The press release and winners 2018


A new method for more cost-efficient production of nanocellulose, the super material of the future, was awarded as the best idea in the Joensuu Science Park´s Start Me Up business idea competition

Each year, Joensuu Science Park organises the Start Me Up business idea competition, and this year the main prize of EUR 20,000 was awarded to an innovation that has its roots in Joensuu and its vision on making the production of nanocellulose more affordable. The father of the idea is Antti Haapala, Assistant Professor in Forest Sciences at the University of Eastern Finland, who has teamed up with Arnau Martorell Sala, Master Student in wood material sciences, in the practical testing process.

The biggest prize in the Arcusys-sponsored World of Digitalisation category, namely EUR 4,000 of the whole prize sum of EUR 10,000, was awarded to the travel expense application Tripper, developed by the Joensuu-natives Jarkko and Juhani Tolvanen. The application uses artificial intelligence to facilitate the claiming of travel expenses.

Two prizes, worth EUR 2,500 each, were awarded in the student category. The first prize-winning idea was the SmartLoota application, created by students Tapio Tiimonen, Lasse Leppänen and Janne Heikkinen from the University of Eastern Finland and Kristina Solvoyva from Karelia University of Applied Sciences, which combines an online flee market and a physical trading place.

The second prize was awarded to Riveria business economy students Joona Räty, Atso Jaakkola and Niko Meriläinen for their application that gathers in one place events and projects from outside an educational institution, which can be used to complement vocational studies.

The title of best business idea originating in research, along with the EUR 5,000 prize, was awarded to the NeuroTracking procedure, aimed at boosting the treatment of patients with Parkinson´s disease with the help of smart technology.

Winners in the Start Me Up business idea competition in 2018:

First prize of EUR 20,000 and the strong patent application of EUR 4,900 sponsored by Leitzinger Oy
“New pre-treatment method for the fabrication of nanocellulose.´ – Antti Haapala, Arnau Martorell Sala

World of Digitalisation sponsored by Arcusys, I prize EUR 4,000:
“Tripper: Smart travel expense and receipt application´ – Jarkko Tolvanen, Juhani Tolvanen

World of Digitalisation sponsored by Arcusys, II prize EUR 3,000:
“New, cost effective drug production for pharma´ – Kornelia Mikula, Jani Kuula

World of Digitalisation sponsored by Arcusys, II prize EUR 3,000:
“´ – Eugene Lopatin, Anna Lopatina, Evgeniy Kuzminskiy

Student prize EUR 2,500:
“SmartLoota´ – Tapio Tiimonen, Lasse Leppänen, Janne Heikkinen, Kristina Solvoyva

Student prize EUR 2,500:
Ohjas Ny – Joona Räty, Atso Jaakkola, Niko Meriläinen

Business Idea Originating in Research prize EUR 5,000:
“NeuroTracking - For improving the quality of life with Parkinson's disease´ – Pauli Turunen, Saara Rissanen

Brainstorm Idea prize EUR 2,000:
“Tapsu´ – Jouni Lintu

Finnish Enterprise Agency prize EUR 1,000:
“Kyvykäs - market place for services´ – Sakari Tolppanen, Mitja Piipponen, Janne Eerola, Heli Eerola, Teemu Meriläinen

Finnish Enterprise Agency prize EUR 1,000:
Grades 7 to 9 of Lieksa Central School, entrepreneurship class – Student counsellor Amanda Honkanen, class teacher Elina Kinnunen

Legal services worth EUR 1,500, sponsored by Attorneys at Law Surakka Oy
“Device and procedure for measuring and recording medical dosages´ – Kari Leinonen, Eero Salin

An astounding number of ideas and hard work for the judges

Business Coach Kari Pulkkinen from Joensuu Science Park is very happy with the ideas submitted to the competition.

– We received a great number of ideas this year. The competition was now organised for the 17th time, and the number of ideas has been established at around 200. This time we received a whopping 235 different potential ideas, out of which little over 60 were chosen for more thorough examination.

The panel of judges interviewed the pitchers of 17 ideas, and the winners were then chosen from this group.

– Of course such a massive number of ideas includes a great many others to be taken forward. We start refining them in the business incubator in June, when we organise sparring events and help turning as many ideas as possible into business, provided that the participants themselves are willing to do what it takes, explains Pulkkinen.

Almost a hundred ideas came from other parts of Finland.

– Along the years, this has become a more and more national competition, and it is great that the competition receives attention also outside North Karelia. However, the first prize must be used for further development of the idea in North Karelia, and the majority of the ideas are in any case of local origin.

Furthermore, the local institutions were delightfully on display, as their representatives submitted dozens of ideas for the student prize category.

