The University of Helsinki makes significant investments in innovation activities and entrepreneurship

Multi-million-euro investments will raise the operations to a new level and promote Finland's RDI targets. The campuses' own innovation platforms, business incubators, and the students’ entrepreneurship course will make the competence of university people more accessible to the society.

The University of Helsinki will reform its operations with additional investments of over EUR 4 million in innovation, entrepreneurship, and business cooperation. 

"In the future, our aim is to be the number one partner for companies in our own fields of research, produce more science-based innovations on campuses, and equip students with future working life skills," says Paula Eerola, Vice-Rector, who is responsible for research, innovations, and business cooperation. 

In order to achieve these objectives, a function has been established for the university, which is responsible for cooperation between partners and the university, regarding students, teaching, and research and innovation, as well as supports innovation and entrepreneurship in the university. The new Inno team is led by Taina Kyllönen, Director of Communications and Community Relations. 

"Together with our commercialisation company HIS and the entrepreneurship society Think Company, we will assemble all the university's innovation and business cooperation services into a seamless entity, which will help provide more research-based inventions for the society," summarises Kyllönen. 

Innovation platform for each campus   

By 2024, all four campuses of the University of Helsinki will have innovation platforms based on their own fields of research. The university is investing EUR 2 million in the platforms, and other funders are being sought from both Finland and the EU.

The campuses accelerate the creation of university-based companies: All campuses start running 6–8-week pre-incubator programmes and business incubators. These will be developed in cooperation with the City of Helsinki.  

The investments made by the University of Helsinki include, among other things, EUR 0.5 million in proof-of-concept funding. More advanced business teams can apply for it to polish their ideas in actual incubator programmes, which are applied for either directly or after the pre-incubator.

Researchers and students are at the centre of developing the innovation ecosystem of each campus, and tailoring it, in accordance with the research profile of the campus. At the beginning of 2022, a number of faculties at the University of Helsinki will also have vice deans, responsible for innovation activities, starting their work. 

Promising teams for the incubators are coming from the entrepreneurial society Think Company, for instance.  

“In recent years, students have been enthusiastic about developing business ideas, especially those related to the environment, equality, and food. The future aim is to make entrepreneurship a viable alternative for all interested students,” says Rosa Salmivuori, CEO of the society. 

Innovation ecosystems also enable versatile business cooperation, through which the funding received by the university will be increased to EUR 30 million. 

The HIS service offering will be developed  

The university's own commercialisation company, HIS, will continue to play an important role in innovation activities, by assisting spinouts, such as Nanoform, into the market. CEO Jari Strandman explains that, in addition to other investments, HIS intends to enhance its business development support services. 

“In order to support the research teams as well as possible, we are hiring six new people, which means that we are growing by over 30%. The growing service offering, and campus incubators also generate more demand for our financial and commercialisation expertise,” explains Strandman.  

Students gain prerequisites for future working life 

In connection with the HELSEED programme supporting student entrepreneurship, the university spends EUR 1.5 million. Marko Berg is responsible for the activities of the HELSEED fund, which assists promising start-ups in the beginning of their business. 

In addition, the Open University selection has been complemented by an entrepreneurship course led by Docent Anders Ekholm, the university's Director of Investment. In the course, students can practise, for example, drawing up a business plan and conducting investment negotiations. 

“We want to offer students an alternative career path and working life skills, even if they never become entrepreneurs,” says Ekholm. 

With the new investments, the University of Helsinki will be able to implement its strategy and carry its social responsibility better than before. As research results are quickly made available to companies and other parties, the impact of science will increase. Furthermore, research-based innovations play an important role when Finland wants to increase RDI funding to 4 per cent of GDP.

In addition to the impact of science, the investments enhance the university's self-sufficiency, as the profits of the new spinout companies can be reallocated back to research and teaching. The new investments of the University of Helsinki are enabled by the realisation of the Mobidiag trade. 

Business cooperation, funding, and all other activities are implemented in line with strict ethical principles.

Smooth services for researchers and partners
  • In autumn 2021, the University of Helsinki has established an Inno team, which brings together innovation, entrepreneurship, and business cooperation service activities. The team is led by Taina Kyllönen.
  • The objective is, that by 2024, all campuses will have comprehensive, well-designed, and easily accessible services to support the ecosystems. 
  • The reform will serve researchers, students, companies, and other university partners. Cooperation in business and innovation matters will be smoother than ever. 
  • Team leader is Taina Kyllönen, university’s Director of Communications and Community Relations. Pia Dolivo is responsible for business cooperation, and Irina Blomqvist for innovation and entrepreneurship services. 
  • The commercialisation services of the University of Helsinki, HIS and Think Company, are closely involved in the development of the services on all four campuses, and they are also involved in the steering group.