The Campus Incubators programme supports research-based entrepreneurship

The Campus Incubators programme carried out by the City of Helsinki and higher education institutions in the Helsinki region has resulted in the establishment of several growth-seeking companies in Helsinki. The objectives of the programme include increasing the number and quality of startups and supporting R&D&I-based business. The programme increases the growth potential of new companies and strengthens the development of higher education campuses in the region into hubs of innovation and entrepreneurship.
The incubator programmes supported by the City have resulted in the establishment of some high-quality companies, the best which have found growth in Helsinki’s already established and dynamic startup scene.  Photo: Jussi Hellsten
The incubator programmes supported by the City have resulted in the establishment of some high-quality companies, the best which have found growth in Helsinki’s already established and dynamic startup scene. Photo: Jussi Hellsten

Partnering with higher education institutions to generate sustainable business

The City of Helsinki supports business that, if successful, tackles globally shared challenges in a sustainable manner. Growth from a business idea to a successful company is supported through multidisciplinary cooperation with higher education institutions in the region, taking into account the special expertise of individual campuses. The supported business ideas can focus on promoting well-being and health, sustainable mobility and housing or utilising AI in an innovative way, for example.

A business idea based on an innovation born of research provides a good foundation for successful business that provides significant added value both financially and socially. The Campus Incubators programme is one possible avenue through which research-based ideas can receive the coaching that they need.  

– Research-based companies need long-term support in their development phase. By focusing on this, the City can significantly improve the preconditions for success, growth opportunities and, ultimately, the effectiveness of companies’ operations, says Head of the Business Environment Unit Heidi Humala.

Business Finland supports innovation

Incubator activities develop participants' business and funding potential, with Business Finland's financial services being only one of the options available on the business idea commercialisation path.

The commercialisation of product and service ideas born of the research carried out by public research organisations and the creation of new business is supported with Research to Business funding.

The Campus Incubators programme has increased the attractiveness of entrepreneurship at the partner universities, inspiring several researchers to look into the commercialisation potential of their research. Interesting examples of the recipients of Research to Business funding include the Bubbles with Benefits project launched at Aalto University and the ReLIGHT project from the University of Helsinki’s NEXUS incubator programme.

Bubbles with Benefits

Increasing plastic waste is a major, global problem that harms aquatic organisms in particular when plastic ends up in water bodies. One of the innovations with which the Bubbles with Benefits project aims to tackle this problem is a cellulose-based and biodegradable bubble wrap replacement. This innovation is a completely wood-based material that can replace plastic-based bubble wrap in packaging.

Bubbles with Benefits is a genuinely multidisciplinary Aalto project, combining biochemistry and design. Satu Paavonsalo and Valentin Schwarz, who met in Aalto’s CHEMARTS programme, developed their idea into a product innovation at the Aalto Digital Creatives incubator. Bubbles with Benefits has been awarded by the Finnish Forest Products Engineers' Association and Finnish Forest Industries.

– The Aalto Digital Creatives incubator programme launched jointly by Aalto and the City of Helsinki has succeeded in creating a new kind of entrepreneurship path at the School of Arts, Design and Architecture. The programme has included participants from all of the school’s departments, from bachelor all the way to doctoral level, even professors. In addition to startups, one of the most notable achievements of the programme is the fact that it has given rise to the first projects to embark on the Research to Business funding path at the School of Arts, Design and Architecture. Alumni and other representatives of creative industries have been included in the programme through Art & Tech Open Call demo projects. The programme has expanded incubator and startup cooperation not only to the School of Arts, Design and Architecture and Metropolia, but also creative industry incubators in the Baltic countries and Sweden, says the Dean of Aalto University’s School of Arts, Design and Architecture Tuomas Auvinen.


ReLIGHT is developing technology that reduces the need to use precious metals in hydrogen production. The innovation is based on catalyst technology that enables the production of low-emission and renewable hydrogen. ReLIGHT’s innovation solves several problems currently preventing the large-scale deployment of green hydrogen, as a result of which the project boasts excellent potential for business growth and making an impact on the sector. The innovation is based on basic research in the field of chemistry carried out by the team at the Kumpula campus of the University of Helsinki.

ReLIGHT has received two-year Research to Business funding from Business Finland to develop the necessary technology. The funding makes it possible to start the commercialisation of the innovation.

– Universities have a great deal of untapped and underutilised potential to create new research-based growth-seeking companies and new economic growth. The incubator activities launched with the City of Helsinki, our strategic partner, support the researchers and students of University of Helsinki who want to create entrepreneurship-based solutions to real problems and increase the effectiveness of their research. At the same time, incubators and pre-incubators allow members of the university community to develop new working life skills suitable for the contemporary business environment and to expand their employment opportunities. Without these activities supported by the City, many ideas with considerable innovation potential might end up remaining dormant at the university. In the 18 months since they were launched, the activities have already produced many excellent results, such as ReLIGHT, and attracted interest from a large number of business and other partners, says Director of Innovations and Innovation Ecosystems Santtu von Bruun from the University of Helsinki.

The City of Helsinki serves as an active developer partner

The City of Helsinki’s aim is to strengthen Helsinki's position as one of the best innovation environments, startup hubs and cradles of new business in Europe. The incubator programmes supported by the City have resulted in the establishment of some high-quality companies, the best which have found growth in Helsinki’s already established and dynamic startup scene. The resulting new services and growing network also provide the region with a wealth of opportunities for attracting international talent and building international partnerships.

– The Campus Incubators programme has created new and clearer service paths at universities with the aim of creating new companies in Helsinki. Our goal is to get more people interested in entrepreneurship as a career option and to provide everyone interested in it with the support that they need to move forward with their own business ideas, says the programme’s Project Manager Jussi Laine.


The Campus Incubators programme will run from 2021–2024. The programme develops pre-incubator and incubator activities at university campuses in Helsinki. The City's aim is to work with universities to create services that will continue beyond 2024. There are currently seven higher education institutions involved in the programme (Aalto University, Arcada University of Applied Sciences, Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, Hanken School of Economics, the University of Helsinki, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and Uniarts Helsinki), each contributing their own strengths and expertise to the programme.