Seven Helsinki Challenge finalists offer groundbreaking solutions for the UN’s sustainable development goals. The international jury has selected six teams, out of 20 semifinalist, to continue onto the finals. The finalists are ELMO which battles malaria with a three-dimensional mosquito net, HeatStock with a new solution for storing the summer's heat for the winter, POCKit which is a laboratory you can put in your pocket, Parental Box focusing on the mental wellbeing of new parents, the iCombine database which would enable personalised cancer treatments as well, and Dlearn.Helsinki which hopes to teach global skills in new ways.
Team FutuRena was selected as one of the finalists by a public vote at the Helsinki Challenge Semifinal Pitch Nights in early June. The team hopes to 3D print a working miniature kidney.
'We are really glad and happy for the place in the final,' says HeatStock team leader and Senior Scientist Ari Seppälä of Aalto University. The team is developing a composite material to store heat energy for long periods of time. 'If we succeed, our solution will have a great influence on creating a more environmentally friendly society.'
Jury faced a challenging task
The competition jury includes, for example, Frank Geels, Professor of system innovation and sustainability at the University of Manchester, and Andreas Kaju, an Estonian political expert. The Chair of the jury is Tuija Talvitie, Executive Director at the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI). The jury selected the finalist teams based on their scientific basis, their focus on finding a solution, as well as their impact, novelty and creativity.
'We, in the jury, found it very difficult to select the teams for the final. We examined the impact of the proposed ideas from the perspective of global changes and considered how they could develop from scientific ideas to global solutions for sustainable development,' says Tuija Talvitie.
Finalist teams to Brussels in the Autumn
The teams selected for the Helsinki Challenge feature more than 70 researchers and experts from Finnish universities, companies, organisations and public bodies.
In September, the finalists will head to Brussels for the Global Impact Camp which is intended to promote Finnish research, provide the teams with help to apply for EU funding and to enhance connections to politicians and other influencers.
'Global Impact Camp offers researchers from Finnish universities the opportunity to network with political institutions and funders on the European level,' says Jouko Niinimäki, chair of the board of Universities Finland UNIFI. UNIFI represents Finnish universities and has been one of the founding partners in the cooperation for Helsinki Challenge.
The jury selects one or more winning teams and announces its decision in November 2017. The prize is a sum of EUR 375,000, intended to realise the team’s solution, which may be a new discipline, an idea with business potential, a new company or groundbreaking research.
Helsinki Challenge finalists 2017
The HeatStock team is developing a composite material to store heat energy for long periods of time. It could be used to harvest heat in the summer and release it for heating in winter. Heat could be collected using solar harvesters placed on buildings, or from by-products from industry and power plants. The team’s solution could promote the adoption of renewable energies, augment the energy-efficiency of industrial processes, slow down climate change and save natural resources.
Team leader: Ari Seppälä, Senior Scientist, Aalto University, +358 50 441 2110, [email protected], @Team_HeatStock #aalto #finland100
Team Dlearn.Helsinki wants to develop pedagogical tools and practices for schools that struggle with educating their students in a globalising world. In our rapidly changing world, young people need problem-solving and cooperation skills which do not feature sufficiently in the current school system. Dlearn.Helsinki is creating practical pedagogical tools which will help students learn and evaluate their own future skills.
Team leader: Auli Toom, docent, Centre for University Teaching and Learning, University of Helsinki, +358 50 415 4852, [email protected]
Malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases kill approximately one million people every year. ELMO is working on a two-part solution to stop these diseases from spreading. The solution consists of a three-dimensional mosquito net and a new type of vaccine. When two mosquito nets that only allow passage in one direction are installed facing each other on a window, the mosquitoes become trapped between the nets. In addition, a mosquito vaccine would make human blood toxic to mosquitoes, which would then not survive to spread the disease from one person to the next.
Team leader: Seppo Meri, professor, University of Helsinki, +358 50 5812462, [email protected]
There are millions of people in the world waiting for a kidney transplant, but not enough donors. FutuRena hopes to use 3D printing to produce a functioning miniature kidney. The long-term goal is to print a life-sized kidney which could then be used in organ transplants. The research will produce a great deal of information about kidney development, and the printed miniature kidney could be used as a model to help with diagnoses and drug development.
Team leader: Susanna Kaisto, doctoral student, University of Oulu, +358 50 368 8140, [email protected]
Every year, more than $100 billion are spent on cancer drugs in the world, but only 25% of them are effective. iCombine is developing a mathematical model that would help doctors find the best possible form of treatment for cancer patients. The problem with contemporary cancer treatment is that patients react to treatments in different ways. In addition, some patients develop resistance to certain drugs. This is why the group has developed a model that can use genetic and biomedical data to calculate the likelihood of a particular drug being the best choice for each patient.
Team leader: Jing Tang, Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM), University of Helsinki; Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Turku, +358 45 868 9708, [email protected]
Team Parental Box
Team Parental Box wants to update the Finnish maternity box and to offer accessible help to promote mental health and coping among families with young children. The mental maternity box is important because mental health problems are increasing despite material wealth, and an increasing number of children are at risk of marginalisation. The team wants to offer simple, practical tips and collect research data on Finnish families. The goal is to donate a mental parental box to every family with children in the world.
Team leader: Lotta Uusitalo-Malmivaara, PhD, adjunct professor, University of Helsinki, +358 400 514 365, [email protected]
Nearly half of the population of the world has no access to sufficient health care. POCKit is developing a health care device that would transform a full laboratory onto a computer chip. It would allow patients to be tested for several microbes simultaneously, easily and affordably. In addition, the device would be able to determine the stage of various illnesses. Team members believe their research will help slow down the spread of infectious diseases and the generation of chronic illnesses. The research will help patients receive treatment faster and generate millions of euros in savings for individuals and communities.
Team leader: Dr Leona Gilbert, associate professor, University of Jyväskylä; CEO, Tezted Oy, +358 40 723 4718, [email protected]
Finnish universities organise the Helsinki Challenge in cooperation. In addition to the University of Helsinki, the competition is organised by Aalto University, the Hanken School of Economics, the University of Eastern Finland, the University of Jyväskylä, the University of Oulu, the University of the Arts Helsinki, the University of Turku, the University of Vaasa and Åbo Akademi University. The Helsinki Challenge is part of Finland's centenary celebrations.