Network of business incubators to be created on Helsinki campuses – aiming for 100 new companies per year

Jan 10, 2022

Helsinki wants to create a strong network of business incubators in the city in cooperation with higher education institutions. To be located on campuses, the business incubators will support student- and research-oriented entrepreneurship. With the services included in the new Campus Incubators programme, the goal is to create 100 new companies per year.

Campus incubators to strengthen Helsinki’s innovation ecosystem

Helsinki is a pioneer in supporting innovation-oriented entrepreneurship. The city’s new Campus Incubators programme will further strengthen this role.

“In solving future challenges, the significance of business operations based on research, development and innovation (RDI) will continue to increase and the city’s role as a facilitator of innovation will be emphasised,” says Marja-Leena Rinkineva, Director of Economic Development at the City of Helsinki.

Actions to support RDI-oriented entrepreneurship will focus in particular on the early stages of companies and on strengthening the innovation ecosystem. At the moment, there are no comprehensive services available for supporting companies in the early stages, and the aim is to solve this deficit in Helsinki by strengthening incubation activities in cooperation with the local universities.

Launched last autumn, the Campus Incubators programme will develop strong business incubation activities for key campuses together with universities. Under the leadership of the City of Helsinki, campus incubators will be developed more systematically and, at the same time, foundations will be laid for a more close-knit innovation ecosystem.

“The new incubators will bring together top Finnish research, students’ new ideas and Helsinki’s brilliant startup ecosystem,” Rinkineva says.

The business incubator development aims to increase the number and quality of early-stage companies in Helsinki and to create 100 new and innovative companies per year. Instead of individual campus incubators, the goal is to create an extensive business incubator network that enables diverse cooperation between campuses. Together, the campus business incubators can complement each other’s roles and, for example, organise joint coaching programmes.

City of Helsinki signs cooperation agreements with three higher education institutions

In autumn 2021, the City of Helsinki focused on strengthening cooperation and signed the first agreements with Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Aalto University and the University of Helsinki. Each of these institutions will bring its own strengths and expertise to the business incubator activities, which is reflected in the campus-specific plans for the coming years.

Riitta Konkola, President and Rector of Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, hopes that the programme will support the profiling of Metropolia’s campuses as significant, internationally recognised centres of innovation and entrepreneurship activities that generate new entrepreneurship.

“The expanding activities will also feed other operators in the region’s startup ecosystem. The results of Metropolia’s RDI activities will be utilised more efficiently, increasingly aiming to commercialise the results as new business operations,” Konkola says.

The programme will strengthen Metropolia’s services for early-stage companies and teams and develop new pre-incubator programmes.

“During the Campus Incubators programme, the staff’s entrepreneurial skills will also be increased and new entrepreneurial study paths for Metropolia’s degree programmes will be created,” Konkola adds.

Aalto University wants to use the Campus Incubators programme to strengthen innovation and business activities in the creative industries in particular.

“Alongside Aalto’s strong technology-intensive business accelerator activities, the goal is to create an entrepreneurial path based on creativity and intellectual capital,” says Janne Laine, Vice President of Innovation at Aalto University.

Aalto University’s key strength in the programme is the opening of its digital media research infrastructure to other campus incubator operators and, more broadly, to everyone in the creative industries. With open-call applications, the winning teams will be given the opportunity to make use of Aalto’s state-of-the-art infrastructure to develop new content, service and product prototypes for the creative industries.

“The starting point is to support the best ideas regardless of where they come from,” says Marcus Korhonen, Director of Aalto Studios.

The University of Helsinki aims to activate the whole community and strengthen positive cultural change as well as to create new competences, entrepreneurial skills and research-based companies.

“The Campus Incubators programme allows researchers and students to test and mature their ideas with the help of open, low-threshold services,” says Paula Eerola, Vice-Rector for Research at the University of Helsinki.

“As a multidisciplinary university, our strengths are combining different research areas and perspectives and building interesting multidisciplinary entities. We also have world-class infrastructures. The Meilahti Campus particularly focuses on generating innovations in the fields of health and life sciences. The Viikki Campus currently concentrates on creating sustainable solutions for the food chain. The Kumpula Campus is a well-known centre of natural sciences whose strengths include data science, artificial intelligence and atmospheric sciences. The strongest resource of the City Centre Campus – and of the entire university – is the unifying, extensive knowledge of human and social sciences and the ability to produce social innovations,” Eerola continues.

Business incubators assembled together

Project Manager Jussi Laine, who leads the Campus Incubators project at the City of Helsinki, is convinced of the city’s central role as an enabler of business incubator activities.

“My goal is to create a framework on behalf of the city that enables sharing best practices between universities and bringing the city’s special expertise close to the universities’ incubator activities,” Laine says.

Campus Incubators programme

Through the Campus Incubators programme, the City of Helsinki is developing business incubation activities on campuses in cooperation with the local universities in order to support student- and research-oriented entrepreneurship. The key goal of the programme is to create new and innovative companies and to support the growth of early-stage, RDI-oriented business operations and the development of the ecosystem. The City of Helsinki funds the programme together with the universities. The programme will be implemented in 2021–2024.

News photo: The Campus Incubators programme creates new companies in Helsinki in cooperation with universities. Photo: N2 Albiino/Helsinki Partners.

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