Teija Lahti-Nuuttila: How do great ideas get funded?

Teija Lahti-Nuuttila is the Executive Director at the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, Tekes. She gave a keynote speech at Helsinki Challenge Impact Camp on funding research and innovations.

How do you know if an idea is worth funding?

“A good idea evokes a strong feeling there could be something there, that this is something new. From the funder’s perspective the idea in itself is not the most important thing though. We look at the wider business opportunities for Finnish businesses surrounding it. Another important thing is the team: is it credible and what kind of resources and networks does it have.”

Is it possible to combine changing the world and doing business?

“Easily. Many growing areas of business relate to major challenges such a climate change or the aging population. These challenges create business opportunities and evoke innovativeness as they try to come up with solutions.”

What kind of role does science play in this?

“A very important role. It takes a long time to build a solid knowledge base on the field you operate in if you go in a business without one. Basic research and know-how can be applied in many ways. It’s the ground you build on. It’s also what attracts foreign companies and investments to Finland. We have a great knowledge base and well-educated, capable people.”

What should scientists bear in mind when applying for funding?

“You need to pitch your idea so that it is clear what problem you’re trying to solve. What is the scale of this problem, and what is the scale of the business that could come out of it? Who benefits and how, what is unique about this? You need to be able to articulate this in a concise manner without going into details.”

What is your one piece of advice to the Helsinki Challenge teams?

“Keep an open mind. Try to find partners and share things with others. When you put different perspectives and experts from different areas together, something unique can be born.”

Read more about Impact Camp, impact and Helsinki Challenge here.