Question & Answers

1. WHAT IS HELSINKI CHALLENGE?

Helsinki Challenge is a science-based idea competition and accelerator programme that brings different actors from the scientific community and society together to solve the great problems in the world. This year’s Challenge themes – Sustainable Planet, Urban Future, and People in Change – are linked to the UN’s sustainable development goals. The idea competition’s prize is 375,000 euros and it is meant for putting the solution into practice. The solution can be an idea, an invention, a concept, a research project, a business idea, an initiative or a new research question. Basically, the sky is the limit.

The University of Helsinki organizes the competition in collaboration with Helsinki Challenge’s partner universities: 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. Unifi’s board determines the collaboration policies and Ira Leväaho acts as project manager.

2. WHY DOES HELSINKI CHALLENGE EXIST?

To solve grand challenges we need multidisciplinary approaches, broad-minded thinking and bold boundary crossings. Helsinki Challenge is a platform for collaboration. Science and art communities, the business world, decision makers, the public sector and other actors of society all need to join the movement to make the goals for sustainable development become reality. Through the Helsinki Challenge collaboration we can create solutions to grand challenges and for future well-being – together.

3. WHAT TYPES OF CHALLENGES ARE THE TEAMS SOLVING?

We are facing immense challenges regarding sustainable development. Natural resource depletion, loss of biodiversity and climate change threaten us as well as global health threats, unemployment and terrorism. These and many more are the greatest challenges of our time and their adverse impacts undermine the ability of all countries to achieve sustainable development.

United Nations has introduced the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to change our world. The objective of these 17 goals is to build a better future for all of us. Helsinki Challenge gathers the 17 goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development under three themes: Sustainable Planet, People in Change and Urban Future. Helsinki Challenge aims to give birth to science-based ideas and innovations of all kinds, shapes and sizes. Helsinki Challenge is looking for solutions to grand challenges and for future well-being.

4. HOW TIGHTLY DOES MY IDEA HAVE TO BE ALIGNED WITH THE AGENDA 2030 GOALS?

The 17 goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provide a common global framework for all of us. Think broadly and don’t let the goals overwhelm you. Find your own way and scale of making the world a better place for its inhabitants.

5. WHO CAN PARTICIPATE?

Helsinki Challenge is a platform for collaboration. This means that the solutions are generated in multidisciplinary teams that consist of members from the science and art communities, business, the public and third sectors, media and society. Each competition team has to have a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 10 members from both universities and other organisations. Everyone from students to tenure professors can participate.

6. WHAT IS THE HELSINKI CHALLENGE ACCELERATOR PROGRAMME?

Once the jury has gone through the competition entries it will choose up to 20 semifinalist teams that get to participate in the Helsinki Challenge accelerator programme in 2017.

The accelerator programme supports teams and improves their skills in a variety ways by using multiple Finnish and international experts and tools. Semifinalists will improve their abilities in acquiring more resources for their research and projects, building a valuable community that can help them reach shared goals, communicating efficiently via multiple channels, reaching different target audiences and creating bridges between science and society.

During the application process teams will receive support in the Challenge Clinics. This is where they will get advice for example in defining the challenge they are looking to tackle. In the theme based Clinics semifinalists collaborate with experts in funding, communication, community building and pitching. The Impact Camp is a two-day session of intensive co-creation that focuses on the impact of the research. Canvases (impact, community engagement and feasibility) and the Helsinki Challenge Guide are practical tools to support teams in developing their solutions further. The Global Impact Camp will be a two-day intensive co-creation session focusing on funding and collaboration with EU decision makers.

During the accelerator programme teams are encouraged to strengthen collaboration and form partnerships, raise awareness around their themes and acquire more resources. And naturally, tell an inspiring and convincing story of their Challenge journey. In addition, the finalists will participate in team focused coaching sessions in the final stage of the accelerator programme.

7. HOW MUCH TIME DO I HAVE TO INVEST IN THE ACCELERATOR PROGRAMME?

The accelerator programme is an intensive co-creation process that aims to both commit and motivate the teams. It will help the semifinalist teams achieve the best possible results as they approach the final round of the competition.

The semifinal stage will last from January 2017 until June 2017. During this time the teams will participate in monthly workshops or team assignments. In addition, the teams will take the stage and present their ideas and solutions at Pitch Nights.

After the semifinal phase, the Helsinki Challenge jury will choose the finalists. Before the Finalist Pitch event in Devember the teams will participate in team based coaching sessions and a Global Impact Camp in Brussels.

8. HOW ARE THE COMPETITION ENTRIES EVALUATED?

The competition entries (both pre-qualification stage and semifinal stage) are evaluated by the Helsinki Challenge jury. The members of the jury will be introduced on the Challenge website. The entries must

  • be based on science

  • have some kind of impact on society and / or people

  • be focused on creating a solution for a problem

  • be original

  • be creative

9. WHAT DOES HELSINKI CHALLENGE HAVE TO OFFER ME?

One of Helsinki Challenge’s main goals is to create and encourage collaboration between different fields. Helsinki Challenge strengthens the scientific community’s interaction with different actors of society and simultaneously develops your skills in building partnerships, obtaining research funding and making your research visible. The idea competition’s prize is 375,000 euros and it is meant for putting the solution into practice. Read more about the process

10. HOW DO I JOIN HELSINKI CHALLENGE?

The application period for 2017 has ended. Provide your expertise, experience and ideas and help teams solve the world’s biggest challenges with science! Register as a partner or mentor here

11. WHO DO I CONTACT IF I NEED HELP?

You can send us an email to challenge@helsinki.fi