Give for the future

From idea to innovation and commercialisation

Aalto University is a multidisciplinary community of game changers creating breakthrough research innovations. Aalto supports researchers in becoming successful entrepreneurs in many different fields.
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Aalto University has an innovation ecosystem unlike anywhere else in the world, with a wide range of support mechanisms that help to transform research ideas into successful businesses. In 2019, the Aalto Startup Center was named as one of the top five university-based business accelerators in the world by UBI Global.

Aalto University / Janne Laine / Photo: Anni Hanén
Janne Laine, Vice President of Innovation, Aalto University

Aalto also offers patenting services that allow innovations to be commercialised by companies so they can be used in society.

‘Aalto University carries out leading research that produces innovations aimed at revolutionising many different fields,’ says Janne Laine, Vice President of Innovation at Aalto University.

‘We have an internationally distinguished ecosystem that encourages entrepreneurship and is a driving force in the establishment of some one hundred new companies each year.’

Aalto Innovation Services is an organisation that helps researchers to turn inventions into commercially-viable products and services. The organisation also provides support for protecting patents and transferring technology to startup companies or larger companies. The Aalto Startup Center’s accelerator strengthens the commercial conditions of emerging companies and helps them to connect with funding entities.

The number of patent applications from Aalto has increased five-fold compared to 2012. Last year, Aalto was Finland’s fourth-largest patent applicant in terms of the number of applications submitted. Patent success stories in recent years include the Ioncell technology, which has addressed sustainability challenges in the global textile industry, and the technology linked to the construction of Finland’s first quantum computer.

Koite Health Oy:n toimitusjohtaja Sakari Nikinmaa
Sakari Nikinmaa, CEO of Koite Health

A ground-breaking initiative for dental hygiene

In 2018, Koite Health was established at Aalto University. The company is an example of how determined work can turn a solid research idea into a commercial product. ‘Our dental hygiene product effectively eliminates the bacteria that cause cavities and gingivitis. The product is based on an antibacterial method in which the bacteria-killing effect of mouthwash is activated by light,’ explains Sakari Nikinmaa, CEO of Koite Health.

It all started in 2016 when Nikinmaa, then an Aalto researcher in bioinformation technology, and Tommi Pätilä, a heart surgeon at Helsinki University Hospital, met at the Biodesign Finland project. A year later, the pair were part of a multidisciplinary Research to Business project funded by Business Finland and launched at Aalto. ‘Under the scope of the project, we conducted bacterial tests and were able to experiment with completely new things. The research produced good operating models that allowed our company to continue with product development,’ says Nikinmaa.

In 2020, Koite Health launched the Lumoral® light and Lumorinse® mouthwash tablets. The company is now also developing a product for treating severe gingivitis. The market is large, with more than 10 percent of people suffering from the condition. Severe gingivitis also raises the risk contracting more than 200 different chronic diseases. ‘This year we will be expanding to the other Nordic countries and next year to the rest of Europe. Our aim is to gain a foothold in the US market too. We are very confident, as we have a solution to one of the biggest infection issues in the world,’ Nikinmaa explains.

Pasi Herranen keksintönsä ääressä
Pasi Herranen

More efficient greenhouse cultivation

Pasi Herranen, a student of mechanical engineering at Aalto University, wrote his Master’s thesis on the strength properties of plywood.

In 2014, he came up with the idea of a plywood element that is extremely energy efficient and completely mould free. The trick is a vacuum created inside a birch plywood element (VIS, Vacuum Insulation System).

The product idea was refined and when two business students joined Herranen, the partners decided to aim for the greenhouse market. ‘In 2018, the development project was transferred to Aalto, which made it possible to launch the Research to Business project funded by Business Finland. We were then able to scale the VIS technology on an industrial level,’ says Herranen.

In summer 2021, the group will establish a company aimed at revolutionising the entire greenhouse vertical-cultivation sector. Their innovation is a room built from VIS elements and protected from sunlight, making it possible to optimise growth conditions to save energy, water, soil and nutrients. By creating optimal environmental conditions all year round, crop yields can be increased. ‘The VIS technology will make it possible to build extensive local food production plants in large cities. Whereas vertical cultivation halls are now built from reinforced concrete and sandwich elements, VIS is a low-emission wood product,’ says Herranen.

Aalto has assisted in applying for patent protection for the VIS technology in Europe, the United States, Canada, China, Japan, Australia and Brazil. ‘The cross-disciplinary atmosphere in Otaniemi has enabled the encounters that startups need. Now we can set off to do great things aimed at changing the world,’ he says.

