celebrate Kolster’s jubilee year:

HI-FOG® water mist invention for fire fighting

Abloy – the lock that can’t be picked

Azipod® thruster – a pioneer in the marine industry

ALD technology – an invention in the pocket of every Finn

Kohonen map – enabler of self-learning artificial intelligence

AIV fodder – the cream of the crop of Finnish inventions

The sauna stove – Evolution from a pile of rocks to a designer product

Heteka - an iron bed that became a bestseller of its day

Kolster’s first patent served the paper industry

Finnish inventions

Source: keksintösäätiö.com.

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