Helsinki Challenge: 3 in 1 – A competition, an idea accelerator and the flagship of Finnish science

Helsinki Challenge is a science-based idea competition in which teams of scientists from ten Finnish universities work on solutions that help the humankind reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The solution could be anything from a new scientific field to a commercialisable idea, entrepreneurship or pioneering research.

Multidisciplinary teams fight wicked problems

SDGs consist of a set of 17 measurable goals set in 2015. The goals range from providing the world with clean energy to ensuring access to safe and affordable drinking water for everyone by 2030. To solve these grand challenges we need multidisciplinary approaches, broad-minded thinking and bold boundary crossings. This is why Helsinki Challenge is a platform for collaboration: science meets business, decision makers, non-governmental organizations and representatives of public sector.

The road leads from ideas to solutions

Helsinki Challenge is also an idea accelerator program. During the one year process teams develop their ideas into solutions in bootcamps, meetings and workshops. They receive mentoring from a wide range of professionals, build partnerships and collaborations and are trained in various skills such as pitching and design thinking. Each team-member gains valuable new skills and insights for the future. They will know how to acquire partnerships and funding, build new kinds of collaborative efforts and develop proposals arising from research.

In November the winner will be announced

The Helsinki Challenge is an effort by the Finnish universities to make science visible, enable new science-based research proposals and strengthen the dialogue between science and wider society.
The competition prize is 375,000 euros for the implementation of the solution. The prize is just one of the competition’s benefits. Even if a team doesn’t win the competition, their idea is likely to have a bright future because of the new partnerships formed and competences discovered during the journey.


A Call for Action to Change our World

We are meeting at a time of immense challenges to sustainable development. Natural resource depletion, loss of biodiversity and climate change. Global health threats, unemployment and terrorism. These and many more are the greatest challenges of our time and their adverse impacts undermine the ability of all countries to achieve sustainable development.

United Nations has introduced the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to change our world. The objective of these 17 goals is to build a better future for all of us. These goals are universal and belong to us all: countries, cities, companies, schools, you and me. This is our common agenda.

To solve grand challenges we need multidisciplinary approaches, broad-minded thinking and bold boundary crossings. The science based competition and idea accelerator, Helsinki Challenge, is a platform for collaboration: science and arts communities, business, decision makers, public sector and other actors of the society – we all need to join the movement to make the goals for sustainable development reality. Through the Helsinki Challenge collaboration we can create solutions to grand challenges and for the future well-being – together!

Helsinki Challenge gathers the 17 goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development under three following main themes:

The Earth has to thrive under the unsustainable pressure of natural resource depletion and climate change. These phenomena threaten all aspects of our society: they increase poverty and inequality, they affect businesses and politics. Climate change increases biodiversity loss and forces people to take refuge elsewhere. Now at the latest we need to make sure people everywhere have enough food and drinkable water. We have to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy and decrease biodiversity loss. With science we can do that. 

Humankind is in the midst of constant change. Although technology and digitalization provide huge opportunities for lifelong learning and well-being, there are millions of uneducated and unhealthy people. Every sixth adult is illiterate and two thirds of them are women. Millions of girls worldwide crave basic education. Inequality does not stop at gender: ageing and health alone bring massive challenges to the table. For instance, AIDS is the secon most common cause of death among adolescents globally. To prevent these problems we need accessible, inclusive and equal education and healthcare. With science we can make it happen. 

Cities are beacons of economic growth and employment. But as urbanisation accelerates, competition for jobs, housing and resources becomes more intense. To make matters worse, global unemployment has doubled in less than a decade. In the future millions of people will need jobs and roughly half the world’s population still lives on about two dollars a day. We have to provide equal opportunities for employment, build sustainable infrastructures and strengthen the reliability of social institutions. With science we can reduce inequalities and create sustainable communities.