Investments made on prizes and piloting this year

This year, the combined monetary value of the prizes came up to EUR 90,000. The partners of Joensuu Science Park have played a significant part in the accumulation of the prize money. Arcusys sponsored the prize sum for its own World of Digitalisation prize category, Attorneys at Law Surakka Oy offers legal services for EUR 1,500, and Leitzinger Oy supports patenting with EUR 4,900.

One of this year´s objectives of the Start Me Up business idea competition was finding business ideas related to the circular economy, for which product development can be accelerated through piloting. One third of the entire prize sum, i.e. EUR 33,500, has been reserved for piloting.

– We received plenty of ideas related to the circular economy, and already when the participants were pitching their ideas they were asked if they want to be involved in piloting and what kind of piloting would benefit them the most. Based on the answers, we will start investigating different pilot opportunities for the ideas already in May, says Pulkkinen.

Award ceremony

The award ceremony will be held on Wednesday 9 May at 15:30 at Joensuu Science Park. More detailed location: netWork Oasis, Temple of Challenge (building 3A, 4th floor), Länsikatu 15, Joensuu. Pitch Me Up sales pitch competition will be held just before the award ceremony, and the audience will get to choose three best short sales pitches.

For more information:

Joensuu Science Park Ltd
Kari Pulkkinen, tel. +358 50 406 8716,
Timo Ruohio, tel. +358 50 597 4330,
Ilpo Pohjola, tel. +358 400 182 700,


First prize:

A new method for more cost-efficient production of nanocellulose, the super material of the future

In the future, an increasing amount of materials used for packaging, insulation, chemicals, membranes, foams and electronic components will be based on cellulose derivatives of different sizes. Boosting the production of the smallest derivatives, i.e. nanocellulose materials, is the foundation for the winning business idea of Antti Haapala, Assistant Professor in Forest Sciences from Joensuu.

In essence, there are unlimited ways of using nanocellulose, and as a renewable material it would be one solution for the world´s plastic problem; however, the production of nanocellulose is, at the moment, expensive and the volumes are small. There is a huge demand for inexpensive nanocellulose solutions. Therefore, Haapala´s innovation is aimed at making the production process of wood-based nanocellulose quicker and more energy-efficient, and, as a result, improving the capacity and profitability of production lines. As a by-product of the production ramp-up it was discovered that the innovation also improves the quality of the end product.

Nano-level solution

– The idea in all its simplicity is to make the production of nanocellulose less expensive, quicker and more efficient. The procedure of doing this involves rather complex technical and chemical aspects, but luckily the implementation is relatively easy. As the idea has not yet been patented, unfortunately we cannot disclose any details as of yet, says Haapala.

Wood-based cellulose is familiar to Finns especially from the paper industry, and nanocellulose is derived from this “regular´ cellulose by chopping it down to substantially smaller particles. In relation to weight, nanocellulose is even more durable than synthetic Kevlar fibre used in the manufacturing of e.g. bullet-proof vests. Therefore, one application for nanocellulose consists of manufacturing light and durable, yet biodegradable materials.

– Different nanocellulose versions have been developed for as long as twenty years, and some functional solutions have been discovered. However, these have never been fully commercialised, mainly due to the substantial costs of the manufacturing processes, explains Haapala.

Brainstorming while fishing and through co-operation

– Just like almost all good ideas, this one initially came to me when I was angling a couple of years ago. In addition, I do have several years of experience in the paper and pulp industry and the manufacturing of nanocellulose. Also my long-term co-operation with Professor Henrikki Liimatainen´s research group in the University of Oulu and Valmet Automation´s specialists Tuomo Kälkäjä, Joni Hattuniemi and Tommi Niskanen has been essential in the testing of the idea. Direct and immediate feedback is important for a researcher.

Since then, the functionality of the idea has been certified at the university in laboratory conditions with low production volumes. The Master´s Degree Programme in Wood Materials Science, launched in the School of Forest Sciences at the University of Eastern Finland, has served as a good “incubator´ for the idea, and one of the students, Spanish-born Arnau Martorell Sala, has been a big help in the testing of the idea. Indeed, Haapala deems it important for the idea that the university has been supportive during the preliminary research work, and is invested in the research of wood products and produces in a more extensive scale.

– The next step is finding the limits for efficiency and applicability, planning the further upscaling of the process, and focusing on protecting the core features. After that there will surely be some scientific papers to write.

From the point of view of further development, the winning prize of EUR 20,000 and the patenting support of EUR 4,900 from Leitzinger Oy certainly come in handy, even though the first place did come as a positive surprise.

– The initial reaction was of course surprise! The prize enables further development with a view to commercialising the idea, and is sure to speed up the establishing of required partnerships. The patent support is also a very welcome addition, as our team lacks the special skills needed to apply for patents, and the idea cannot be taken forward without sorting out the IPR matters. We are sure to gain some welcome knowledge for the commercialisation of the research results!

