Become a mentor in Helsinki Challenge

The science based idea competition and accelerator, Helsinki Challenge, is all about collaboration and co-creation. We invite you to join the Helsinki Challenge community to provide your expertise, experience and ideas for the best of the world. In essence let's create the most impressing solutions together!

What does a mentor do?
Mentors are experts who are feel passionate about helping the Helsinki Challenge teams in creating solutions that will impact society. As a mentor your main goal is to support the teams or a particular team during the accelerator programme of Helsinki Challenge.

There are various possibilities to mentor teams: during the accelerator, clinics with different themes are organized, teams are taken to intensive bootcamps and of course the majority of the thinking and developing takes place between organized events. Most importantly, you as a mentor are able to choose how much time you can dedicate to the teams: it can be anything from a lunch meeting to 48 hour bootcamp working session! The single most important thing is that you are passionate about solution!

The call for applications is currently open. The jury chose 20 teams to the accelerator programme in December 2016. The accelerator program kicked off in January and in each month there are different type of co-creation sessions with different themes. More detailed program is provided for participating mentors.

As a mentor you will have an unique opportunity to be a part of projects with potentially immense impact together with top scientists in Finland. Inspiration, learning and new insights are guaranteed! For the mentors this also a good chance to find new ways to co-operate with the academia and the rest of the Helsinki Challenge community. Interested? Kindly register here

More information
Juuli Hilska, Coordinator, Helsinki Challenge, tel. +358 503198084


Some of the Helsinki Challenge 2016-2017 mentors

Sven Dammann, European Commission
Sven Dammann, PhD, works as Policy Officer for Innovation and Competitiveness at the European Commission, Directorate General for Climate Action. He previously worked at DG CLIMA with decarbonisation of road transport, and Member States' greenhouse-gas emission reduction obligations in non-emission-trading-scheme sectors (in particular in buildings and transport). At DG Energy Dammann supervised and evaluated EU-projects on energy-efficiency in buildings, urban districts and industry. At the European Economic and Social Committee Sven Dammann edited the European Cycling Lexicon. He also worked at the European Environment Agency on a report on the use of scientific knowledge in policy making in the light of the precautionary principle. For his PhD from the TU Denmark and the Danish Building Research Institute Dammann studied environmental indicators for buildings in a social-constructivist approach. He has a first university degree in architecture and also carried out socio-economic research in rural Russia.

Annika Hedberg, European Policy Centre
Annika Hedberg is a Senior Policy Analyst at the European Policy Centre where she leads the Sustainable Prosperity for Europe Programme. The Programme monitors and analyses developments within Europe’s economy, and explores how to achieve growth that is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. In addition to managing EPC’s work on economic governance, the transition to cleaner and smarter Europe, and enablers for change (including the single market and the digital agenda), she specialises in the internal dimension of the EU Energy Union, climate action, circular economy and smarter use of resources. Prior to joining the EPC, she worked at the Finnish Business and Policy Forum EVA, a policy think tank based in Helsinki, and at the Finnish Foreign Ministry.

Tellervo Kylä-Harakka-Ruonala, European Economic and Social Committee
Tellervo Kylä-Harakka-Ruonala is Member of the Employers' Group and the Bureau of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) where she has been involved, among other things, in mainstreaming the approach of sustainable development. Previously she has worked for the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK) and held executive positions in the fields of business infrastructure and sustainability, including European cooperation in BusinessEurope networks. Before joining industrial organisations, she worked for the Ministry of the Environment and for the National Board of Waters. As Chairman of the Governing Board of Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation she also contributes to the funding of research. She holds a D.Sc. from the University of Helsinki.

Nora van der Linden, Kennisland
Nora van der Linden is a Director and social innovation advisor at Kennisland. She develops new approaches, strategies and interventions for complex social problems. In 2012, van der Linden set up Radical Innovators, a competition for individuals and organisations working on creative solutions to complex problems. She has developed a variety of learning programmes to support social innovators in the Netherlands, Europe and the rest of the world. In recent years these programmes have included the European Social Innovation Competition, Hivos Learning Community and various Social Innovation Safaris.

