Seven Helsinki Challenge finalists offer groundbreaking solutions for UN’s sustainable development goals

Seven teams have been selected for the final stage of the science competition intended to develop new solutions for the challenges of our changing world. The teams’ ideas would boost cancer treatment, revolutionise the use of heat energy and protect the mental health of new parents.

The science-based idea competition Helsinki Challenge involves Finnish universities in multidisciplinary cooperation to benefit the rest of the world. The competition themes – people in change, a sustainable planet and urban future – link to the UN’s sustainable development goals.

The international jury has selected six teams from among the 20 semifinalist teams to continue on to the finals. The Helsinki Challenge finalists are ELMO which battles malaria with a three-dimensional mosquito net, HeatStock with a new solution for storing summer heat for the winter, POCKit which is a laboratory you can put in your pocket, Parental Box focusing on the mental wellbeing of new parents, the iCombine database which would enable personalised cancer treatments as well and Dlearn.Helsinki which hopes to teach global skills in new ways.

In addition, one research team was selected by the audience at the Helsinki Challenge Semifinal Pitch Nights in early June. The audience gave the most votes to team FutuRena, which hopes to 3D print a working miniature kidney.

The competition jury includes Frank Geels, professor of system innovation and sustainability at the University of Manchester, and Andreas Kaju, an Estonian political expert. The chair of the jury is Tuija Talvitie, executive director at the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI). The jury selected the finalist teams based on their scientific basis, their focus on finding a solution, as well as their impact, novelty and creativity.

“We in the jury found it very difficult to select the teams for the final. We examined the impact of the proposed ideas from the perspective of global changes and considered how they could develop from scientific ideas to global solutions for sustainable development,” says Tuija Talvitie.

Finalist teams to head to Brussels in the autumn

The teams selected for the Helsinki Challenge feature more than 70 researchers and experts from Finnish universities, companies, organisations and public bodies.

In September, the finalists will head to Brussels for the Global Impact Camp which is intended to promote Finnish research, provide the teams with help to apply for EU funding and to enhance connections to politicians and other influencers.

“Global Impact Camp offers researchers from Finnish universities the opportunity to network with political institutions and funders on the European level,” says Jouko Niinimäki, chair of the board of Universities Finland UNIFI. UNIFI represents Finnish universities and has been one of the founding partners in the cooperation for Helsinki Challenge.

The jury selects one or more winning teams and announces its decision in November 2017. The prize is a sum of €375,000, intended to realise the team’s solution, which may be a new discipline, an idea with business potential, a new company or groundbreaking research.


Finnish universities organise Helsinki Challenge in cooperation. In addition to the University of Helsinki, the competition is organised by Aalto University, the 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 is part of Finland's centenary celebrations.