For more information:
Antti Haapala, tel. +358 44 520 2849,
Arnau Martorell Sala,

World of Digitalisation, sponsored by Arcusys

Easy as claiming travel expenses

The first prize in the World of Digitalisation category sponsored by Arcusys was awarded to Tripper, the innovative travel expense application created by brothers Jarkko and Juhani Tolvanen, who originally come from Joensuu and are currently residing in Tampere. Tripper received EUR 4,000 of the entire prize sum of EUR 10,000 in the category.

– Tripper is an artificial intelligence-based application, which creates travel receipts automatically and eliminates the need for writing completely. As a result, the claiming of travel costs, daily allowances and kilometre reimbursement is facilitated significantly, explains Jarkko Tolvanen.

In practice, the application calculates travel expenses automatically based on calendar entries. Attachments are added using the camera of a mobile phone, and the efficient computer vision scans the contents of the receipt and records the data on behalf of the user. The application is compatible with most accounting software solutions, and it offers finished data for accounting.

From travel expenses to other processes and to the world

The idea for Tripper initially originated from entrepreneurial activities: the two brothers, both Masters of Science in Technology, had been working six years with corporate management consultation. In their work they had been forced to think about issues such as who manages accounting and how it could be made as automated as possible.

– Our goal is to make it easier to run an enterprise by reducing the amount of unproductive work. In practice, we teach the artificial intelligence to perform the accounting tasks, which saves the time of the accountant, entrepreneur and employee alike, explains Jarkko Tolvanen.

At the moment, the beta version of Tripper is available in app stores, and positive feedback has been received from approximately 500–600 users.

– We have been told that this is exactly the kind of app the users have been looking for.

During the upcoming months, the brothers Tolvanen are aiming at finishing up the beta version, and once that is done, they are determined to enter the Nordic market and continue to Central Europe. The prize money will be used to prepare for the internationalisation process.

– In the future, we are going to develop Tripper further to cover also other accounting processes in addition to travel expenses. We are constantly looking for investors, so that we can introduce this service to the world big time.

For more information:
Jarkko Tolvanen, tel. +358 50 521 9152,
Juhani Tolvanen, tel. +358 50 593 4915,

Student prize

Two prizes, worth EUR 2,500 each, were awarded in the student category.

The first prize-winning idea was the SmartLoota app, created by students from the University of Eastern Finland and Karelia University of Applied Sciences, which combines an online flee market and a physical trading place.

Selling second-hand items made easy

Many have certainly agonised over the selling of used goods, wondering whether to take them to a physical flea market or to sell them online. The SmartLoota application, awarded in the student prize category, combines the best features of both alternatives: the items are sold online and picked up from a physical trading venue, which uses modern technology to communicate product features to the buyers. More detailed information is not disclosed of the idea until the service is ready to be launched.

The idea has been developed by a multidisciplinary team. Computing student Tapio Tiimonen, physics student Janne Heikkinen and physics graduate Lasse Leppänen from the University of Eastern Finland, and Kristina Solvoyva, who has graduated as a designer from Karelia University of Applied Sciences, invented the idea when they participated in the Joensuu design workshop´s hackathon event, where teams generate solutions for different problems.

– All these fields are aimed at discovering different technical solutions or services for people to use, so in a way generating new ideas is a basic feature in our studies and future occupations.

Lengthening the lifecycle of products and incorporating circular economy are also essential themes.

– Of course, there is the underlying grand objective of “serving the mankind´, when we consider our use of natural resources and how our current lifestyle is burdening the Earth.

Erasing the line between physical and digital

The operation of SmartLoota is based on sales points placed in public facilities, which can then be booked via the application and used to place items for sale in exchange for a small renting fee. Buyers can look for products either in sales points or online, and once they have found what they are looking for, they can reserve the items and pay for them online and then pick them up at the sales point.

Prototypes have been built of the innovative sales locales, but there is still development work to be done and partners to be found before the product is ready to be introduced in Finland and in the rest of the world. The team is planning to enter the international market, especially since the team already is international by nature, thanks to the Russian-born Solvoyva.

– It is great that the Start Me Up competition has a student category, where teams with a student background are awarded. This makes it possible to apply the business idea in studies and make course selections accordingly, and when it is time to graduate, the idea can be taken forward with full speed, Tiimonen sums up.

For more information:
Tapio Tiimonen, tel. +358 50 523 0865,
Lasse Leppänen, tel. +358 40 778 8719
Kristina Solvoyva, tel. +358 41 362 4554
Janne Heikkinen, tel. +358 50 430 1811

Student prize

The second prize of EUR 2,500 in the student prize category was awarded to Riveria business economy students Joona Räty, Atso Jaakkola and Niko Meriläinen for their application, which gathers in one place events and projects that can be used to complement vocational studies.

