VTT hosted a Hackathon to find new Bioeconomy Solutions

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is exploring different ways in which to collaborate and innovate with its industrial partners, and the society as a whole. VTT hosted the #HackTheWaste hackathon where ten teams hacked challenges provided by VTT’s partners Valio, Helen and Lassila & Tikanoja. 

The hackathon challenges where related to the creating value from cow manure (Valio), value from power generation sidestreams (Helen) and creating a marketplace for woodchips waste (Lassila & Tikanoja).

The winning concept – combining fungi and wood chips to create new add-value products

The winning team, Mushroom Power, created a new concept for using wood chips. The mushroom team demonstrated how the combination of wood chips and fungus could be refined cost-effectively to a multifunctional material that can be used for manufacturing furniture and other objects. Potentially the idea multiplies the value of wood chip residue.

Lassila & Tikanoja, a Finnish recycling company, which handles wooden waste and grinds them into woodchips found the winning concept very interesting. From the hackathon Lassila & Tikanoja was searching for new ways to use these residuals that are currently burnt and used in energy production.

The Mushroom Power team members have worked also before with fungus and they believe that fungus can provide a wide range of different organic solutions.

The hackathon concept creates new partnerships and business ideas  

The initial concept was created around the idea of industrial partners opening up some of their challenges to be “hacked” related to digitalisation of the bioeconomy in different parts of the value chain.

The process started with a call for challenges that VTT organised. Then the received proposals, most of which were related to management of waste and logistics, were evaluated and three challenges were opened for solving. Each hackathon team’s idea, skills and knowhow were carefully evaluated and in the end ten teams were chosen to hack the challenges in a two-day event. The teams were also invited to field visits to partner companies for a pre-hack debrief.

At the hackathon event the teams where supported by mentors and experts, who shared their knowhow and thoughts with the teams and helped to improve some of the ideas.

After the event the teams had a couple of weeks to make detailed pitches and presentations of their solutions to company-specific juries. The winning team was awarded with 3,000 euros prize money, featured on Wall Street and given a chance to pitch for 10,000 euros at Slush 2016.

The innovation journey continues

Work on the co-created solutions at the hackathon continues together with the partner companies Valio, Helen and Lassila & Tikanoja. In some cases the chosen teams from the detailed company-specific pitching round have continued development and piloting of their solutions with the partner companies. In those cases where solutions were not viable, the partner companies have arranged meetings between the teams and other companies where the solutions may have impact. The innovation journey continues.

The hackathon was overall a success – it demonstrated new ways of working and of finding innovative solutions to challenging problems. Both VTT and the industrial partners also found the hackathon to be a great learning experience and an efficient mechanism for co-creating new concepts with business potential.

 

Additional information: 

Sami Kazi, Senior Principal Scientist at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd.

Email sami.kazi@vtt.fi, phone +358 40 773 6661

 

Photo: Pekka Pelkonen

Published Feb 20, 2017