The Finnish Genano, a leader in indoor air decontamination, believes in the fast growth and redistribution of the indoor air purifier market. Covid-19 drives many customer segments to rethink their needs to improve indoor air quality. Korkia, together with its network, is helping Genano build a success story in China.
Indoor air quality and its connection to health issues have been a subject of debate in recent years. This has given rise to a rapidly growing indoor air purifier market around the world. Covid-19 further escalated the debate when it became clear that the virus hovers in the air and travels in the form of small particles across the interior, possibly being more infectious than a close range droplet infection . Analysis of the coronavirus’ motions have also shed light on how other viruses spread indoors. This new understanding is changing our perception of indoor air ventilation and air purification.
Indoor air quality is affected by various physical factors such as temperature, humidity, ventilation, draft and noise, as well as many gaseous or particulate pollutants. Commonly known gaseous pollutants include, for example, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and radon. Particulate contaminants include small particles, various fibres and allergens, as well as a large number of different microbes – bacteria, fungi, viruses and protists. 
Breathing is surprisingly dangerous – small particles and microbes threaten indoor air quality
Small particles are solid particles, less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter, floating in the atmosphere, which when exposed to respiratory air penetrate to the alveoli. Particulate matter travels across borders in the form of air pollution and are generated from traffic, energy production and wood burning. They cause more than 4 million deaths worldwide each year . According to a recent estimate, the coronavirus caused the same number of global deaths in the first 12 months . Therefore, it is not irrelevant how small particles from the outside air are filtered in our homes.
In Finland there has been little public conversation of microbes and their connection with the indoor air, outside the context of mold related discussion. Microbes are also essential to us, for example in the development of the immune system. The main source of bacteria in the indoor environment is human beings . While viruses are familiar to us in the context of influenza epidemics, they have not been actively linked to the indoor air quality discussion. COVID-19 changed this and at the same time made the Finnish Genano a world-famous and fast-growing company.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has led many to rethink their needs to improve indoor air quality.”
Genano air purification technology: Isolate and destroy
The technology used by Genano has its roots in the study of particle physics in the 1960s Finnish academic world. According to the story, wise professors half-accidentally fired an ion gun they had developed into a full cigarette ashtray and wondered if the grey cloud of particles floating in the room could be ionized in a confined space using a controlled process. The technology was developed by renowned inventor Veikko Ilmasti, who is also known as one of Finland’s youngest war veterans.
Genano has been developing its technology and the equipment that utilizes it for a long time. The company has developed advanced software, data analytics, new types of continuous service models as well as financing solutions to complement the air purification technology. The company’s sales and profitability have developed well in recent years, but it was the Covid-19 pandemic that ultimately brought Genano to the international front lines of indoor air purification and the fight against viral epidemics.
Genano’s devices absorb the indoor air in the room, ionize the particles in it with low temperature plasma technology and kill everything organic. The technology is capable of handling particles up to 0.003 micrometres, or 3 nanometres in size. It is thus able to destroy small viruses that are beyond the reach of traditional air purification technologies.
In the post-pandemic world, clean indoor air will become a prerequisite
In recent months, several articles have been published in the mainstream media that suggest that the post-Covid-19 world will be more sensitive about indoor air quality. In March 2021 an extensive “Virus in the Air” story was published in Helsingin Sanomat, the largest newspaper in Finland. The article illustrated how Finnish researchers had modelled the spread of an airborne virus in a restaurant. The conclusion of the case was that the high risk of indoor infection can be significantly reduced by improving ventilation and using air purifiers. 
In February, the New York Times presented an analysis about a local school that illustrated how a cloud of particles containing the virus travels from a chair of a sick student to different parts of the classroom. The conclusions were identical with the Helsingin Sanomat case. 
Similarly, on March 2021, Harvard Business School published an extensive review of the impact of Covid-19 and remote work on future workplaces. According to the article, managers must show genuine concern for employees and take care of both their physical and mental health. They need to be able to concretely answer the following question asked by their current and future employees: “How do you protect my health?”. 
There is a demand for Genano’s technology, especially in the healthcare sector where there is both a wealth of information about the importance of indoor air to health and a lot at stake in its operations. However, other segments are catching up fast. In the future, solutions that promote healthy and safe indoor air quality will be emphasized not only by property owners competing for tenants, but also by employers in particular. As the article in the Harvard Business Review shows, healthy indoor air is becoming a prerequisite for a responsible workplace. In fact, in a post-pandemic world indoor air may affect our decisions more broadly: it may determine where we do business, how we travel, and where we live. Covid-19 teaches us to demand more and to ask the same critical question from not just employers but all service providers: “How do you protect my health?”
Finland is a good training area, but the competition is held abroad
Genano has already achieved an established position in Finland and the next goal is to enter the world league in large international markets. Exports to the West have set off at a rapid pace and the company has found good distribution partners from several countries to respond to the rapidly growing interest in finding new solutions in the post-Covid-19 world.
Korkia, along with its partner Asia Perspective, is helping Genano grow in China and Asia. Although the ongoing measures in China are very concrete tasks related to the selection and management of the distribution partners, as with Genano’s other geopraphical markets the same big question about the development of an indoor air purification system and its market in different customer segments remains, only on a larger scale.
Case Genano is an interesting combination of high tech, change in customer behaviour, rapid internationalization and, if not saving the globe, at least its inhabitants. Hopefully, in ten years, this blog post will serve as an introduction to a case description of a Finnish success story.
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1. Helsingin Sanomat, 27.5.2020, Essi Sutinen, “Suomalaistutkimus: Koronavirus leviää sisäilmassa jo pelkällä puhumisella”
2. THL, The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare: Mitkä tekijät vaikuttavat sisäilman laatuun?
3. Chest Journal, 1.2.2019, “Air Pollution and Noncommunicable Diseases, A Review by the Forum of International Respiratory Societies’ Environmental Committee, Part 1: The Damaging Effects of Air Pollution”, vol. 155, issue 2, pp. 409-416
4. Yle, Finnish Broadcasting Company, 16.3.2021 “Maailmalla suuri osa koronakuolemista jää yhä piiloon”, perustuu Ariel Karlinskyn ja Dmitry Kobakin vielä vertaisarvioimattomaan tutkimukseen ”The World Mortality Dataset: Tracking excess mortality across countries during the COVID-19 pandemic”, 21.1.2021
5. Helsingin Sanomat, 9.3.2021, Mikko Puttonen, ”Virus ilmassa”
6. New York Times, 26.2.2021, Nick Bartzokas, Mika Gröndahl, Karthik Patanjali, Miles Peyton, Bedel Saget ja Umi Syam https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/02/26/science/reopen-schools-safety-ventilation.html
7. HBS Working Knowledge, (multiple authors) 8.3.2021 https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/covid-killed-the-traditional-workplace-what-should-companies-do-now