Success stories

Access to UN procurement through Colombia

Tespack portable solution

Tespack, a Finnish company providing portable energy solutions, has partnered with UNDP in Colombia and is now discussing broader collaboration opportunities with UN agencies. Finnpartnership’s financial grant helped Tespack get started.

UN agencies have concentrated their procurement in procurement centres around the world. Companies can also partner with them through their country offices.

Finnish company Tespack has successfully used this route to start a partnership with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Colombia. The company’s portable energy solutions are used in an educational project to strengthen citizens’ rights, inclusion and peace in remote areas of the South American country. “Our solar-powered portable solution is ideally suited for an aid organisation project in rural villages where access to electricity through the grid is unstable and outages are common,” says Mario Aguilera, CEO of Tespack.

Finnpartnership support made the pilot possible

Caritta Seppä, Chief Operating Officer of Tespack, tells that it is extremely difficult for a small start-up to succeed in tenders for UN agencies. That is why the company decided to start building relationships at country level. However, aid organisations do not make procurement decisions until the equipment has been tested and found to be suitable for field conditions and needs. “Finnpartnership’s financial grant helped in this situation a lot. It enabled us to start piloting and testing the solution in Colombia together with UNDP. Moreover, the support from the Finnish government increased confidence in us,” says Seppä.

Finnpartnership offers financial grants for Finnish companies’ pilot projects with international organisations, with the aim of testing and implementing the technology in the target country. The aim of the Business Partnership Support is to promote commercial cooperation between companies and so-called ODA (Official Development Assistance) eligible international organisations. ODA-eligible actors include for example UN development agencies, international financial institutions, the EU and international NGOs.

Tespack used the Finnpartnership grant to cover expenses such as field trips to Colombia. In addition, instructional videos and other materials to guide the use of the equipment had to be produced in Spanish.

The device is well suited for demanding conditions

The launch of the collaboration in Colombia was boosted by the fact that Mario Aguilera is Bolivian, so he had a good command of the language. Field trips with UNDP staff identified needs that Tespack could help address.

Tespack’s portable energy solution is a ten-kilogram backpack system consisting of a solar cell, a modular battery pack and software developed by the company. Solar power is used to power a projector integrated into the device, which allows training sessions to be held without mains power at any convenient location. The device’s removable batteries can also be used to charge mobile phones or laptops, for example. The latest models also feature a hotspot function, which allows users to wirelessly share internet connection with people nearby. This allows Tespack to collect information, for example, on battery system performance, and use this information for product development and support.

classroom with Tespack portable system

Aiming for UN projects also in other countries

Alongside UNDP, Tespack’s portable energy systems are used in Colombia by the Solidaridad Network. It is an international NGO that runs a project in the country to train farmers in sustainable farming methods and climate change adaptation.

More than 20 Tespack’s portable energy systems are currently in operation in Colombia. According to Caritta Seppä, discussions are underway with UNDP to supply additional equipment. There is a need for portable energy systems, for example in the context of aid projects for refugees from neighbouring Venezuela. “The idea was to start small and then scale up,” says Seppä.

She believes that the successes achieved in Colombia will help open doors to other UNDP country offices. They will also serve as a reference for other UN agencies. “Our goals are to sign long-term procurement contracts with UN agencies. However, more pilot projects are needed to make it happen,” Seppä tells.

Tespack’s solution has proven its worth in Colombia, but the same needs to be demonstrated in countries in Asia and Africa, for example. According to Seppä, the company is currently in discussions with the UNDP to start cooperation in Syria. UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is also interested in starting cooperation.

Tespack’s system has also been tested in Save the Children projects in Zambia, Somalia and Kenya. According to Mr Aguilera, in Zambia the company has also agreed to a pilot project with the Ministry of Education to provide electricity for 800 schools with Tespack’s solution. According to Aguilera, preparations to launch the project are in the final stages.

Images: Tespack

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