Biosphere, the University of Helsinki’s third mentor-driven 6-month incubator programme, kicked off on January 19th with a casual introductory event. The gathered circular and bioeconomy teams and mentors began by introducing themselves as well as their ideas and areas of expertise, respectively, before shifting to a raucous networking session where teams jostled for opportunities to meet with as many of their preferred mentors as possible to receive guidance and start their mentor-mentee relations.
“The opening night was a bit like the Latin American parties I’ve attended,” Tuomas Pollari, programme manager for Biosphere, would later say with a mixture of exhilaration and exhaustion. “Some details required improvisation, but the brilliant atmosphere with the great mentors and participants made it an unforgettable night. I am, of course, excited to see how all the 16 exciting projects morph and grow during the next 6 months, as well as the kinds of start-ups we’ll end up being the launchpad for.”
Amid the hustle and bustle, participants – whose projects ranged from helping regenerate natural environments damaged by extractive industries to developing technical solutions to a power grid that, through the inherent variability of many renewable energy sources, is in increasing flux – and mentors seemed to share in Pollari’s excitement.
“Of course, I’m excited,” explained Gugan Eswaran, a Doctoral Researcher in Plant Sciences at the University. Along with his fellow Plant Sciences researcher and co-founder Sitaram Rajaraman, Eswaran is hoping that the programme will help him learn the types of skills required to take his low-tech yet highly effective DNA isolation tool from the lab to the market. “I know the solution works and would bring DNA isolation to a far greater number of researchers than present technologies – at a fraction of the cost. I’m determined to bring this to the public, and I want people to use it, but I don’t know how to do that! So, I’m hoping that this programme will teach me how to commercialise, to sell, to develop a business with which I can help researchers across the world,” Eswaran added with great enthusiasm.
Amid the excitement, there was also recognition of the value of the opportunity that the programme was offering its participants. Paolo Micheletti, a University of Helsinki alumni in Philosophy and one of the four members of team Exaum along with Henri Yoki, Panu Ahola, and Antti Jalomäki, was instantly recognisant of the value Biosphere would bring his team. Having already taken part in the Kiuas Accelerator programme in late 2022, the team felt that it was time for them to take their nascent business to the next level: “We felt that what we needed now is to build a Proof of Concept and scale up, and for that we were looking for mentoring, the opportunity to grow our networks, and eventually raise funding,” Micheletti explained. While looking for possible next steps in their journey, the team was made aware of Biosphere, and quickly knew where to go next: “We took one look at Biosphere, and we knew right away that this was the place to go and get all we needed and more.”
“I’m really looking forward to the community aspect of the programme!” exclaimed Fernando Urbano Tenorio, who participated in Circulator 1.0 prior to joining Biosphere as part of another team. “In Circulator 1.0 everyone helped each other regardless of team. I’m really hoping that in Biosphere, we’ll be doing the same. I’m excited for the prospect of helping and learning from the others – almost as much as I am to getting guidance from the experts themselves!”
As the teams set off on their journeys, we’ll be returning to them with updates and profiles as they progress. For now, if you’d like to get to know the team, we invite you to check out Biosphere’s 2023 participant page!