The three founders of the Finland Chamber of Commerce in Luxembourg, from left to right: Renja Broman, Irene Mäkelä-Brunnekreef and Ulla Veronica Willner. Photos: Provided by Finland Chamber of Commerce in Luxembourg. Montage: Maison Moderne.

The three founders of the Finland Chamber of Commerce in Luxembourg, from left to right: Renja Broman, Irene Mäkelä-Brunnekreef and Ulla Veronica Willner. Photos: Provided by Finland Chamber of Commerce in Luxembourg. Montage: Maison Moderne.

Ahead of the Finbenelux business summit that will take place on 7 June in Helsinki, Delano caught up with the Finland Chamber of Commerce in Luxembourg to hear more about the goals of the event, which will focus on cleantech, healthtech, and smart cities and mobility.

The Finland Chamber of Commerce in Luxembourg, which was officially registered at the beginning of 2022, is organising a business summit in Helsinki, together with the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce, Finnish-Dutch Chamber of Commerce, Helsinki Region Chamber of Commerce, Belgian embassy in Finland, embassy of the Netherlands in Finland and Flanders Investment & Trade.

The three founders--Renja Broman, Irene Mäkelä-Brunnekreef and Ulla Veronica Willner--sat down with Delano to talk about the activities of the chamber of commerce, the goals of the upcoming business summit and what lies ahead.

“A collaborator to connect to the Finnish business community”

In the past, the Finnish community in the grand duchy has been more focused on EU institutions or the financial sector. But the types of Finnish companies that are now here in Luxembourg are quite different compared to 10 years ago, said Willner. “We see a lot more people engaging as independents within startups, within new types of companies. We really sensed, I believe, in our discussions, that there was a new representation needed.”

As Finland does not have an embassy in Luxembourg, the chamber also serves as “a collaborator to connect to the Finnish business community here in Luxembourg, and to understand what kind of companies, what kind of professionals are actually located here in Luxembourg, and therefore, build bridges in that manner as well,” said Mäkelä-Brunnekreef.

There are possibilities to increase business between the two countries
Renja Broman

Renja Bromanvice presidentFinland Chamber of Commerce in Luxembourg

While the upcoming business summit is not the first big event organised by the young chamber of commerce, it is the biggest they’ve organised so far, noted Broman. Previous events include last year’s Finnish Food Week, held at Technopolis (a Finnish company with its premises in Gasperich), an event in Helsinki that focused on the finance sector, as well as various other events, both online and in-person. The events really aim at “listening to our members, and the wishes they have, and the needs they have,” added Broman.

Overlapping areas of interest between Finland and Luxembourg

Luxembourg’s focus areas--such as digitalisation, startups and healthtech--“they are pretty much shared with Finland today,” said Broman. “They have been [at the] core of the Finnish business activity for a while now. So there are also these overlapping areas where there are mutual interests, where there are possibilities to increase business between the two countries. And that’s what we want to support, and try and facilitate those new relationships.”

We want to see the synergies
Irene Mäkelä-Brunnekreef

Irene Mäkelä-BrunnekreefpresidentFinland Chamber of Commerce in Luxembourg

“Innovation is really that big word that bridges the focus areas,” added Willner, and it’s an overarching theme of the summit taking place in Helsinki.

Summit aims at “connecting the dots”

But innovation doesn’t just refer to startups, Mäkelä-Brunnekreef pointed out. Companies of different sizes and in different sectors, research organisations and a broad range of ecosystem representatives will be present in Helsinki. “We want to see the synergies between all of these,” she said. That being said, startups are working more hand-in-hand with corporates, and “there’s a very strong interest to drive innovation in collaboration with all types of companies.”

It’s very much about kind of connecting the dots and starting discussions
Ulla Veronica Willner

Ulla Veronica Willnerboard member, co-founderFinland Chamber of Commerce in Luxembourg

The three main themes of the summit are healthtech, cleantech, and smart cities and mobility, explained Willner, which are interest areas in Finland and the Benelux countries. The conference therefore aims to provide businesses in Finland, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands with opportunities to collaborate, connect and share ideas. “It’s very much about kind of connecting the dots and starting discussions.”

Moreover, the summit also offers the opportunity for Luxembourg to see Finland as a gateway towards the rest of the Nordic countries and the Baltic countries, as well as for Finland to further develop its business in the Benelux countries.

Looking at the trade figures of Finland with Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg individually--“those numbers aren’t that big,” said Broman. “But when you combine them and look at the Benelux region, it’s actually for Finland, not far away from the German numbers. So it actually becomes a very relevant region.”

Bernard Massard’s crémants are actually quite popular in Finland, the three women noted, offering a concrete example of the trade linking the two countries. Finland’s flag carrier Finnair recently started to serve Bernard Massard’s sparkling wines on its flights again, said Broman. When Bernard Massard entered the Finnish market in 1995, in fact, their products were served by Finnair. Moreover, Finland is the “third-largest” export market for the Luxembourg sparkling wine producer, right behind Canada, and has seen some great progressions, added Mäkelä-Brunnekreef.

Anything special to look out for at the conference?

When I asked the founders of the Finland Chamber of Commerce in Luxembourg which panel or speaker they were most looking forward to hearing, the answer was that it would be very difficult to choose just one panel!

Panel discussions will be moderated by experts in each domain--Heli Antila (Fortum Oyj) for cleantech and sustainability, Sami Sahala (Forum Virium Helsinki) for smart cities and mobility, Harriet Gullstén (Viiki Innovations) for healthtech, and Egbert Schram (Hofstede Insights) for culture insights--while speakers include economists, ambassadors and business leaders.

After the panels are finished, the moderators will come together to share the highlights from all the panels, allowing everyone to hear the important takeaways from each session, explained Broman. The event will also include networking opportunities amongst the attendees and speakers.

Future plans

Besides the next edition of Finnish Food Week, scheduled to take place in October (which I’ve already marked in my own calendar), the chamber of commerce doesn’t yet have concrete plans for next year’s events. “We hope that we will be able to continue this type of collaboration,” said Mäkelä-Brunnekreef, “and to find other ways to maybe do sector-specific collaboration with the countries.”

“It surely also depends on the outcomes from this event, what kind of inputs we have, what kind of needs people have,” said Broman. “That’s the important thing for us, to get people talking and sharing about their wishes for future events, and how we can facilitate. That’s how we see our role: it’s really being the party who’s bringing others together in a meaningful way.”

Find more information about the summit .