The idea of a self-cleaning refrigerator sneaked into the mind of Inam Liaqatin as he was wondering whether he could eat the food he had prepared previously that had been lying in his fridge for several days.
"At that point, there might be a lot of microbes in the food. I was thinking about how food could stay edible on a refrigerator shelf for longer than a few days. Food gets oxidised and spoiled in the refrigerator", Liaqat explains.
By contrast, ready-made meals are packaged in a protective gas which prevents oxidation, However, the chemicals in the protective gas weaken the nutritional value of the food.
A master's degree student of biochemistry and molecular medicine who has come to Finland from Pakistan, Liaqat participated in the Biochemical and Biomedical Innovation course held for the first time in this spring. At the course, the students got to compete with their ideas. The jury was impressed by Inam Liaqat's plan, which he presented under the title "Immune System for Refrigerator".
Liaqat's idea, the NexGen Refrigerator, is a refrigerator with an active oxygen removal system. The internal parts and handle of the fridge would be made of an anti-bacterial and anti-viral material. This would allow keeping the next generation refrigerator "healthy", which would also preserve the healthiness of food.
Another idea selected as a winner by the jury was also related to healthiness. Xiaorui Fu, an exchange student from China, was rewarded for her Protein Milktea, a tea with high protein content. Milk tea is a drink popular among young people in China that contains fat and additives. Xiaorui innovated a healthy version of the delicious drink aimed at the Chinese market by combining her knowledge in biochemistry with Finnish, clean raw ingredients.
Necessary inventions in biochemistry
The prize for the innovation competition was awarded at a feedback day for the students and teachers in biochemistry and molecular medicine on Tuesday 23 May. The award ceremony held as part of the feedback day began with an address by the Chair of the Board of the Biochemical Society of Oulu, Minna Kihlström.
She explained how the idea for the innovation competition had emerged in a panel discussion held a few years previously participated by personnel in biochemistry from the university as well as companies in the field of bioscience.
"It came up that companies in the Oulu region have a demand for both highly-qualified experts in biochemistry as well as fresh innovations."
In order to familiarise students with innovating, there was need for a course orienting them with the process, and the competition would be the carrot motivating them in the course work. Kihlström considers it important that the students get to test their ideas in a laboratory with proper equipment. Otherwise, the ideas will never materialise.
The winner Inam Liaqat is satisfied with the contents of the innovation course.
"Teachers from different fields, such as marketing, visited the course. It was interesting to also hear about topics other than our field of science. We got to apply theory to practice in a new way and learned to present our ideas."
Tuomo Glumoff, Dean of Education at the Faculty of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine (right), declared Inam Liaqat (middle) as the winner of the innovation competition. Minna Kihlström, the Chair of the Board of the Biochemical Society of Oulu, was also a speaker at the award ceremony.
Not just a play competition
Professor Lloyd Ruddock, the teacher of the innovation course and a member of the competition jury, emphasised that innovations by students are taken seriously. The purpose is to commercialise the ideas.
"The students presented their innovations similarly as a researchers would present theirs to the university's innovation services. We in the jury used the same evaluation criteria as they would in real-life situations", Ruddock explains.
According to Ruddock, the aim of the course and the competition is to reduce reluctant attitudes toward commercial inventions, as commercialisation is currently required from biochemists working in both industrial as well as scientific positions.
"The distribution of funding takes into account the economic and societal effectiveness of research. Registered patents also bring revenue to universities through licensing", Ruddock says.
Understanding the intellectual property related to innovations was one of the objectives of the course. The students participating in the competition have the same intellectual property rights to their inventions as any other researcher utilising the university's innovation services.
Lloyd Ruddock encouraged the students to start thinking about new innovations, as the course will be continued next year. The winning prize will be increased from EUR 3,000 to 5,000.
The recent winner Inam Liaqat is planning to continue developing his NexGen Refrigerator idea over the summer and make use of the help of the experts at the faculty. His dream is to create a prototype that could take him a step closer to the commercialisation of his idea.
Last updated: 24.5.2017