Markku Markkula, European Committee of the Regions
Markku Markkula is First Vice-President (2017-2019) and former President (2015-2017) of European Committee of the Regions. Markkula was the first Nordic citizen to be appointed to the post of President of the Committee and emphasized the importance of entrepreneurship and innovation during his two-and-a-half year term of office. A long-standing politician, Markkula has been member of the Espoo City Council since 1980 (holding its Presidency in 1990-92 and 2010) and is a former member of the Finnish Parliament (1995-2003). Recently he was appointed the Chair of the Board of the Espoo City (2017-2021). Additionally he works at the Aalto University as advisor to Aalto Presidents, where his focus mainly lays on European Union research, innovation and education policy affairs.

Sonia Ortega, National Science Foundation, Europe and Eurasia Office
Dr. Sonia Ortega is head of the Europe and Eurasia Office at the National Science Foundation. She has been at USEU since December 2015. Prior to coming to Brussels, Sonia was a Program Director for East Asia and Pacific countries at the NSF’s Office of International Science and Engineering. She was an Embassy Science Fellow at the US Embassy in Malaysia, served as NSF representative in the Antarctic, worked as Director of Education and International Programs at the University of New Mexico and worked as Research Associate at Duke University before joining the NSF in 1989. She holds a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of South Carolina and a Masters in Zoology from Duke University. Ortega has extensive knowledge of science and engineering research and education policies and has represented NSF at national and international science and education meetings.

James Paskins, University College London
James Paskins is Co-ordinator for the Grand Challenge of Sustainable Cities and the London Agenda at UCL, initiatives which encourage cross-disciplinary research into complex societal issues. He is a member of the British Psychological Society and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He holds a BSc in Psychology from the University of Westminster, and a PhD in Transport Studies from UCL; his thesis investigated the role of cognitive mapping skills in children’s mobility. His research interests cross the boundaries between transport, urban sustainability, psychology, and accessibility research. He has extensive experience in undertaking and managing interdisciplinary research, including being programme manager for the EPSRC funded Bridging the Gaps: Sustainable Urban Spaces project at UCL and researcher on a number of EPSRC funded transport research projects.

Sirpa Pietikäinen, Member of the European Parliament
Sirpa Pietikäinen is a Finnish member of the European People's Party (EPP) in the European Parliament since 2008. Pietikäinen is a former Finnish Minister of Environment (1991-1995). Her career at the Finnish parliament is extensive, ranging from the year 1983 to 2003. She first came to the European Parliament to replace Alexander Stubb in 2008, and was re-elected in 2009 and 2014. At the European Parliament, Pietikäinen is a member of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee and PANA-Committee, and a substitute member of the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee, and the Women’s Right and Gender Equality Committee. A graduate from the Helsinki School of Economics, she still teaches university courses on negotiations theory and practices. Pietikäinen is also active in several organizations. Her positions of trust include Chairmanship of the Globe EU and membership of the board of Alzheimer Europe.

Tapani Piha, Cross-border Healthcare & eHealth, European Commission
Tapani Piha works as Head of Cross-Border Healthcare & eHealth Unit in the European Commission. Since 2001 in the Commission, Piha has been responsible for Health Technology Assessment (HTA) policy, health strategy, health information, expert advice for health systems, health law, health research coordination, and human resources. Before joining the Commission, he carried out epidemiological and intervention research on health behaviours and cardiovascular disease. He held positions at the Finnish Ministry of Health, and coordinated Finland's EU policies in health in 1995-2001. At the WHO Regional Office for Europe in 1989-94 he was responsible for the Action Plan for a Tobacco-free Europe.

Araathi Prasad, University College London
Dr. Aarathi Prasad is based at University College London where she manages UCL Grand Challenges portfolios focused on technology and culture. Through convening cross-disciplinary research across the university and with local and international partners, her work aims to set the agenda for future research, and research-informed public and policy engagement. Aarathi has a PhD in molecular genetics from Imperial College London. Her post-doctoral work focused on using chemical genetics to identify early therapeutic targets in cancers, and she subsequently worked in the UK Parliament on the passage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008. She has been a science advisor to the British Council, where she developed international research collaborations and policy, and public engagement in science. She has written and presented science documentaries for the BBC, National Geographic and the Discovery Channel, and is the author of two popular science books.