Mari Lundström
Mari Lundström, Director of the BATCircle consortium and Assistant Professor at Aalto. Photo: Aleksi Poutanen

Finland’s five billion euro battery markets

Finland is well placed to become a major international player in the battery industry. The EU has predicted that the value of the European battery market could reach EUR 250 billion by 2025. The aim of the BATCircle consortium, headed by Aalto University, is to create a battery market in Finland valued at a minimum of EUR 5 billion.

The BATCircle project has strengthened cooperation in the European battery industry and Finland’s position in the circular economy for batteries – a market with high value potential. A total of 23 companies, four universities, two research institutes and two cities took part in the initial project, which ended in spring 2020. The aim is to continue this endeavour in the BATCircle 2.0 project. ‘As part of this project, Aalto will invest in the development of battery recycling. Aalto’s strong expertise in this area stems from long industrial cooperation in the field of metallurgy,’ says Mari Lundström, Director of the BATCircle consortium and Assistant Professor at Aalto.

A few years ago, the global recycling rate of lithium was less than five percent. The EU Battery Directive will increase the recycling rate to 35 percent in 2025 and 70 percent in 2030. ‘Recycling must be both economically and environmentally viable. Research will develop metal recovery techniques and model the environmental footprint of technological innovations,’ Lundström says. She believes that the battery sector’s business models will change dramatically. For example, the digitalisation and tracing of the composition of battery metals will provide opportunities for new business activities in connection with the ownership of batteries.

From bioinnovations to breakthrough solutions

Aalto University’s new Bioinnovation Centre is aimed at accelerating the transition to a circular economy and bioeconomy through creating opportunities for sustainable economic growth in Finland. The Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation granted EUR 10.5 million to Aalto University for setting up the state-of-the-art infrastructure at the cross-disciplinary learning and research centre, which will open its doors during 2021.‘The decision to support the bioinnovation centre is a new type of strategic opening for the foundation. The foundation has high expectations for the centre to achieve its goals, produce breakthrough solutions and extensively utilise research results’, says Hanna-Mari Peltomäki, Representative of the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation.

‘We are extremely grateful to the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation for the support, which will enable taking a great leap in the development of Finland’s bioeconomy and circular economy expertise. The bioinnovation centre will provide Finland and the world with the most recent research knowledge in its field, top-class experts and product concepts that combine high-quality design and technology in a sustainable manner. By awarding such a significant grant, the foundation is making a bold and visionary investment in sustainable development. We highly appreciate this’, says Ilkka Niemelä, President of Aalto University.

Text: Marjukka Puolakka

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Aalto Innovation Services (external link)

Innovation Services promotes the commercialization of research in Aalto including technology transfer, licensing and creation of spin-outs.

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We sell and license patented technology and the know-how to needed to deploy patented technologies.

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Aalto University Bioinnovation Centre launching

Aalto University’s Bioinnovation Centre will be established with the grant amounting over 10 million euros received from Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation. Bioinnovation Centre will start its operation in 2021 by the recruitment of a professor enabled by the grant and opening the first call for the doctoral school supported by the grant.

Photo: Koite Health.

New high-tech mouthwash uses light to kill harmful bacteria on teeth

The new method developed by Finnish researchers is based on dual-light photodynamic therapy. The method doesn’t interfere with friendly bacteria in the mouth, or cause bacterial resistance

Kuvassa keksijä Pasi Herranen VIS-elementin vieressä. Elementti on suuri, kiiltävän musta suunnikas.

VIS (Vacuum Insulation System) - An Aalto University commercialization project funded by Business Finland

VIS (Vacuum Insulation System) is a new technology based on the idea of creating a vacuum inside a wooden construction element with the goal of achieving superinsulation and a long life cycle while using inexpensive materials. By lowering the pressure inside the element, we are able to utilize a technique called “vacuum drying” which ensures that the element will stay dry and healthy even in warm and moist conditions. These properties make VIS a perfect construction solution for demanding environments, such as indoor farming, where many insulation materials struggle. The goal of this project is to create the most energy and cost efficient indoor farming solution in the world called VIS Plant Factory.

School of Chemical Engineering
Recycled battery metal in a bowl

Recycling of batteries and responsible raw materials are Finland's asset - A major project enhanced cooperation within the battery sector

The two-year BATCircle consortium led by Aalto University has produced a lot of new research on battery recycling and raw materials and strengthened the cooperation within the sector

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