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The Young Researcher Entrepreneur of 2021 and co-founder of NL Acoustics, Kai Saksela, helps industry clients understand what sound means

Kai Saksela is the winner of the Young Researcher Entrepreneur Award of 2021. He founded NL Acoustics together with his colleague Jonas Nyberg in 2015. The company helps industrial operators prevent dangerous faults and damage through sound.

What problem is NL Acoustics solving?

“Our customers operate in the electrical and manufacturing industry. In these environments, it can be difficult to detect technical faults such as network damage or gas leaks. We help understand what each sound means in these noisy settings and which ones require further action. For example, unmaintained electrical failures can lead to interruptions in regional electricity distribution or shut down an entire plant.”

What is your solution to the problem?

“We offer products that utilize acoustic camera technology to make it easier to interpret and locate faulty sounds. The cameras are easy to use and do not require any special skills from the user. All you have to do to locate the fault is point the product in the right direction and a display will show graphic analysis of the situation. The product also provides solutions to fix the problem.”

What inspired you to start a business?

“While working as a construction consultant, I noticed that there was a lack of a cost-effective and easy-to-use product on the market for locating faults in an industrial environment. Around this time, I met the co-founder of the company, Jonas Nyberg, through common acquaintances and we got along really well – the conversation quickly shifted into the technology and the observation I had made. Jonas is an electronics guru, so we decided to start exploring if the idea could be put into practice. One year later, our first prototype was completed and its success led to the establishment of NL Acoustics in 2015.”

What kind of research is NL Acoustics based on?

“In the early days of the company, designing the first prototypes required my understanding of mathematical optimization methods as well as acoustics – the way sound behaves. Jonas provided his in-depth technical know-how, without which building a prototype would not have been possible. During my doctoral studies, I also delved into machine learning, which today our products use extensively to identify defects.”

What benefits has a background in research brought to you?

“Rather than founding the company as a result of a particular research outcome or idea, we have managed to apply our expertise in a new environment. The same thing that has driven me to research has been pivotal in business as well. I am interested in how things work and, on the other hand, questioning practices comes naturally to me.”

What plans has NL Acoustics got in store for the future?

“We managed to double our turnover last year and this year our goal is to continue with the same growth rate. We want to expand into new international markets and new industries as soon as possible.”

The Young Researcher Entrepreneur is an award of 5 000 euros, awarded annually by the KAUTE Foundation to a person who has developed a new research-based business. This year, the jury decided to award a runner-up prize of 3 000 euros. Read more about the award!