The University of Helsinki Innovation & Entrepreneurship team is a multi-disciplinary group of seasoned doers and knowers, ready to support professionals, students, researchers and alumni who are looking to embark on their entrepreneurial journey.
While we all work hard together to bring you our many programmes, each campus' team has the lead on the activities taking place at their location. Therefore, if you're looking to find out more about a specific programme or wish to work in collaboration with us in making the programmes even better, don't hesitate to reach out to one of the team members at that campus.
Irina Blomqvist has over 20 years’ experience in building global value networks, be they ecosystems, platforms or partnerships. She has worked in a startup, a large US technology company, and in the public sector building corporate and public ecosystems, corporate accelerator and growth programs for startups (VC meetings & discussions, innovation and though leadership events, internationalisation programs).
Irina has a sound understanding of management, strategy, innovation ecosystems, and processes in addition to displaying remarkable foresight and excellent planning skills. She is also a disciplined business leader: think big, start small, fail fast, scale quickly.
Irina has engaged with several national and international development projects and organisations in the areas of technology, digital transformation, innovation, foreign direct investments, and sustainability. She has also established a European Digital Think Tank activity for lobbying purposes and understanding weak signals with innovation & regional development agencies in seven European countries (Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, the UK).
Ari Huczkowski is the Program Manager & Deputy Team Leader for Helsinki Incubators. A seasoned and experienced innovation ecosystem professional whose career spans four decades and multiple successful companies and incubators, Ari brings with him not only world-class expertise in start-ups, coaching and mentoring, developing FDI, and much more, but also a global network consisting of thousands of academics, professionals, and global visionaries.
With his T-shaped nature, broad range of skills, and extensive network, he is perfectly suited for helping build and run top-tier incubation programs at the University of Helsinki.
Andrès Peña Archila is the Project Lead for the Kumpula-based NEXUS incubator. With working experience within European multidisciplinary innovation ecosystems as well as B2B sales, matchmaking, commercial partnerships, consulting services, market penetration strategies and product localisation, Andrès is well suited for designing the incubator and building a solid mentoring network to support it. He is also responsible for the running of the incubator, as well as finding suitable teams to join its activities.
Pedro Gensini is the project lead for the Viikki-based Biosphere incubator. With almost a decade of experience working in multiple sectors, organisations, and countries, Pedro brings his knowledge and skills in entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship product/service development, monitoring & evaluation, and agile project management to the team. Pedro is the team member responsible for running the incubator, finding suitable teams to join it, and developing a network of experts, mentors, and programme collaborators that will enhance the participants’ experience.
Tuomas Pollari is the project lead for the Kumpula-based Compass pre-incubator. He comes fully committed to supporting the early-stage development of research-based ideas at the university. Tuomas has worked in various fields of entrepreneurship development including supporting startup development in Southern Africa and Vietnam in the programs funded by the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He has acted as an advisor at the Technopolis Incubator, training and mentoring university-based teams and startups. Tuomas holds a double-degree (CEMS MIM & MSc (Econ)) from Aalto University School of Business.
Santeri Tuovila is the Project Lead for the Viikki-based Circulator pre-incubator. Santeri is specialised in developing startup communities around the entrepreneurs and supporting ecosystem actors. He was part of the founding team in the Tribe Tampere collective which unleashed a bottom-to-up culture in startup ecosystem development in the Tampere region.
Santeri has lived in several cities in China and helped Nordic entrepreneurs to enter the market. As a serious hobby Santeri is part of the association facilitating the biggest life-planning movement in Finland, Self-Hack.
Minttu Ripatti is the Project Lead for the City Centre-based TREMOR incubator & the pre-incubator team lead. Minttu joined the team with 25 year work experience, a solid background in sports, and a strong emphasis on human interaction. Minttu’s expertise and education range from phonetics, design thinking, team learning, online pedagogy, entrepreneurship and coaching to practical nursing and even ventriloquism.
She was the first clinical phonetician in Finland when she introduced the new profession to HUCH Phoniatric outpatient clinic based on her innovative thesis work during her studies in the University of Helsinki. She also introduced the topic in Harvard Medical School as the only phonetician to enter the CSRT-UK-program.
Mari Karjalainen is the Project Lead for the City Centre-based SÄRÖ/FRACTURE pre-incubator. In addition to having been in charge of SÄRÖ/FRACTURE, Mari has been the lead at the Helsinki Think Company for two innovation programmes for developing solutions in sustainable societies and well-being, Hack for Society and 4UNI. A social scientist, she is interested in how social sciences and the humanities can be used to create impactful innovations, and strongly believes that those in those fields have a lot of creative, critical, and valuable know-how that the ecosystem needs, and that the best solutions come from multidisciplinary teams.
