The Internationalisation Award of the President of the Republic 2016
High-quality refrigeration technology from Finland
BlueFors Cryogenics originated from research work done at the then Helsinki University of Technology (today Aalto University). Over a period of ten years, the company has become the world’s leading manufacturer of ‘dry’ ultra-low temperature refrigerators. Already more than every second of these ‘dry’ ultra-low temperature refrigerators now sold is made by BlueFors, estimates the company which has grown swiftly. BlueFors has also promising growth prospects in the supply chain of quantum computers.
The story of BlueFors began a little over ten years ago at the Low Temperature Laboratory at Helsinki University of Technology, where Rob Blaauwgeers, a Doctor of Technology from the Netherlands, conducted research work on innovative dry dilution refrigerators. In 2007, together with Pieter Vorselman, the development resulted in one of the world’s first fully automated ‘dry’ ultra-low temperature refrigerators.
These next generation ultra-low temperature refrigerators allowed the automated cooling of samples to extremely low temperatures, i.e. close to absolute zero.
This was the first time making these temperatures accessible to a wider and commercial user base. Temperatures as low as these are required, among others, for research in the fields of quantum physics, nanotechnology, radio astronomy and particle physics.
– Initially, the idea was to develop this technology for local scientific researchers, but many of our research colleagues globally were enthusiastic about it and asked us to make the technology accessible to a wider user base, Rob Blaauwgeers explains.
Setting up a business in 2008 and making these next generation ultra-low temperature refrigerators accessible to a wider and commercial user base have demanded perseverance and years of hard work from Blaauwgeers and Vorselman. Since its founding, BlueFors has invested significantly in product development.
– We haven’t chosen the easy path because we wanted to develop more reliable, easy-to-use and high-quality finished products than our competitors, Blaauwgeers states.
– There have been blood, sweat and tears but thanks to our continuous work in product development, today we are far ahead of our competitors, he continues.
To this day, only a few companies in the world can produce ultra-low temperature dilution refrigerators.
BlueFors’ refrigeration technology has achieved a good reputation and the commercial success has exceeded the company’s expectations. BlueFors has doubled its size several years in a row and the number of employees has risen to about 60. The company’s turnover in 2015 was EUR 16.9 million and its profitability is excellent.
BlueFors has promising growth prospects in the growing field of quantum computers. Their development is still in progress, but there will be a demand for refrigerator technology if and when quantum computers become a commercial success. They are expected to far exceed traditional computers in certain tasks.
Sector and main product: Ultra-low temperature measurement systems
Registered office: Helsinki
Turnover and profit: Turnover EUR 16.9 million, operating profit EUR 4.3 million (2015)
Export-to-turnover ratio: Over 95%
Founders: CEO Rob Blaauwgeers and Technical Director Pieter Vorselman
Personnel: Approximately 60
Production site: Helsinki
Team Finland services: Received a loan from Finnvera to start the business. Participated in a joint Tekes-led development program together with VTT.