Give your vote for wood – Helsinki Challenge looks for solutions to the world’s problems

5.6.2017 / Article
The Ioncell team represents Finnish forest expertise in the science-based idea competition Helsinki Challenge. Photo: Ioncell
The Ioncell team represents Finnish forest expertise in the science-based idea competition Helsinki Challenge. Photo: Ioncell

Which solutions will contribute to the sustainable development of the world? The Helsinki Challenge calls for new ideas and gives everyone the opportunity to vote for the best idea on 6 and 7 June.

Twenty semi-finalist teams propose to solve challenges related to the UN’s sustainable development goals in the science-based idea competition organized by the Finnish universities. Two of the teams advocate wood-based solutions: a textile fibre and an animal feed.

The researcher-led teams strive to convince their audience of the usefulness of their own innovation with five-minute pitches on 6 and 7 June.

The audience favourite will proceed straight to the Helsinki Challenge finals, while the other six finalist teams will be selected by a jury. The winner of the competition will be announced in November.

One of the semi-final teams, Team Ioncell, presents an innovative textile fibre, manufactured by Stora Enso’s Enocell mill. The fibre has already been used in a dress by the Finnish fashion brand Marimekko.

As a raw material, Ioncell is much more environmentally friendly than cotton, oil-based fibres or traditional viscose, compared to which it uses a great deal less water, energy and chemicals.

Added value for Finnish wood

The main prize of the Helsinki Challenge is € 375,000. According to Sirpa Välimaa, Technical Customer Service Manager at Stora Enso, Team Ioncell would use the prize money to improve the recycling of chemicals in the fibre process, which is currently the greatest challenge in commercializing the invention.

“We feel Ioncell should win because the world is drowning in textile waste. Ioncell can offer a fully traceable value chain from the Finnish forest to the final garment, and it adds to the value of Finnish wood,” says Välimaa.

“The strength of our team is the passion shared by the whole textile value chain from the Aalto and Helsinki universities to Stora Enso and Marimekko. We believe that our small team is able to change the global fashion world.”

In addition to Ioncell, another wood-based solution competes for the votes in the Helsinki Challenge. Team Pro Fibers has developed a method called AaltoCell for producing a wood-based biomass to be mixed with animal feed.

The AaltoCell mass is natural and rich in fibres and can be produced in Finnish pulp mills. The team says that using forest biomass in animal feed helps save forests as they need not be clear-cut for farming.

The semi-finals of the Helsinki Challenge are open to the public and can also be followed live on the net. You can vote for your own favourite with a text message.

Helsinki Challenge Semifinal Pitch Nights and voting instructions Wood-based textiles are being developed in several Finnish projects ‒ huge market potential is in sight


Anna Kauppi

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