HELSUS Co-Creation Lab

The HELSUS Co-Creation Lab is a cooperative, scheduled and facilitated process for master’s students doing their master’s thesis. During the Co-Creation Lab, the students take on sustainability challenges presented by partners and produce their master’s thesis on a subject developed during the process. Making connections and gaining experience are built into the lab: we seek to bring together real-world sustainability challenges and future experts. Partners in the previous lab included both businesses and public-sector actors. The next HELSUS Co-Creation Lab will begin in February 2021.

The application period is open until 13th December 2020 at 23:59.

The HELSUS Co-Creation Lab is a joint process where the lab teachers, supervisors, partners, organizers and students all have an essential role.

Lab teachers

Eeva-Lotta Apajalahti, Research Coordinator, HELSUS

Kaisa Korhonen-Kurki, Research Coordinator, HELSUS

Michiru Nagatsu, Associate Professor, Practical Philosophy, HELSUS

Janna Pietikäinen, Education Coordinator, University Lecturer, Vice Dean, HELSUS


Ville-Pekka Niskanen, Non-military service person, HELSUS


In the HELSUS Co-Creation Lab, master’s level students tackle sustainability challenges presented by partners and produce their master’s thesis during the process. The lab is based on a cooperative, scheduled and facilitated process. During the first four lab meetings, the research topic, research questions, and the methodology and methods are developed. This is followed by a research period, during which the master’s students conduct individual research work. The last two lab meetings focus on interpretation of the data and presenting the research results.

The HELSUS Co-creation Lab does not replace traditional thesis seminars but adds to them by introducing a co-creative approach to the research process.

For master’s students at the University of Helsinki

The HELSUS Co-creation Lab is a co-creative approach to doing master’s thesis research. The lab offers the participating Master's students

  • the opportunity to find topics for their thesis
  • help with their research work
  • a clear timetable to work on
  • a chance to develop transdisciplinary skills
  • a chance to get in touch with actual sustainability challenges
  • wide support from the lab personnel, their student peers, the partner, and the thesis supervisor
  • meeting new people
  • Each student who finishes their thesis in time (see the schedule) will also be awarded a scholarship of at least 1500 euros. 

For partners

  • the opportunity to receive new insights, ideas, and possible solutions to their sustainability challenges.

The Lab also gives opportunities for social networking with students, researchers, and other societal actors and businesses. We aim for a community where a wide range of knowledge and experience are used to explore novel ideas and possible solutions for common interests.

The Co-creation Lab will come together six times, each time starting with a new phase of the thesis process. The lab personnel facilitates and arranges each session.

Lab 1 Team-building: Students, supervisors, lab personnel and partners meet. Everyone gets familiar with the lab topics and through a mapping exercise each team explore mutual interests and possibilities regarding their topic

Lab 2 Defining: All day session where the research question, societal context and methods are starting to take form.

Lab 3 Positioning: Using a joint back casting method, the theses are positioned and contextualized.

Lab 4 Shaping: Time for presenting the research questions and the plans for data collection to both partners and supervisors. Comments on methods and methodology.

Individual research work

Lab 5 Interpreting: First insights from the data. Time for analyzing, interpreting, reflecting and sharing experiences.

Lab 6 Sharing: Event where everyone involved in the lab are invited to hear about the results of the lab.

Eleven students from various faculties of the University of Helsinki participated in the 2019-2020 HELSUS Co-Creation Lab, which was organized as a pilot. Below are some of their experiences from the Lab process, as well as on writing a master's thesis during the Lab.

  • Feedback from different participants during the lab meetings helped with shaping my work and especially helped with writing for different audiences. Also, seeing other students’ presentations was invaluable as I could learn how they were conducting their research.
  • I got a different perspective on the challenge by working with practitioners from partner businesses.
  • A unique part of the lab was the opportunity to develop one’s subject together with the partners, teachers and peer students – this is something that is rarely included in a traditional master’s thesis process!
  • The Lab helped me with finding my professional focus within the discipline.
  • The clear schedule assisted with the writing process, and the Lab presentations served as a basis for the writing.
  • It was beneficial to report on the research results during the Lab meetings, as one had to present and explain the research results to other persons.

The theme for the 2021 HELSUS Co-Creation Lab is biodiversity, around which all five sustainability challenges are organized. The topics have been created in collaboration between the partners, Lab teachers and experts.  

Each master’s thesis produced during the Lab will be related to one of the challenges. A team will organize around each topic, and all teams will have students, Lab teachers and partners as their members. 

Each participating student will formulate their own master’s thesis topic and research around one of the challenges, and will approach the challenge from the point of view of their own degree programme, their own knowledge and interests. While the overarching challenge will be shared by all master's students in the team, each student will shape their own more detailed thesis topics. 

The five topics for the 2021 HELSUS Co-creation Lab are: 

  • The impact of bio-based raw material use on biodiversity by the chemical industry and its value chain 
  • How could biochar enhance biodiversity in soil and accelerate transformation to low carbon economy? 
  • Adaptive biodiversity conservation in socio-ecological system - monitoring and evaluation 
  • The role of biodiversity in the acceptance of the forestry as well as role of current harvesting methods in the biodiversity trajectories 
  • How to accomplish city planning, construction and maintenance and use of environmental data to prevent biodiversity and ecosystem service loss in urban aquatic environments? 

Below you will find a schedule for the 2021 HELSUS Co-Creation Lab. All dates are for year 2021. The exact dates and times for the Lab meetings will be confirmed.

Lab 1 – Week 7 (February) 

Sub group meetings

Lab 2 – Week 11 (March) 

Lab 3 – Week 15 (April) 

Lab 4 – Week 17  (May) 

Sub group meetings / Individual work

Lab 5 – Week 35 (September)

Lab 6 – Week 38 (September)

Thesis submission 15th October 2021.

The application period for the 2021 HELSUS Co-Creation Lab is from the 26th November 2020 until 13th December 2020 at 23.59. 

The students will be notified of their acceptance on 22nd December 2020. 

You are eligible to apply if… 

  • You are a master’s student at the University of Helsinki 
  • You will begin your master's thesis seminar in spring 2021 OR you have already begun or completed your master's thesis seminar 
  • You are interested in writing your thesis related to the topics of the 2021 HELSUS Co-Creation Lab 

To apply, 1) fill in the application form and 2) attach your motivation letter as a part of the application form via the “Choose file” button at the end of the form. The motivation letter should discuss the following topics 

  • My disciplinary background, studies in research methodology and interest towards biodiversity 
  • Why I would like to join the HELSUS Co-Creation Lab 
  • How are you planning to commit to the Lab schedule and to completing your master's thesis through the process? 

The motivation letter should be written in English. The maximum length of the motivation letter is 300 words.

The students are chosen to participate in the HELSUS Co-Creation Lab based on the following criteria: 

  1. Relevant field of studies and methodological competence 
  2. Plan how to commit to the Lab schedule 
  3. Motivation regarding theme 
  4. Motivation regarding co-creation 
  5. Contents and style of application 

Only applications left via the application form during the application period (26.11.2020 - 23:59 13.12.2020) will be assessed. 

You can find the application form via this link. 

If you have any questions on applying, please contact the Lab personnel.