Targeting green innovations

Meyer Turku is enlisting the aid of universities in pursuit of more sustainable shipbuilding

article picture: Targeting green innovations

Meyer Turku is intensifying its collaboration with the academic world. The latest move involves deepening the long-standing cooperation with Åbo Akademi as a new partnership agreement was signed.

The agreement period is five years, and the focus lies, at least initially, on Åbo Akademi’s Faculty of Natural Sciences and Technology and Meyer-led green transition program NEcOLEAP. Meyer Turku collaborates also with two other local universities, University of Turku and the Turku University of Applied Sciences, along with most universities across the land.

Ilkka Rytkölä, Ecosystem Lead at Meyer Turku, is especially excited about the launch of Green Transition Lab – a shared workspace which supports the interaction between researchers and industry. Located in Data City in Turku, Green Transition Lab opened its doors in March 2024 and has hit the ground running:

“There’s been dozens of events and meetings at the Lab already and services available for startups, for example,” Rytkölä says.

Kim Wikström, Professor of Industrial Engineering and Management at Åbo Akademi, is equally pleased with Green Transition Lab as a solid example of widespanning collaboration.

“Via Green Transition Lab, we pursue a systemic approach, with hopefully a variety of benefits to come. We are looking for new initiatives targeting even radical innovations,” Wikström says.


In addition to the Lab, the new partnership agreement includes e.g. doctoral student positions and a range of courses adapted for lifelong learning in the shipbuilding industry – as well as a sponsored professorship.

“We’re in the process of appointing the professorship in sustainability that Meyer Turku will finance, with a particular focus on process technology, energy technology and industrial engineering and management,” says Wikström, adding that the collaboration is a very significant one from the perspective of the university.

“We will fill the professorship by the end of the year,” he believes.


Talking about ways to cut down carbon in the marine industry, Wikström acknowledges that green fuels are trending very strongly, but there are other sustainable moves to make, too.

“Use of space on ships is one issue. If you rethink functions in the ship’s public areas and cabins, you can achieve surprising results,” he says. For example, instead of ships having laundry services onboard, would it make sense to do the laundry on the shore?

Another development area involves digitalization and Big Data. “With all the information available, we can manage and optimize the flow of people on ships.”

The big thing on the backburner is making ships out of green steel. “Ships require vast amounts of steel, so making that steel in a carbon-neutral way would be a tremendous improvement,” says Wikström.

Green steel fleets are still probably decades away, but in terms of competitive advantage, it makes sense to be among the early adaptors in this field. “Also regulation keeps tightening and it helps to be proactive, instead of just following the pack.”


The new collaboration fits seamlessly into the wider framework of NEcOLEAP, the green transition lead program which kicked off in 2022. In the Business Finland funded program, Meyer Turku heads a group of companies, universities and research institutes in order to develop innovative and sustainable technological solutions for the needs of the maritime industry. The program will run until 2025.

The research and development topics within the NEcOLEAP program focus on four areas: the designing of the cruise ship itself, the shipyard’s operations, i.e. the different phases of shipbuilding, and the introduction of smart technologies and the open-minded professionals of the future.

Regarding the shipyard, the goal is to develop the concept of a carbon-neutral cruise ship by 2025 and make the entire shipyard climate-neutral by 2030. Ilkka Rytkölä recognizes that the goals are ambitious.

“We’ve set the target high and it’s not going to be easy. Nevertheless, we believe that it is possible.”


Rytkölä agrees with Wikström that it’s ‘all hands on deck’ in bringing down carbon: you need more sustainable fuels, materials, processes…

“Clearly it is something you can’t do all by yourself. We need the entire marine ecosystem to pull together in this one,” Rytkölä says, pointing out that the shipyard serves as the master coordinator and integrator of a shipbuilding project – while the suppliers within the vast ecosystem provide the products.

“We have suppliers that vary in size a lot and have different access to resources, but it’s also true that especially the smaller companies can be very creative in cutting down CO2 emissions,” he says.

Rytkölä also points out that looking at the lifespan CO2 emissions caused by building and running cruise ships, only 5% come from the actual shipyard operations.

“We have to look at the entire big picture to see where we can make the biggest impact.”


Both Wikström and Rytkölä see strategic, long-term collaboration as the key to marine industry’s sustained success.

“Local universities are keen on collaboration, but also, for instance, Aalto, Tampere and Oulu universities are contributing to the work,” Wikström says, emphasizing the importance of having broad shoulders. “We have a very diverse competence platform.”

Approaching this equation from the business side, Rytkölä views the Finnish marine cluster as a very powerful difference- maker:

“We have a very special ecosystem with unique strengths and common coals. It’s unlike anything else out there,” he says.


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