Germinator application instructions

The third batch of teams for Germinator programme season 2023-2024 have been selected in June 2023. Here are the details on the application process, criteria and jury.
Third Germinator call

We look for motivated innovator teams with potential food system transforming solutions

What we mean by…


  • You and your team (2-5 people) are dedicated to putting in the effort needed for advancing your solution towards what it takes to become a viable and lucrative case for business creation.
  • App. 20 workshops (½ day) in 7 months + “homework”: You and your team are able to dedicate minimum 100 h of work during the programme. Workshops are usually in the afternoons. Note that some workshops and events are on-site only in Helsinki.
  • You are able and prepared to deliver the pitch for the Y Science Slush 2023 official side event on the 30th of Nov. 2023 at Slush if your team is selected for pitching (no need for Slush tickets at Y Science 2023 event).

Food system transforming solutions:

  • Innovative, new to the market solutions that clearly solve a current issue in a viable manner in the food system without compromising the diverse key requirements of food system sustainability
  • The key requirements of food system sustainability are:

What do we offer you as a selected team

Coaching by dedicated food innovation professionals with expansive experience in the field:

  • Viikki Food Design Factory: Laura Forsman (user and customer insight & testing, market evaluation, product & service concepting, brand building)
  • Food sector professionals from sponsor-mentor companies
  • Professors: e.g. bioproduction chemistry, food safety, taste experience, agrotechnology, regulation and claiming, LCA & other sustainability matters
  • Experts and professionals related to your specific need (pitching, financing instruments, IPR, agritech, foodtech)

Laboratory experimentation and testing facilities at the Viikki campus

  • Demo lab with pilot size process facilities for wide range of conventional food processes and techniques
  • Facilities for specific chemical, physicochemical or physical equipment and sensory testing when special needs

Pitching and networking opportunity at Y Science, an official Slush side event

  • Audience of possible investors, business professionals and relevant partners for your solution
  • Networking with potential partners and experts in the fields relevant to your solution
Application instructions for 2023-2024
  • Fill in the form at the 'Apply here' link below on 15th of May 2023 by 23.59 am (EEST).
  • Add as attachment to the application form a one-slide public summary of your idea and team as a powerpoint or pdf file, see the descriptions on Germinator teams 2021-2022 page  on what to include in the slide. The public summary slide will be shared with the entry pitching jury and contents used when publishing the selected teams.
  • Max 15 teams will be selected to pitch for the jury consisting of the experts in the field and the Germinator sponsor-mentor companies' representatives (see jury members below). The entry pitching will be held remotely by Zoom on 6th of June between 13.30 and 18.00, each team will have 5 minutes to pitch.
  • Selected teams will be notified on 12th of June the latest.
  • If you have any questions, contact Laura Forsman ( regarding application criteria, programme and collaborations, Tiia Pelkonen ( regarding practical arrangements or on anything related to the call or Germinator.
VFDF Germinator programme schedule 2023-2024
Entry pitching jury & sponsor-mentors for 2023-2024

The  jury for selecting the programme participants for 2023-2024 season will be updated here soon!

The jury includes sponsor-mentor companies representatives and other experts on sustainable food systems, innovations and commercialization of products and services.

Entry pitching jury

  • Antti Isokangas, Team lead, Leipurin Oyj (sponsor-mentor representative)   
  • Jari Karlsson, Chief Marketing Officer, Foodiq (sponsor-mentor representative)
  • Harri Latva-Mäenpää, CEO, Foodwest (sponsor-mentor representative)
  • Minja Miettinen, Director, Growth & Innovation, Verman (sponsor-mentor representative)
  • Saara Pöyry, SVP Technology and Product Development, Valio (sponsor-mentor representative)
  • Heli Töykkälä, New Business Manager, Raisio (sponsor-mentor representative)
  • Jouni Lounasmaa, Foundation & Startup Executive  
  • Keith Bonnici, Investment Director, Tesi  
  • Elena Inguglia, Business Developer Manager, Helsinki Innovation Services
  • Marko Berg, Deputy Chief Investment Officer, University of Helsinki  
  • Silvia Gaiani, Senior Researcher in Innovation and Entrepreneurship towards Sustainable Food Systems, Ruralia Institute, University of Helsinki
  • Maija Tenkanen, professor, Bioproduction chemistry, University of Helsinki
  • Reetta Kivelä, Professor of Practice, University of Helsinki  
  • Laura Forsman, Manager, Viikki Food Design Factory 

Sponsor-mentors for season 2023-2024


The previous Germinator teams liked what they got!

Germinator batch #1: average score for the programme 4,4/5

Delivering over or according to expectations on:

  • Food and agri sector understanding
  • Coaching support from sector specialists
  • Building network into the food sector
  • Match-making with mentors
  • Pitching experience

Feedback measurement in Jan. 2022

Germinator batch #2: average score for the programme: 4,2/5

Delivering over or according to expectations on (above 3,5/5 score):

  • Product and service development
  • Presence and the Y Science @Slush
  • Market understanding & evaluation
  • Food sector understanding
  • Pitching experience
  • Business model development
  • Building the network into the food and/or agri sector
  • Match-making with mentors
  • User & customer understanding & insight
  • Internal team building

Feedback measured in December 2022.

Germinator batch #1 feedback

The most valuable learnings and/or benefits for you and your team in the programme:

- Hands-on guidance and mentoring with real concrete insight from industry on how to build food business case. Not just theoretical lectures from people who have never worked in the industry. Networking ability and sharing experiences / progress with other teams.

- I really enjoyed the workshops because it sparked up very fruitful conversation and brainstorming. Also it was a great opportunity to pitch on the big stage and to get new contacts. I also liked to the fact that each time the teams had to challenge themselves and present their ideas and business plans to the whole group and I think this benefited everyone. Presenting early-stage plans to the whole group is for sure hard work and stressful but I think that this is an excellent way to push people out of the comfort zone and develop communication skills and to get feedback! I also liked the presentations from the mentors and how it was structured and it was also great to hear real-life-experiences from the coaches and mentors.

- Learning to understand the start-up ecosystem.

- Definitely sparring from the mentors and coffee break discussions. Thank you! Also networking opportunities during Slush was extremely valuable.

- All the teams share the common concept of food, but all have different angles. The common theme makes it easy to share thoughts and ideas, as we have sort of similar take on things, so to say. The sessions we've had have been helpful to get a wider perspective and learn about "business things", that are perhaps not so familiar to scientists. Learning about what investors are looking for and learning about financing options are valuable.

- The insight on the vision of investors and companies in FoodTech area gave the understanding on the current state-of-art and the needs. It helps greatly in working out a selling strategy.