Aura Salla, European Political Strategy Centre, European Commission
Aura Salla works as an Adviser for Communication and Outreach in the European Political Strategy Centre. The EPSC acts as an advisory body, an in-house think tank, to the President of the European Commission and reports directly to him and the College of the EU Commissioners on various topics. Salla was previously working as a Member of Cabinet and Communications Adviser of Jyrki Katainen, European Commission Vice President responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness.

Lennart Stoy, European University Association
Lennart Stoy is Project Manager in the Research & Innovation unit of the European University Association (EUA). He joined EUA in 2014 and works on the development of EUA’s European Platform for Universities in Energy Research & Education and the UNI-SET project (‘Universities in the SET-Plan’). Stoy is a graduate of Leiden University’s Master’s programme in Political Science and holds a Bachelor’s degree in East Asian Economical & Political Studies from Ruhr University Bochum. Before joining EUA, he gained experience in the Global Knowledge Sharing and Learning unit at the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and at the Sino-German Cultural and Economic Association in Taipei.

Ron Bloemers, Climate-Kic
Ron Bloemers is a business coach within the Climate-KIC Accelerator program. Ron coaches early stage cleantech entrepreneurs with an initial idea and/or prototype, advising them on how to develop a business model with a scalable and profitable product or service, which will sell successfully in the market. Ron is also founder and Managing Partner at Start-U-Up.

Daniel Farag, Health Lab at Nesta
Daniel Farag works as Director at Health Lab which is an initiative from Nesta that brings together practical work on health and ageing to achieve more impact. Farag is specialized in health innovation projects. He started his career working with the Centre for Public Innovation, supporting innovation projects within health and criminal justice setting. Before joining Nesta, he also worked within Grant Thornton’s Government Advisory team and worked at Marie Curie as part of the Service Design team.

Anni Huhtala, VATT
Anni Huhtala is Director General of VATT Institute for Economic Research and adjunct professor of environmental and resource economics at Aalto University. In her research she has evaluated environmental policy and instruments and has been involved in the international development of environmental accounting and welfare measurement.

Mikael Jungner, KREAB
Mikael Jungner is a former Member of Finnish Parliament and currently Managing Partner at KREAB. Jungner is specialized in leadership, strategic thinking concerning media, software industry and politics. He has experience in lobbying, start up’s and leading both cultural and functional changes in small and large organizations.

Kari Herlevi, Sitra
Kari Herlevi works as Project Director of circular economy at Sitra. He is experienced and highly interested in circular economy, cleantech and green growth.

Jouni Lounasmaa, foundation leader and startup executive
Jouni Lounasmaa is the founder of three startups where he worked as CEO, COO and product owner. Lounasmaa has worked as a business advisor for over 50 software and high tech startups at Technopolis Ventures incubator. Currently he shares his time between two science foundations KAUTE Foundation and Finnish Medical Foundation, and the urban mobility startup Tuup Oy.

Leena Niemistö, angel investor
Leena Niemistö (MD, PhD) is a healthcare professional with 30 years of clinical and leadership experience. Currently she is a board executive in several publicly listed companies e.g. Elisa, Stockmann, Pihlajalinna as well as in startups and organizations and foundations. She is an angel investor in 20 startups with enthusiasm to empower companies dealing with digital health, well-being, cleantech, foodtech and digital marketplace platforms targeting to spread sustainable solution

Kalle Korhonen, Kone Foundation
Kalle Korhonen is head of research funding at Kone Foundation (Koneen Säätiö), a major Finnish funder of social sciences and humanities. He is also in charge of initiatives which make academic research available to broader audiences, and very much involved in efforts which promote collaboration between academics, artists, journalists and societal activists.

Minttu Jaakkola, Nessling Foundation
Minttu Jaakkola works as a Head of Research at Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation, one of the most important private funding organizations for the environmental research in Finland, where she has been successfully developing foundation’s research, communication and responsible investing policies during the past three years. Minttu is motivated by making people across disciplines and sectors to create collaborative knowledge, which is the key to change.

Karoliina Jarenko, Helsinki Academy of Philosophy
Karoliina Jarenko (M.Sc Pol.phil) is a reformer of working life and CEO of the Helsinki Academy of Philosophy. She believes that the future will be designed by ambitious and passionate people, who relentlessly reinvent themselves and their organisations. She and her HAP team work with organisations that are ready to question the old way of doing things and willing to nurture a culture of love and engagement.

