Venturing Research Challenge winning solution utilizes simple smart sensors to analyze surrounding environments

Venturing Research Challenge (VRC), a fast-track business bootcamp bringing together students and researchers at the University of Oulu climaxed with five teams pitching their research commercialization ideas to the jury in the afternoon of Friday, February 3rd. The 5-day event started with researchers introducing their research idea to students, after which multidisciplinary teams were formed to further ideate, concept or test the commercialization opportunities of the ideas.

Simo Kekäläinen, coordinator of university's partnership & cooperation with businesses and innovation organizations and member of the winning team of Venturing Research Challenge 2016, sent the teams to work on Monday by daring them to “be bold (venture), search for again and again (research), ask questions and demand to explain (challenge).“ During the bootcamp the teams were mainly working independently but were also offered coworking space, networking help, mentoring, inspiration, and pitching coaching.

Researchers Marko Tuhkala and Sami Myllymäki participated to the bootcamp with their “iPoint” idea of providing physically controlled fast and free wireless mobile connection in crowded places.  “For me VRC was very positive experience. It was refreshing to expose yourself to new ideas and meet people we otherwise wouldn’t have met. What we got from the team was the marketing view in product concepting, which was just what we needed. The students were great, they actively brought out their ideas and contacted possible customers. Thanks to them we´re going to have the prototype present in the media area of Polar Bear Pitching”, Tuhkala summed up.

One team participating to VRC concentrated on the development of a “Crowd responder” risk management platform utilizing blockchain technology which aims to be available for everyone by 2020. Another team “CADE technology” ideated and found out the commercialization opportunities of early dental caries with spectroscopic detection device.

Among many great ideas the jury selected as winners the two teams working on simple smart sensors, and ask the teams to join their forces. The winners´ idea is based on NFC technology, and includes a small sensor platform and smartphone applications. By including different sensors, the solutions can be used to detect for example allergens or pathogens in the air or in the water. The prize, two startup passes for Slush, provided by Business Oulu, enables the team to take their idea to the next level.

“We´re relieved, happy and proud. This is a good starting point for applying funding for the idea - or ideas”, researcher Christian Schuss said.

But the jury wanted to reward also two other teams. iPoint team will continue discussions with investors from Butterfly Ventures and Centre for Health and Technology will mentor and support the CADE technology team.

And how did the students from the University of Oulu and Oulu University of Applied Sciences experienced the bootcamp? For Soila Hietala, member of the winning team, it is easy to smile.  She studies environmental engineering and according to her own words comes from outside what comes to the research idea. “This has been a new experience for me, and I´ve learned a lot”, she said. Thao Pham studies accounting and participated as iPoint team member. “It has been awesome! If I´ve earlier been shy in bringing out my ideas I´ve now gained competence to bring out my ideas fearlessly”, Pham said.

Venturing Research Challenge was organized for the second time by Business Kitchen, Tellus Innovation Arena and Centre for Health and Technology. The first VRC was organized in October 2016. “We think this concept is worth of continuing. One of the teams from the first VRC continued in Avanto Accelerator and they are now starting a company. We´re excited to see where the teams of VRC 2 end up,“ Anne Sorvari, Head of Avanto Accelerator program at Business Kitchen and one of the organizers of Venturing Research Challenge said.

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Last updated: 15.5.2017