Finnish Business Hub brings vibrant technologies to Kazakhstan, encourages local companies to go global

ASTANA – The Astana-based Finnish Business Hub provides practical help and strengthens beneficial agreements between Finland and Kazakhstan business communities. The Astana Times spoke exclusively with head Mukhtar Mankeyev to learn about its activities and projects.

Head of Finnish Business Hub Mukhtar Mankeyev.

Founded in 2013, the hub is designed to boost commodity turnover between the countries, attract bilateral investment projects and invite highly-qualified specialists from both nations.

“We continue promoting collaboration on new business operations and joint product development, technology and know-how transfer. The main areas for 2018-2019 are education and innovation development. We plan to dedicate most of the events to this concept,” said Mankeyev.

Since its inception, the centre has developed a strong network of partners.

“We see that there is an opportunity for Kazakh companies to enter the Finnish market and then, the European and international markets. We just need to be brave and build unique products. The hub will always support any initiatives of Kazakh-Finnish businesses to establish a new collaboration and be a single contact point for them,” he added.

The hub’s major projects include implementing the domestic solid waste management system in the West Kazakhstan region, producing energy-efficient construction materials, transferring hazardous waste recycling technology in oil and gas and introducing Building Information Modelling (BIM) technologies, smart сity strategies and master-plan design.

The Digital Academy project was launched recently to implement BIM technologies and virtual design. The team consists of experts with experience in digital economy and smart city projects.

“We see a huge potential in the near future for the BIM sector, as our government has approved a programme to switch the designing process into BIM by 2020. Thus, the Digital Academy has developed a special training programme for BIM managers and technicians and adopted innovative BIM-SPACE solutions according to our standards and needs. All our products have intellectual property right. By taking part in our project, companies will get access to the latest innovative solutions and can develop their own products according to particular projects,” he said.

The academy also aims to increase literacy in innovative information technologies and provide new tools for effective project management and interaction.

As regional cooperation is a priority, a BIM centre of excellence was opened at the Uralsk oil and gas college. Finnish companies also invested in the solid waste management project, presenting both at EXPO 2017.  

“We have very active cooperation and interest related to digitisation, medical technology and general innovation development. Kazakhstan can benefit from Finnish knowledge economy. For instance, Finland is among the most research-intensive countries. Universities play a significant role in the research and development (R&D) process and provide a real sector of economy with concrete and practical projects to be funded and implemented. We invited the president of Nazarbayev University to visit the University of Oulu, which is one of the leading universities in Finland and has built a fruitful innovative ecosystem in cooperation with business and science. Now, we are discussing collaboration ways between the two universities,” said Mankeyev.

Annual R&D spending in the region is 6 billion euros (US$6.8 billion), which translates to approximately 3.5 percent of the Finnish GDP. Recognising and generating commercially-viable ideas into practice has been identified as a national priority and cooperation among companies, universities and research institutes in the form of various partnerships is an integral element of Finnish innovation.

The Kazakh government plans to spend up to 10 percent of its GDP in the social sphere, including science and R&D.

“Thus, we have to utilise our partnership with Finland and start to switch our economy in an innovative way,” he said.

Mankeyev also spoke about cooperation in education. The hub organised a seminar for schools in April and recently conducted the master class for Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools.

“We are trying to introduce some modules of phenomenon-based learning in Kazakhstan. We expect that current reforms of primary education would get some ideas from Finland as well. The idea already proved its worth and brought results. As a hub, we are ready to share Finnish experience and build cooperation between schools and systems,” he added.