Markus Tuukkanen, Finnish Water Forum
Markus Tuukkanen is CEO of Finnish Water Forum. In his current position he is matchmaking and marketing Finnish water sector organizations with potential partners and projects. He is in constant interaction with all relevant stakeholders to enable increase in the Finnish water sector international business and co-operation. He uses his innovativeness and working experience from public, private and NGO´s to find the win-win situation and approach to advance his task.

Arto Mustajoki, University of Helsinki
Arto Mustajoki is an emeritus professor of Russian language at the University of Helsinki. During his career, Mustajoki has held eminent administrative positions at his home university, the Academy of Finland and various international organizations. He chaired the Financial Committee of the University of Helsinki for a long time, which was responsible for the university’s innovation policy and spin-off activities. Mustajoki has published and presented papers on the channels and forms of universities’ societal impact. Besides the Russian language, his research interests include the risks and causes of miscommunication and the problems of mutual understanding.


Some of the Helsinki Challenge 2014-2015 mentors

Magnus Magnusson, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Magnus Magnusson joined the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in January 2015 with responsibility for donor government relations with the Nordic countries. Before joining the foundation, Magnus was Chief of the UNCDF Business Development and Communications Unit. In this position, Mr. Magnusson oversaw resource mobilization, donor relations, business development and external relations. Read more on Magnus Magnusson.

Celia Hannon, Nesta Centre for Challenge Prizes

Celia Hannon is the Programme Manager at the Nesta Centre for Challenge Prizes which is an innovation charity helping people and organizations bring good ideas to life. She has previously worked as a researcher for Britain’s Demos think tank as well as The Governance Lab. Hannon specializes in socio-political questions and has studied young people and families, media, and civic engagement. Specific research topics include the effects of austerity policies on British families, young people’s vlogging and Britain’s child care system. Read more on Celia Hannon.

Ulrich Weinberg, Hasso Plattner Institute

Ulrich Weinberg is the Director of Design Thinking at the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam. He has over 25 years of experience from the film industry, 3D modeling and animation. He has previously worked for BMW, Siemens and Daimler-Benz. Now Weinberg directs the Hasso-Platner Institute School of Design Thinking, which encourages companies to invest in cooperation and WeQ-thinking. Read more on Ulrich Weinberg.

Ian Scott, UCL Grand Challenges programme

Ian Scott is the Principal Facilitator for the UCL Grand Challenges programme. Scott’s own background is in biomedicine: he defended his doctoral dissertation on Skeletal muscle mitochondrial metabolism at the University of Bristol, and has studied the effect of calcium in neuronal and lymphocyte cell activation. He has also done post-doc research in Helsinki. Read more on Ian Scott.

Vicky-Marie Gibbons, Bethnal Green Ventures

Vicky-Marie Gibbons, a Partner at Bethnal Green Ventures which is an accelerator programme for people who want to change the world using technology. The accelerator program helps find and create technology-based solutions for grand health and environmental issues. Read more Vicky-Marie Gibbons

Dinelle Lucchesi, BRAINS

Dinelle Lucchesi, the founder of BRAINS. Her current work focuses on accelerating technologies with major implications for humanity. BRAINS Ventures facilitates discussion and collaboration between scientists and investors to create a mission-driven funding and incubation culture in Silicon Valley, San Francisco, and beyond.Read more on Dinelle Lucchesi.

Ferdi Van Heerden, Changing the world

Ferdi Van Heerden, the Change agent at Changing the world. Van Heerden has over 20 years of experience in international marketing and design. He has worked for the likes of legendary design company IDEO, Speedo, and the Saatchi & Saatchi advertising agency. Today, he’s a consultant for actors in various different fields on managing, strategy and design. Read more on Ferdi Van Heerden.

Alex Pesch, Synthego

Stanford alumnus Alex Pesch is a founder at biotech startup Synthego, and has a background in engineering, mechanical design and product design. Synthego is changing the future of biotech by integrating science, engineering and software, with experience in areas such as robotics and space technology, as well as technologies for DNA sequencing and life extension. Read more on Alex Pesch.