Liina Laukkanen is the Project Lead for the Meilahti-based HealthX pre-incubator. She started as the Community and Programme Manager at Terkko Health Hub in November 2021. Terkko Health Hub is a startup hub that offers community, spaces, and services for startups in health and life sciences. She also worked as the project lead for Terkko Health X prior to the programme being integrated into Helsinki Incubators, and is now eager to develop the programme even further as part of the University's entrepreneurial offering.
Prior to November 2021, Liina worked at Helsinki Think Company, which gave her competences in entrepreneurship-related matters, and a wider understanding of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Liina is a University of Helsinki graduate with a BSc in Biology and a MSc in Translational Medicine focusing on neuroscience and psychobiology.
Amanda Paananen is the SPARK Finland Development Manager at the Meilahti and Viikki campuses for Helsinki Incubators. Her passions include the translation of research ideas into commercial successes, and bringing value to society by building networks and partnerships between different stakeholders.
Her educational background is within Entrepreneurship and Business Creation in Life Science (Master’s Degree from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden) and Biomedical Science (Bachelor's Degree from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland). She has worked in various business development roles in medical device, pharmaceutical, and digital health projects. Her previous activities have included the evaluation of early-stage research ideas, applying for commercialisation funding, assessing intellectual property, acquiring customer/end-user feedback for product development, pitching ideas to investors, initiating collaborations, negotiating contracts, developing business plans, managing innovation programs, and setting-up as well as managing research innovation ecosystems.
As SPARK Finland Development Manager, she supports the translation of early-stage life science and research-based ideas into viable and fundable business cases. She is also responsible for SPARK Finland’s programme development within the Helsinki Capital region, covering University of Helsinki, HUS, Aalto University, and Metropolia.
Anu Meerwaldt is the acting SPARK Finland Development Manager at the Meilahti and Viikki campuses for Helsinki Incubators.
Anu is a business-oriented biomedical scientist who holds a MSc in Neuroscience (Utrecht University) and a MSc in Industrial Engineering (Lappeenranta University). She has several years of experience in business consultancy working with large Finnish and European companies. Her biomedical career (UMC Utrecht & Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai) focuses on medical imaging and nanotechnology and she is currently finalising her PhD. She works as a business development officer at University of Helsinki Innovation and Entrepreneurship Team and as a Development Manager at SPARK Finland.
Her core responsibilities are in supporting on commercial aspects of the life sciences projects and coordination of SPARK activities in Helsinki capital region.
Alfonso Gutierrez, MBA (USA) has over 25 years of international business and partnerships experience in the USA and Finland. For the past 11 years, Alfonso led innovation and corporate-startup collaborative activities in the Otaniemi ecosystem between international corporates, CVCs and investors and the Finnish startup community, VTT (research), VTT Launchpad, Aalto University (research), Aalto Startup Center, ESA BIC Finland, EIT Digital and others. Alfonso’s corporate, CVC and investor foci are in Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Israel, Germany, Spain, Sweden and Silicon Valley.
Some of his Key Success Cases include: the 1st Google Launchpad in the Nordics (Otaniemi), a Mercedes-Benz partnership with Finnish startups, Hitachi and Panasonic actions with Finnish startups, contributions to the South Korean Startup Accelerator at Aalto, Finnish startup partnerships with Telefonica Germany, NASA (Silicon Valley) actions in Finland, both in Otaniemi and currently in process at University of Helsinki.
Alfonso facilitates mentor & corporate partnerships for all of our 6-month incubators.
Mikael Malmivaara is the Communications & Community Relations Lead for Helsinki Incubators. Mikael holds an MSc in Entrepreneurship & Innovation Management from Aalto University and has already amassed well over a decade’s worth of practical experience during his long and varied career working with – and starting – SMEs in sectors including financial services, sports events, technology, marketing and media, hospitality, importing, consulting, and more.
He is interested in understanding the motivations driving entrepreneurs and innovators in different fields and believes in a holistic and supportive approach to fostering entrepreneurial activities. A keen listener and dogged investigator, as well as a gregarious host and enrapturing presenter, Mikael works hard both behind the scenes and in the limelight to ensure the best outcome for all.
Maarika Korhonen is a communications co-ordinator for Helsinki Incubators. Maarika is a soon-to-be graduate of the University of Helsinki with a Master's in English and Communications. After a short period as a communications intern for the incubators, Maarika was made a full-time employee as an invaluable member of the incubators' communications team. She is in charge of producing social media both text and visual content for the incubators' various channels.
Vuorikatu 3, ground floor (10m downhill from main door), 00100 Helsinki
University of Helsinki Innovation & Entrepreneurship Services
P.O. Box 54
FI-00014 University of Helsinki