Can industrial metaverse solve the labour shortage challenge? Explore the project

Sulava is involved in a project that VTT has started with a selected group of companies. The project renews industrial work with the employees first. The joint project involves both companies offering industrial work, i.e. those using solutions, and companies providing solutions.

The purpose of the project is to identify tasks where the use of the metaverse would be beneficial for both the employee and the organization. The aim is to create several innovation projects during the spring of 2023, in which opportunities are built for technology companies to create scalable solutions that break industry boundaries.

Lately, we have met the term metaverse on various business videos and in demos. The environments presented have been magnificently built, and they have felt very realistic. Currently, the discussion mainly focuses on the world of entertainment and consumer applications. But could the biggest unidentified potential actually lie in the world of daily work? We are particularly interested in industrial work that involves more than sitting at a computer.

Industrial metaverse brings the physical and virtual work environments together and enables collaborative use of novel tools and shared practices between employees. However, the precondition for a metaverse – or any new technology, for that matter – to become more common is that people are willing, not forced, to widely adopt such solutions in both their private lives and at work.

In October, VTT (Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd) launched its first human-driven metaverse project, in this case meaning putting the employee first, aimed at reforming industrial work with a group of selected companies. The companies involved represent both providers of industrial work, i.e., those using the solutions, and companies offering relevant solutions. They come from various sectors with complementing technologies. This creates foundations for finding scalable solutions across sectoral boundaries. The pioneering companies participating in the project are Valmet Automotive, KONE, Finavia, YIT, Granlund, Telia, ZOAN, Sulava, Dazzle, Augment and Nordkapp.

”The objective of the project is to identify work tasks in which the use of a metaverse would benefit both employees and the organisation. The use cases identified should contribute to the productivity of work, employee well-being, the attractiveness of work, and the achievement of sustainable development goals by, for example, increasing the number of place-independent work tasks,” says Karoliina Salminen, who leads the project at VTT.

”Sulava has been investing in the metaverse since the summer of 2021 and we are the absolute market leader in utilizing it in the development of work. A better working life and enabling it has been at the core of Sulava since our founding. Now it’s finally time to bring the tools into the everyday lives of all employees,” says Aki Antman, CEO of Sulava, and continues:

“We have been involved in numerous different programs together with Microsoft and our customers, and this project brings craved and needed concreteness to the transformation of industrial work. Personally, I see the change that metaverse brings at least as big than the commercialization of the internet was back in the mid-1990s. In developing metaverse services, Sulava also has a strong focus on improving business efficiency and creating new business models.”

Changing work tasks

Various sectors of industrial work are already experiencing ‘a labour shortage challenge’, perhaps even an emergency. Therefore, work tasks must be developed to encourage people to stay in their current jobs and to attract today’s young generations, future employees. In the future, industrial employees must be able to collaborate with an increasingly versatile group of specialists and to use continuously developing technologies. Metaverse could be one of the ways of implementing the growing need for such collaboration and information sharing.

The starting point for the project is the transition of industrial work. One of the solutions examined are the opportunities provided by place-independent work outside the IT bubble, the main focus being on practical work carried out on the field.

”Hybrid work interests people, and this could serve as an incentive for future employees and thus improve the availability of expert workforce. Furthermore, performing dirty, boring and dangerous work tasks using new and innovative methods in collaboration with robots, AI assistants or, perhaps, autonomous vehicles enhances safety and meaningfulness of work,” Salminen says.

New innovations

The first stage of the project has focused on building a shared understanding of what an industrial metaverse means from the perspective of future work in particular. This is the first step towards describing concrete work tasks using the new opportunities provided by the metaverse and identifying the technological and non-technological enablers they require.

“This project has strengthened our belief in the realization of the metaverse faster than we thought. In Finland’s leading industrial companies, business is already done at least pointwise in the metaverse with the help of, for example, sensors, digital twins and XR technologies. Now we just need to connect the points together and, of course, implement the new ways of working for the entire organization,” says Karoliina Partanen, Chief Future Scientist at Sulava.

During spring 2023, the project aims to generate many new innovative initiatives to provide technology companies with opportunities to create scalable solutions across sectoral boundaries for both domestic and global markets.

”We are now inviting companies interested in the subject to contact us well ahead of the next stage to contribute to the building of the future innovation and business ecosystem. Together, we will make Finland the leading country in place-independent industrial work,” says Markku Kivinen, Solution Sales Lead responsible for customer partnerships within the field at VTT.

Explore project results: Industrial work will transform with new technologies and practices


Karoliina Partanen, Sulava Chief Future Scientist,

Olli Lipsanen, Director, Business Applications,

Original news from VTT

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