Kalle Nieminen, Sitra

Expert in building prototypes for new services and developing new social ventures. In his work in Sitra, Kalle has been involved in organising and developing Sitra’s educational programs and has worked with Finnish change agents. Kalle is proficient in finding new partnerships for impact and convincing them to making rapid real-life experiments with you.

Jukka Helin, Helen

Jukka is the marketing group manager of Helen (former Helsingin Energia). A Helsinki University alumni (Finnish language), Helin is specialized in digital services and marketing. He is an experienced mentor and is really good at helping defining value for users and partners, especially businessess. In addition, he is working on Little Brother, an app that protects photos taken by democracy activists and journalists. He is also really good at pitching!

Anne Badan, Aalto Global Impact

Anne Badan is an expert in building impact-driven projects with public and private institutions. She is an expert in building philantrophic projects for private actors with a focus on value. In addition, she is active in Aalto Global Impact, a Finnish network for impact ventures.

Maarit Haataja, University of Helsinki, Capacity building in research funding and impact

Maarit Haataja is a former researcher who currently leads a small team within the University of Helsinki, which provides researchers and other members of the University community with the skills and knowledge needed to gather external research funding. Maarit can help you in finding the value of your project from stakeholders’ and users’ point of view. Particularly Haataja is interested in assessing the impact of the research results in building funding channels for research.

Jussi Alho, University of Helsinki, Capacity building in research funding and impact

Jussi Alho works at the University of Helsinki and helps researchers in finding funding for their research projects. Jussi can help you in finding the value of your project from stakeholders’ and users’ point of view. As a bioscientist, Jussi is particularly familiar with natural sciences and ecological issues.

Jouni Lounasmaa, Stompwell, Kaute foundation

Founder of three start-up companies where he worked as CEO, COO and product owner. At Technopolis Ventures and Spinno business incubators he has worked as a business advisor with over 50 software, web 2.0 and high tech start-ups. Jouni is also advocate of Kaute foundation, the Finnish Science Foundation for Economics and Technology.

Sirpa Pietikäinen, European Parliament

Sirpa Pietikäinen is a politician and a Member of the European Parliament since 2008. She is also a former Member of Finnish Parliament and former Minister for the Environment. Pietikäinen was elected as a Member of Finnish Parliament at the age of 24, and is extremely well equipped in developing policy on the national and European Union level.

Kalle Korhonen, Kone Foundation

Kalle Korhonen is an expert in popularisation of science from Koneen säätiö. He has a profound understanding of scientific writing and spreading research results to the broader public.

Oras Tynkkynen, Finnish Parliament

Oras Tynkkynen has been a Member of the Finnish Parliament for the past ten years, and is a prominent member of the Green Party. Lately he has co-chaired the parliament’s Committee for the Future, and has been nominated as a senior advisor for The Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra on resource-wise and carbon neutral society. Tynkkynen has worked in various senior roles as a climate change advocate and expert, and is well-versed in environmental policy and the political process.

Heidi Humala, Sitra

Heidi Humala is currently at Sitra’s Impact Investing team. She has a crucial role in building an impact investing ecosystem in Finland, and developing different ways of funding impact-driven activities. Prior to her role in Sitra, Heidi has worked for the World Bank and has founded her own start-up for easier car travelling for children (and their parents).

Timo Nurmi, Freud

Timo Nurmi is the co-founder and strategy director of Freud, an influence and communications agency. He has worked with communications and digital opportunities for over a decade, and is well-versed in storytelling and building understandable and active narratives for various ventures.

Tomi Pruuki, Suomen Mielenterveysliitto

Working with enhancing the mental health of young people, and encountering young people in various ways. Tomi works at the Finnish Mental Health Society (Suomen Mielenterveysliitto), and is an expert in building impact networks around mental health.

Anna Talasniemi, Kone Foundation

Anna Talasniemi is the executive director of Koneen säätiö, a Finnish foundation that funds research in arts and humanities. Anna is a Helsinki University alumni in comparative religion, and is proficient in assessing research-projects and making the impact of research visible.

Moaffak Ahmed

Moaffak Ahmed is a serial entrepreneur and investor with over 25 years of marketing and business development experience in Europe, North America and Asia. He has successfully accelerated start ups and provided funding for early stage start ups through Veturi Venture Accelerator Program.