IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE
20 years of systematic R&D, research and effective water conservation
The Energo solution has been developed Innotek Oy from Lieksa in Finland. Before specialising in water conservation, the company’s activities include the technical monitoring of industrial properties and the manufacture and sales of devices that notify customers when there is mail in their post box.
The change in direction began in 1995 when Esa Pönkänen, founder of the company, began building a boat for himself. A practical man, Esa wanted to install a standard toilet in his boat but realised that it was impossible, as normal toilets consume too much water. The boat’s septic tank would fill up after just a few flushes.
Esa refused to give up. Since he could not find a smart water-saving flushing solution on the market, he began to think up new solutions and test prototypes. At first it did not look too promising, but as so often happens in Finland, the solution came to him while sitting in the sauna. His daughter’s mug had been left floating upside down in the bucket. When he lifted the mug out of the water, he noticed that water remained inside the mug even when most of it had been raised above the surface of the water.
And that is where it all began. First he invented the Flush Guard, which exploits the surface tension in the water, before going on to develop comprehensive water conservation solutions.
Innotek Oy is the leading company in Finland specialised in water conservation solutions for housing companies, properties, offices, hotels and outlying areas. Energo and Smart Water are registered trademarks of Innotek Oy. Our values and operations are based on the principle of sustainable development, which we take into consideration in all our activities, designs, implementations and consulting.
Esa Pönkänen named his invention Flush Guard, but the road to creating a marketable product was long and rocky. The funding required for R&D was lacking, and even though the level of environmental awareness was high in the mid-1990s, water conservation did not attract public financing or EU support.
Pönkänen had little choice but to finance the development work himself. His development team included well-known industrial designer Heikki Koivurova. The prototype phase proved to be very educational as the team learned to appreciate the mechanics of different toilets and the importance of systematic maintenance and long-lasting seals.
Installations of the new product began in 1998. VVO, Finland´s largest private-sector landlord, was introducing a comprehensive energy conservation programme covering more than 40,000 apartments. The people at VVO agreed that Flush Guard was worth trying, so a pilot project was initiated to install Flush Guard in 300 apartments. The results were carefully analysed. Kuopio Polytechnic measured the changes in consumption and studied user-friendliness. The research results and the cooperation with VVO’s professionals together had an enormous impact on the development of today’s Energo solution.
Following the pilot project we initiated research into the durability of sealing materials together with Lappeenranta University of Technology.
These days we operate throughout Finland. Our company is based in Lieksa. We are often asked why we stay in North Karelia, in the middle of nowhere. This is our answer: Lieksa is the same distance from Oulu as it is from Helsinki, making our location logistically sensible and cost effective. Our organisation is also very agile. Wherever we have operations we also have our warehouses and people. We are also switching to paperless ICT-based reporting, so it is no longer relevant where our head office is located.
Our loyalty to Lieksa is also based on our desire to operate in the middle of the North Karelia Biosphere Reserve, which seeks to promote sustainable development. Alongside the Archipelago Sea, Lieksa is the only UNESCO-approved biosphere reserve in Finland. UNESCO defines biosphere reserves as sites of excellence, an area in which people work to balance the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use.
Currently our company is modernising and servicing the water systems of over 20,000 apartments a year. Our customers mainly comprise the key property owners in Finland, including property management companies, state holdings, parishes, municipalities committed to becoming carbon free, and the defence forces. The Energo solution has proven to be an effective solution also for many hotels, ships and railway passenger carriages. Our technicians are the best in their field. All have years of experience and get along well with building decision-makers and residents alike.
In addition to telling about our successful projects, we also want to draw attention to our pioneering role in Finnish smart water thinking and cleantech – but only for a moment, as we cannot rest on our laurels. We are facing enormous future challenges. We must continue to commit ourselves to developing water-saving fittings, systems and service concepts, as well as to sustainable business, manageable growth, environmental values and preventing the overall waste of natural resources.
Our company enjoys a credit rating of AAA. Our honesty and responsibility is backed up by the website tilaajavastuu.fi.