Biodiversity Now Commercializes the Revival of Habitats

It’s been a long journey from the Helsinki Challenge gala in November to the today, and the winners have been busy. Team Biodiversity Now, led by professor Markku Ollikainen, won second place in the Helsinki Challenge competition and were awarded €125,000 to put their idea into practice.

Now they are working hard on their idea – a habitat bank that protects nature’s biodiversity – to be implemented at the start of next year. They are developing the world’s first operational offset market mechanism, in order to prevent the reduction of the global biodiversity of nature.

“Our solution has great societal significance, at the core of which is creating a functional market for nature conservation.”

Through the bank, a company that reduces nature’s diversity, for instance, could increase nature’s diversity elsewhere as compensation.

“We have received lots of thanks from people for finally setting this up for real,” Ollikainen says.

Conservationists have long thought that this sort of an offset market mechanism would be a good solution. Until now, no one has implemented it.

A mixed bunch of interested developers

When a completely new means of control for conservation that supports diversity is being built in Finland, there is no shortage of interested parties. The group’s last workshop had a staggering number of over a hundred participants thinking about the different aspects of compensation and launching the pilot.

“There has been great interest especially from the business world. We are also collaborating intensely with ministries,” Oilikainen elaborates.

After Helsinki Challenge the team will strengthen its cooperation with Metsähallitus, who have plenty of expertise in reviving the special characteristics of habitats. Sitra are also providing financial support for the implementation of the team’s idea.

The aim is for the pilot bank’s model, which will be operating in Finland from the start of next year, to be applied in other countries too. The impact on the diversity of the world’s nature would be massive.

Next, the team will apply for substantial funding from the European Investment Bank for setting up the habitat bank and procuring compensations from landowners.

Surprising encounters moved the idea forward

Participating in the Helsinki Challenge facilitated meeting the right people and picking up the speed in implementing the idea.

“A real gold nugget for us was meeting Anneli Valpola, an expert in strategic business management, at a Challenge event,” Ollikainen ponders.

Valpola guided and advised the team on the business side of their idea. The whole team are still actively in contact with Valpola and gain important insight in the different stages of implementing the idea. This connection probably would not have been made without the contact created by Challenge. Ollikainen is also grateful for the intellectual sparring sessions that took place along the competition.

“Without Helsinki Challenge we would have taken this idea forward in a different form. It would have stayed more on the side of research. Now, a concrete solution came to us faster,” Ollikainen says.

Watch team Biodiversity Now pitch in the Helsinki Challenge 2014-2015 Grand Finale.