Meet the jury: Maija Itkonen

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 worked as the Vice President of Design and Brand. Itkonen was also one of the founders of Aalto University’s Design Factory.

1. Why does the academic world need Helsinki Challenge right now?

The society in general needs to actively utilise scientific research and the information it provides. Research should be integrated better into the business world. It should be a crucial part of companies’ daily operation.

2. What kind of thinking do we need when solving the United Nation’s Agenda 2030 challenges?

We all need to put our different gifts and know-how into good use. We won’t achieve anything unless we try new things and challenge the way things have been done this far.

3. What is your piece of advice for the teams?

The most important thing for the Helsinki Challenge teams is to be able to communicate as simply as possible what it is they’re doing and why. This aspect is often cast aside because people tend to immerse themselves into details instead of the big picture.

4. What is your piece of advice for the teams when they face a moment of weakness during the accelerator programme?

Teams should leave no stone unturned, but at the same time they need to be sensitive towards what they’re doing. In some cases it is important to consider whether it would be smart to change course and try something else.

5. What has been an encounter that has led to a change in your way of thinking?

It’s difficult to choose one from my life in general, but I have a great recent example. I’d just taken my son to kindergarten and the weather was horrible. When I was leaving him I mumbled: “I hope you’re not going out today in this weather”. Luckily he didn’t hear me through the wind and sleet, but said in a bright little voice: “What a wonderful day! The earth looks like a kiwi fruit!” That’s when I learned that a fresh point of view is so much more important than our preconceptions.