“In the Span of These First Two Hours, I've Already Learned a Lot!” — Biosphere Kick-off Inspires an Immediate Sense of Community

The second round of Biosphere springing into action was the culmination of an eventful start of a new season at the Helsinki Incubators. The programme brings together yet another multitalented community of professionals, mentors, learners, and friends around the shared passions of circular and bio economy.

Any outsiders walking past the inaugural Biosphere event at the University of Helsinki’s Language Centre two weeks ago wouldn’t probably have believed that the programme’s mentors and teams were meeting for the first time; that was the level of bubbling conversation which filled the room. This was understandable, as the programme, which returned for an improved second edition, now boasts an even larger pool of international mentors, as well as an impressive cohort of 13 unique teams ready to take on the world with their innovative sustainability solutions.

“Things are getting exciting! The teams have made their first pitches and they’ve now started discussions with their mentors. They’ve started planning how they’re going to work together in the coming months and how they’ll reach the objectives and milestones expected by both parties. This first session has already proven to be fruitful. It’s been fantastic to see them work with such enthusiasm!” remarked the ecstatic programme manager Pedro Gensini, looking at the mentors and teams mingling.

In between mentor discussions, being photographed, and visits to the catering table laid with glorious treats, a couple of participants shared some thoughts of their own about the first evening: “So far, it’s been super interesting to hear about other people’s projects—everyone has such great ideas. I’ve also been talking to a few of the mentors, they're very insightful and I feel like even in the span of these first two hours, I’ve already learned a lot! I’m looking forward to the programme strengthening the idea behind my solution, and that I’ll become surer with what I want to do with it and this platform,” said mechanical engineer Arkar Nan Htike, who came to Biosphere with his team members Miran Ghafoori and Laura del Rio to work on CleanWaters, their cutting-edge technology that automates microplastic filtering processes in an innovative, more effective way.

Another team, DP-Tec, also felt excited about what’s to come: “As researchers, we know our field very well, but we lack knowledge about the business side of things. In other words, we don’t know how to transfer our knowledge into a working product and how to get it into the market. We’re certain we’ll get a lot of help towards that here, though!” forest pathology doctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki, Wenzi Ren, commented. At DP-Tec, Ren and her teammate, electric engineer Shushu Liu, have developed a way to detect pathogens in trees with the help of AI technology, in a way that eliminates the need to cut them down, thus saving the trees’ economic and environmental value.

“What matters is the will to transform and the desire to make an impact”

The programme’s kick-off continued the next day at the police’s summer house in Lauttasaari, where participants and mentors got a chance to catch some fresh sea air and get to know each other even better. This time around, participants got to sit back for a moment, as mentors were put on the spot to give their own introductions. The evening also featured a short pitching workshop and icebreaking activities hosted by pitching coach Walid el Cheikh, as well as some traditional Finnish summer games, like darts and Mölkky.

Biosphere mentor Martin Quach, founder of Happy Homes Ventures and climate impact advisor at Terraformation, mused over the visibly vibrant feeling of community that had already settled in among everyone: “This is what's important to me. The possibility of helping these people. It’s a privilege to get a chance to contribute to the team so that the participants get to fulfil their dreams and aspirations.” This sentiment was shared by another mentor, Minna Väkevä, an experienced board member, former startup CEO, and innovation expert: “We need this. All the knowledge of these aspirational people. We need these ideas that are used for the better, bigger good. I’m thrilled to have a role in mentoring these teams, not only in practical matters, but also in helping them solidify their faith in what they do and the fact that they really can change the world for the better.”

Mentor Júlio César Pinho of Luxembourg’s POST Telecom remarked, in turn: “The reason I'm here, in Biosphere, is to support new entrepreneurs in Finland to develop their ideas. I want to offer my experience to help them better structure their ideas and bring them to life. Some of these projects will see the light of day. Some of them will require a bit more time. Some of them might need a complete redefinition and redesign! What is key here is the ecosystem made up by these people. What matters is the will to transform and the desire to make an impact, not only in Finland, but also globally. We have a very good batch here that has the potential to really make a difference for the future.”

Get to know the makers

The second batch of Biosphere teams has begun their work towards a more sustainable, more circular-driven future. We’ll be sure to check in on their projects over the next six months, but in the meanwhile, you can have a closer look at the teams’ introductions here. You can also get to know our mentors better here!

For more information on Biosphere, see the programme webpage. In case of any questions, don’t hesitate to contact project manager Pedro Gensini at pedro.gensinimotoa@helsinki.fi or through LinkedIn.

Potential mentors, corporates, CVCs, and investors interested in partnering with Biosphere, please contact Senior Manager in Global Corporate Partnerships Alfonso Gutierrez at alfonso.gutierrez@helsinki.fi or through LinkedIn.