Katri Saarikivi: “All innovations are based on new understanding of the world.”
Researchers brought science into the spotlight at last year’s Slush. This winter you should too. Here’s why.
Text: Kristiina Markkanen, photo: Vilja Pursiainen
Startup entrepreneurs take a lot of risks, work like crazy and sleep too little. But above all, they are so passionate about their ideas they can hardly contain themselves. All of this applies also to another specific group of people: researchers, states Katri Saarikivi, cognitive brain researcher from the University of Helsinki.
In 2015, science met startups for the first time at Slush. Ten finalists took the stage at Slush Science Pitching competition and presented their research ideas in three minutes to an audience of startup oriented conference guests and an unwavering jury. One of the researchers in the spotlight was Saarikivi herself.
”I talk about science a lot because I think it belongs to everyone.”
“I talk about science a lot because I think it belongs to everyone. Scientists generate huge amounts of information that could have value in the business world. All innovations and exciting new things are in one way or another based on new understanding of the world”, she says.
Saarikivi leads the multidisciplinary project NEMO that concentrates on enabling more empathy in digital interaction. The team is investigating ways to improve the quality of interaction in digital environments. Although Saarikivi’s pitch didn’t win the Slush contest, she definitely didn’t finish 2015 empty handed. NEMO won last year’s Helsinki Challenge, a year long science based idea competition. From there her team received 250 000 euros of research funding.
Researcher, don’t let the hype freak you out
Compared to conventional conferences Slush is like the energetic and slightly over-zealous second cousin that’s always on the move. According to Saarikivi there was something almost religious about the event with all its impressive keynote speakers and panel discussions.
“There's much more hype at Slush in comparison to a traditional research conference. But what brings the two together are the tangible excitement and passion. At Slush you could definitely feel that. People are interested in what you do and want to have conversations with you”, she recalls.
”I hope there were more opportunities for researchers and entrepreneurs to interact together.”
That was apparent from the moment the Science Pitching was over. Saarikivi was instantly approached by like-minded people who were convinced by her pitch. Although these encounters didn’t lead to further collaboration, they gave food for thought.
“I hope there were more opportunities for researchers and entrepreneurs to interact together both in general and at Slush. Those kinds of meetings of the minds could lead to interesting business ideas as well as research ideas that probably wouldn’t come up otherwise.”
Science Pitching can turn your idea into action
All in all Saarikivi thought Slush was a great event to see. It was useful to find out what investors or other potential collaborators are on the hunt for and what sort of questions the jury asks about the research. This sort of know-how can come in handy in the future when trying to find partners for projects that emphasize collaboration outside the academia.
“If you’re a researcher and you have a concrete idea for a product or an application, you should definitely participate in the Science Pitching event. This is also an important opportunity to reveal your own passions and show why scientific discovery takes humanity forward”, Saarikivi says.
You have three minutes. Are you ready?
Read more about the Slush Science Track here.
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