The University of Helsinki and the City of Helsinki will de­ve­lop Viikki into an at­tract­ive innovation hub – Sustainable food in­nov­a­tions as first step

An innovation hub of research, education and business is being established on the Viikki Campus area in close cooperation between the University of Helsinki and the City of Helsinki. The starting shot for the activities will be a theme related to sustainable food under the direction of Professor of Practice Reetta Kivelä, who is known for pulled oats.

The initiative is a significant one in the context of the strategic partnership between the University of Helsinki and the City. The overall value of the three-year project is approximately €2 million, half of which comes from the City of Helsinki Innovation Fund and the other half from the University. Viikki Campus is a hub of teaching and research in biological sciences, agriculture and forestry, as well as pharmacy and veterinary medicine.

“In terms of climate issues, urbanisation and the coronavirus crisis, we are living in a time of significant change. Through the collaboration of the competence areas and various operators on Viikki Campus, we will be able to find solutions to global challenges and bring about new innovations and promote recovery,” says Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori.

“The University of Helsinki’s strength lies in the provision of multidisciplinary solutions to society and the world. We are happy about this collaboration that will help us to develop Viikki Campus, known for top-level research, into a hub of innovation activity,” says Vice-Rector Tom Böhling, who is responsible for campus development at the University of Helsinki.

Viikki is well positioned to grow into a high-impact innovation environment.

“Significant innovation potential in biological and sustainability sciences has been identified in Viikki. Together, we are now investing in measures which will increase the number of inventions and new businesses originating in Viikki,” says Director of Economic Development Marja-Leena Rinkineva from the City of Helsinki.

Over the course of the project, to be launched in early 2021, an operating environment known as Viikki Innovation Platform will be established on the campus to support innovation activities. The platform will survey business interests and needs as well as research-based innovations that show promise, in addition to launching a range of development projects and operating models, such as brainstorming hackathons.

The goal is to increase research-based innovation activities by systematically bringing together students, researchers, startups and operators established in the field.

“At the same time, we want to promote students’ and researchers’ entrepreneurship and innovation skills as well as boost the impact of the research conducted in Viikki,” says Ritva Toivonen, campus dean for Viikki Campus from the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry.

The starting point will be the development of sustainable food chain solutions in the Viikki Food Innovation Lab, to be launched by Reetta Kivelä, professor of practice at the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry and the developer of pulled oats. Many companies and other operators in the field have already expressed an interest in joining in.

“International businesses will also be invited, and we will draw up a plan for a business incubator programme in Viikki,” says Irina Blomqvist from the University’s business collaboration services, who has been coordinating the project’s overall planning.

Among other things, courses related to managing innovations will be offered to students and researchers, in conjunction with which students will get the chance, for example, to try out their ideas and get help in establishing startups.

“Our aim is to engender broad-based and systematic cooperation among different operators. This will result in new kinds of thinking and ideas, and even world-class innovations that fulfil the needs of businesses and society,” Dean Toivonen adds.