The top 25: Antti Sinisalo, CEO, VTT Ventures

A master of both science and economics, Antti Sinisalo, CEO of VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland’s investment arm VTT Ventures, has spent more than 10 years developing the unit to support technologies with Finnish roots and global impact.

The unit’s exits included Spinnova, founded in 2004 to produce yarns and filaments made directly from wood fibres without chemicals. VTT sold its shares in August this year and was replaced by new shareholders and Beata Domus. Spinnova had also secured a total of €7.5m ($8.6m) in debt, with $5.1m of that supplied by financial services firm OP Bank and guaranteed by the EU-owned European Investment Bank. The remaining $3.4m came from government trade and research agency Business Finland.

VTT’s other exit was Spectral Engines, founded in 2014 to develop commercial sensor products. Spectral Engines generated sales while establishing a global distribution network with VTT co-investing with Inventure, Finnvera, a group of angel investors and the EU’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program.

Sinisalo’s background is in the medical equipment business, where he gained an understanding of both business and product development. At VTT, he has worked on more than 30 commercialisation cases. “Success is not a destination, but a continuous journey” is how he views his work in a statement online.

“We constantly scan the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland pool, for projects with the potential to become outstanding from a business perspective. We invest in new ventures at the seed phase. By converting technologies into businesses, we expand the global reach of Finnish high-impact research.

“We are not scientists or bankers, we are instead specialists of the seed phase. Together with our network, we offer specific insight and ingredients every idea needs in order to grow.

“In addition to monetary support, we strengthen new ventures in three ways. We mature the idea and technology together with the researchers, coach the researchers about the investor viewpoint to ease further funding, and scout for additional professionals to join the project.”

VTT Ventures’ portfolio includes Asqella, Dispelix, FocalSpec, Helmee Imaging, Minima Processor, TactoTek, Combinostics, Desentum, MediSapiens, Zora, Active Paper, Iscent, Paptic, BioMensio, GrainSense, Quanturi and Envault.

In February, 3D-moulded part producer TactoTek closed a $14.5m round with participation from chemicals company Nanogate and automotive components manufacturer Plastic Omnium.

The round also featured VC and advisory firm Ascend Capital, whose involvement was previously reported in December 2017, as well as automotive parts maker Faurecia’s corporate venturing unit Faurecia Ventures and VC firm Conor Venture Partners. TactoTek additionally obtained debt financing and grants, amounting to a total of $8.5m.

VTT is separately looking to launch a tech transfer fund with a target size of €40m ($46.3m) alongside limited partners including the Finnish government and the EU-owned European Investment Fund (EIF).

The as-yet-unnamed vehicle is expected to support early-stage research and science-orientated businesses across Finland. The Finnish state will invest $17.4m, contingent on the EIF’s contribution amounting to at least 50% of the vehicle’s overall funding.