Helsinki Challenge: more than 100 teams solving planet-sized challenges

Uutisen oletuskuva
Helsinki Challenge, the science-based idea competition and accelerator programme, creates solutions for the grand challenges of the world and for building the well-being of the future through collaboration between the scientific community and society. The competition’s application process was done in two stages. The registration phase could be entered into with a preliminary idea and team. In the second stage a comprehensive competition entry was submitted, with the deadline passing on the 15th of November. 110 competition entries were received including 340 experts from universities and more than 160 other organisations.

The competition prize is 375,000 euros and it is meant for implementing the solution. It can be, for example, a new branch of science, a commercializable idea or groundbreaking research. The team gets to decide the direction.

Helsinki Challenge speeds up the implementation of the UN’s sustainable development goals

The Helsinki Challenge teams will tackle the UN’s sustainable development goals, which aim at making the world a better place. The competition themes: people in change, sustainable planet and urban future challenge the teams to create solutions for global challenges, which affect all of our lives.

The jury is seeking science-based solutions that impact society

The preliminary qualifying stage’s jury consists of experts gathered from different areas of society. The jury will select a maximum of 20 teams for the accelerator programme that will take place during 2017, where the teams’ ideas will be developed in cooperation with domestic and international mentors. The jury will evaluate competition entries based on the following criteria: how science-based and solution-oriented they are, and their impact, novelty and creativity. The decisions on the teams chosen for the accelerator programme will be announced in January 2017.

The jury members are:

Pekka Haavisto (the jury’s chairperson) is a Green party MP, the president of the European Institute of Peace and the Foreign Minister’s Special Representative for African Crises. Haavisto is familiar with the UN’s Agenda 2030 sustainable development goals thanks to his experience in international conflict resolution.

Atte Jääskeläinen is the Finnish Broadcasting Company’s director of news and current affairs and editor-in-chief. Additionally, among other things, he has worked as the editor-in-chief and CEO of Suomen Tietotoimisto, as well as in managerial positions at Helsingin Sanomat.

Maija Itkonen is an industrial designer and co-founder of Gold&Green Foods, a company that specializes in Pulled Oats™ products. Previously she had founded the tech company PowerKiss. She sold it later to American company Powermat where she has acted as the Vice President of Design and Brand. Itkonen was also one of the founders of Aalto University’s Design Factory. She is a vocal advocate for research-based and design-driven businesses and thinks companies should put research information into better use.

Timo Ahopelto is an early-stage investor at Lifeline Ventures and serial entrepreneur behind for example CRF Health, a software and services company exited at 320 million euros in 2015. He is also on the boards of Tekes, the Finnish Founding Agency for Technology and Innovation, Slush Conference and EVA, the Economic Policy Forum of Finland.

Anneli Pauli is the Conseiller Hors Classe for Innovation and Competitiveness at the Directorate-General for Climate Action at the European Commission. Previously she has worked as the Deputy Director General in the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, as well as in the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. In Finland she was the Vice President (Research) of the Academy of Finland, the Director of the Finnish Science Centre Foundation Heureka and the President of Lappeenranta University of Technology.

Professor Marja Makarow is Director of Biocenter Finland and former vice president of the Academy of Finland, chief executive of the European Science Foundation and vice rector of the University of Helsinki. Makarow drives translation of research findings into innovation, business and jobs in the governing board of the European Institute for Innovation and Technology. She also chairs Technology Academy Finland which awards one of the world’s most important innovation prizes, the Millennium Technology Prize.

Universities as part of the Finland 100 centenary programme

Finnish universities are making the Helsinki Challenge competition happen together. Organizing the competition together with the University of Helsinki are: Aalto University, 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 competition is an effort by universities to make the significance and influence of science visible, enable new science-based ideas and strengthen the dialogue between science and society. The winner will be known when Finland turns one hundred years old in December 2017.

More information: Ira Leväaho, Helsinki Challenge project manager, the University of Helsinki (, 050 5058152),

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