Complementing vocational education from outside the educational institution – but where?

This question was encountered also by the second year business economy students Joona Räty, Atso Jaakkola and Niko Meriläinen from Riveria, when they were searching for different commercial events to prepare themselves for the Taitaja skills competition. There are several training opportunities, events and even business idea competitions such as Start Me Up organised for students, who can include them in their degrees, but information concerning these events is scattered in various different sources.

– Just recently we heard of a sales training event fifteen minutes before the event started, and we barely made it there. This is why we are developing a website/mobile app that gathers all courses and events organised for students in one place. It feels great to hear that even professionals see a business idea in our app, even though we first started developing it simply for learning purposes, Räty rejoices.

Räty explains that the reform of vocational upper secondary education that entered into force in 2017 impacts studies, so that, for example, education or work experience gained outside the educational institution can be more flexibly included in the degree.

Valuable lessons for the future

The three students realised that they were not alone with their problem.

– We conducted a survey among our fellow students, asking them if they had heard of events such as Uskalla yrittää, InnoDay, Draft and Gaming Jam that are aimed at students. Of all the respondents, 69 per cent had not heard of the events, but 75 per cent would have liked to participate if the events accumulated study points, so obviously there is demand for such an information site.

As a result, the idea is gradually being shaped into a demo version, and the prize money is well needed in the development process. The objective is to find partners and get the site running by autumn.

The three students will be participating in the Entrepreneurship series final in the Taitaja skills competition in mid-May, and developing the idea has also served as preparation for the competition.

– We will participate in the Pitch Me Up sales pitch competition as well, because it, too, is good practice for the Taitaja finals, and important for the development of a business idea, says Räty.

For more information:
Ohjas Ny:
Joona Räty, tel. +358 45 871 3771,
Atso Jaakkola, tel. +358 45 325 1164
Niko Meriläinen, tel. +358 44 297 7777

Business Idea Originating in Research

Smart technology to help patients with Parkinson´s disease

There are approximately 10 million Parkinson´s patients in the world, the majority of whom are experiencing a variety of motor symptoms such as resting tremor, muscular rigidity or involuntary muscle movements. The disease is incurable, but the efficiency of treatment can be improved with the help of the Kuopio-based innovation NeuroTracking, which was awarded EUR 5,000 for the best business idea originating in research.

– The NeuroTracking procedure measures the electrical muscle activity and motion with the help of wearable technology. We are the first to develop functional algorithms to analyse the electrical muscle functions. The analysis software processes the measured data and refines it into usable information, explains Pauli Turunen.
The measurements take 1–2 days and the method also allows for remote measuring via the internet. In practice, the electrodes are placed on the skin for the measurement period and the patients can then remove them themselves, so the system is user-friendly.

Strong background in research and benefits for many

International research on this technology has been carried out for over 10 years, and clinical trials are currently being conducted in the University Hospitals of Kuopio and Helsinki. The team behind this idea works at the Department of Applied Physics at the University of Eastern Finland in the field of medical physics – to be precise, in the research group of Biomedical Signal Analysis and medical imaging.

Postdoctoral Researcher Saara Rissanen is responsible for developing the algorithms and has been involved in the research since the beginning. Professor Pasi Karjalainen is a specialist in sensor technology, whereas Turunen is in charge of business and commercialisation.

If commercialised, the innovation would help physicians in assessing the treatment of patients: at the moment it is challenging to balance a patient´s medicational needs simply by means of external evaluations or based on the patient´s subjective experiences.

Starting from drug studies

Hospitals and developers in the field of pharmaceuticals will also benefit from the more detailed data on the effects of medication that the NeuroTracking system provides.
– Therefore it is easiest for us to start commercialisation from drug trials in the field of pharmacy. The aim is to make NeuroTracking available also for public healthcare in the next few years. Within our possibilities, we will also map out possible ways of using this technology to alleviate the symptoms of other diseases.

At the moment, the project is being supported by Business Finland and the University of Eastern Finland, investors are being sought out, and the aim is to launch the technology for more extensive use in January 2019. Succeeding in the Start Me Up competition is an important recognition.

– This is an extremely important reference for us, and it proves that there are others who believe in the idea besides us. It is great to see that Eastern Finland has a unique “health ecosystem´, where operators in the same field work in close collaboration and benefit each other, rejoices Turunen.

For more information:
Pauli Turunen, tel. +358 50 352 4500,
Saara Rissanen, tel. +358 50 349 7749
Pasi Karjalainen, tel. +358 40 550 4347