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News 07.09.2017

Tekes’ Challenge Finland competition was a EUR 47 million shot in the arm for the commercial exploitation of research

The aim of the competition was to improve interaction between research and businesses and the use of research results as sources of innovation. Success was also achieved in this regard. In the competition, which began in 2016, researchers worked on commercially exploitable solutions to major problems. The companies involved embraced the most commercially promising ideas presented by the researchers, and are now collaborating with them in developing the ideas further.

"This approach has activated a genuine discussion between businesses and researchers on the content of their work. The competition has received extremely positive feedback from the participants," says Jukka Leppälahti, Chief Advisor at Tekes. Over 100 companies and more than 20 research organisations are now working together on Challenge Finland projects to develop new, innovative export products.

Smart shirts powered by running, safer use of pain medication, virtual reality applications for industry

Harvested energy, fast measurement of drug concentrations and VR applications for industrial use. These are examples of the ideas which aroused the interest of companies that are now engaged in R&D alongside the researchers involved. Examples of three project consortia are given below.

Electrical energy can be harvested from sources such as differences in temperature and a person's movement. Energy harvesting techniques are being developed through collaboration between research institutions and companies within a Challenge Finland consortium. There is an infinite number of applications for harvested energy: it can be used as an electronic power source in heavy industry and smart clothing, for example. Tampere University of Technology, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, the University of Oulu, and Forciot Oy, Sandvik Mining and Construction Ltd and six other companies are involved in the consortium for clean energy from the environment through energy harvesting. Read more.

There is currently no simple method of analysing the level of a person’s sensitivity to strong painkillers. Opioid overdoses are a major cause of death in hospitals. A Challenge Finland project consortium aims to develop an electrochemical indicator which can be used to measure opioid quantities directly from the patient's blood during an ambulance journey, for example. As the population ages, more medication is being used, providing the technique with a potential world market worth billions of euros. The Fedoc project consortium consists of Aalto University, Canatu Oy and Medix Biochemica and two other companies. Read more.

Market forecasts predict the development of markets worth up to hundreds of billions of euros in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) in the coming years. A Challenge Finland project consortium is exploring the use of VR and AR technologies in industrial applications. The project is focusing on key areas of Finnish industry, such as mechanical engineering, the process industry, power plants, the built environment, training and security. The Varpu consortium includes: Kii Oy, Stereoscape Oy, Nokia Technologies Oy, Granlund Oy, 3D Talo Finland Oy, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd, Rejlers Finland Oy, Ruukki Construction Oy, the University of Tampere, Aalto University, the National Land Survey of Finland, the University of Lapland, Finwe Oy, FinCloud Oy, Sky High VR Oy, Fortum Power, Whitepoint Oy and Heat Oy. Three other companies also belong to the project consortium. Read more.

Choosing between more than 100 companies and over 20 research organisations was a challenge

In the first stage of the competition, Tekes was confronted with the challenge of deciding between 348 proposals from research organisations, from which it selected 70 projects for funding. The research organisation project proposals selected for stage 1 then moved onto the discussion stage with companies, and the formation of consortia alongside them.

A total of 33 winning R&D consortia were selected for continuing to the second stage of the competition. These include a total of 98 companies with Tekes-funded innovation projects, and 21 research organisations. In addition, several companies, which are funding or otherwise supporting – and benefiting from – the work of the research organisations, are participating in the consortia without Tekes funding. The Challenge Finland projects will continue until the end of 31 December 2018 at the latest, when the Government's key project funding will end. The private sector projects, on the other hand, can continue even after that.

A total of EUR 47 million has been granted for the two-stage projects involved in the competition, EUR 30 million of which came from Government key project funding and EUR 17 million from Tekes’ normal funding authorisation.

The positive experiences from the Challenge Finland competition will be applied to the reform of Tekes’ research funding.

For further information

Project Gallery of Challenge Finland competition
Tekes’ research funding renewal

Photo: Fotolia