Slush 2021 helps members of FoMSci to connect with potential investors

In early December 2021, several members of FoMSci participated in Slush 2021. The “world’s leading startup event” was held at the Helsinki Expo and Convention Centre. Slush 2021 gathered 8800 attendees from all over the world with diverse backgrounds, from highly prominent founders and investors to researchers, companies, media, executives, operators, and other talents.

The atmosphere in Slush was very unique compared to other typical conference events. Different colours of lighting with fog filled the air, giving a feeling of being inside a techno-club rather than a conference. The opening ceremony started on the morning of 1st December, a DJ playing techno music with multiple lighting effects and projections on huge screens across the venue. There were four big stages with different talks occurring simultaneously, multiple side events and the surrounding space was filled by booths from different global startups, companies, research centres and universities. Besides, plenty of closed and open-spaced meeting rooms were available for all attendees. This gave the attendees many choices on how to make full use of their time.

Several members of FoMSci who were funded by Business Finland under Research to Business (R2B) projects at different commercialisation stages were invited to attend Slush 2021 by Helsinki Innovation Services (HIS). We were joined by 14 other University of Helsinki’s science-based innovation projects in a specially designed space. Each of our projects was given a table equipped with an iPad to present our innovation to visitors and potential investors. During the two days event, our booths were swamped by many visitors interested in our innovations. This supported our belief about the importance of our innovations for the world’s future. The most notable visitors included the Minister of Science and Education, Antti Kurvinen, and ex-Deputy Prime Minister of Finland, Antti Petteri Orpo. We also maximised the opportunity to meet promising investors from all over the world. “It was an eye-opening experience to interact with investors, learning the important points that they are looking for, and their insights on our innovation”, said Anis Arzami, FoMSci postdoctoral researcher representing FreshTech in Slush 2021.

Here are the project summaries of FoMSci members who attended the event.

  1. OleoFlow: Ari Salmi, Fabio Valoppi and Anton Nolvi. Re-engineering fat to make tasty foods finally healthy. Often tasty foods are unsustainable and most often full of fat and sugar, which can cause weight gain and obesity. OleoFlow offers a solution for consumers to enjoy tasty food without the need to change their diet, by using oleogels which replace unhealthy fat. OleoFlow technology can be functionalised to suit all types of foods and give the consumers a satiety feeling. Besides helping consumers to eat less, OleoFlow is free from chemical modification, easily customisable, sustainable, and vegan. OleoFlow was also showcased at the Slush 2021 side event, Y-Science and the final pitch was presented by Fabio Valoppi.
  2. FreshTech: Anis Arzami and Kirsi Mikkonen. A new innovative packaging technology to reduce the waste of fresh produce. The ripening of fresh vegetables, fruits and berries can be delayed by using FreshTech technology. FreshTech offers a solution to preserve the taste and nutritional quality of fresh produce more effectively compared to currently available packaging solutions. The concept of this technology is based on the controlled production and continuous release of hexanal into the packaging container using a recyclable bio-based, food-grade matrix. The hexanal released from the matrix can maintain the freshness of the produce and inhibits microbial spoilage.
  3. MyShroom: Jutta Varis, Minna Isotupa, Marko Saapunki, Kirsi Mikkonen and Pauliina Lankinen. Mycoprotein as substitutes for animal protein in food. Current meat substitutes available on the market are heavily processed with a long list of ingredients to mask the off-flavours from plant proteins. MyShroom offers a healthier and tastier alternative for current meat substitutes by using mycoprotein, which is a high-quality protein, cheap, sustainable and can be conveniently used by the food industry. MyShroom is suitable for sandwich toppings and as a material to develop other food products.

We had a really nice time at Slush 2021, and we exchanged many interesting ideas with the visitors, not just for the benefit of our current science-based innovation projects, but also for future collaboration opportunities. We received a lot of valuable comments on how to improve our products and how to proceed further to realise our ambition of a start-up company. Overall, being in Slush is a remarkable experience and we wish to attend the event again next year and for years to come.

Special appreciation to HIS for giving us this wonderful opportunity and for coordinating the preparation of the event.

Just PhDone

On November 25th, FoMSci group member Mamata Bhattarai defended her doctoral dissertation entitled “Associative behavior of spruce galactoglucomannans in aqueous solutions and emulsions” in the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, University of Helsinki. Wood galactoglucomannans or spruce gum are hemicelluloses that are available as side-streams of forest industries. Mamata studied their solubility in water and their performance as emulsion stabilisers, to potentially be used in industries including food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetics. Her work provides essential information to improve sustainability within the forestry industry by adding value to treasured wood resources that are otherwise wasted.

We enjoyed a lively discussion between Mamata and her opponent Professor Francisco M. Goycoolea from School of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Leeds. After the defense, we celebrated Mamata’s excellent work with a toast and lighting up our Spruce of the Future.

The whole FoMSci group congratulates Mamata for her great work and excellent defense! You can find her research work here. Her work was also featured by Helsinki University press, link here.

Who wants to be (ERC) millionaire?

The FoMSci group leader, Kirsi Mikkonen, received the prestigious and extremely competitive European Research Council Consolidator Grant (ERC-CoG) for her innovative and challenging project entitled: “Green Route to Wood-Derived Janus Particles for Stabilized Interfaces – PARTIFACE”. The project is about developing a novel type of Janus particles, that are bi-facial particles where the two “faces” of the particle have opposite properties. Imagine an apple, half red and sweet and half green and sour, that is a Janus apple! Kirsi will develop these new particles using renewable resources. Kirsi’s Janus particles will be able to stabilize emulsions from a physical and chemical perspective, meaning that the emulsions will look and smell the same even after months of storage.

The splendid news came in a very cryptic email from the Council. “I got the ERC grant” Kirsi said staring amazed at her phone. The rumor spread in the corridor and everybody started exulting and congratulating Kirsi. This year only five researchers in the whole Finland received this important grant worth two million euros. Kirsi’s ERC project is the first granted to the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry of the University of Helsinki.

Kudos to Kirsi from all your research group. We are extremely proud of you!


Happy faces at the party for the recently funded Assist. Prof. Kirsi Mikkonen’s ERC-CoG Partiface project.

ERC cake designed and prepared by Ida Nikkilä

Writing retreat in Lammi 7.-9.10.2019

Our previous writing and networking retreat in October 2018 was such an excellently productive and positive experience that again in October 2019, the Food Materials Science Research Group, reinforced with Vice Dean of Research, Prof. Maija Tenkanen and her Carbohydrate Enzymology and Chemistry Group, and the Aalto Protein Team, led by Prof. Emma Master, spent three days at the Lammi Biological Station of the University of Helsinki.

The classroom was reserved for quiet working, where we reached an amazing flow experience for writing. Group meetings, face-to-face or via Skype, and many scientific discussions were held outside of the classroom. Fabio introduced us a modern idea about writing together an article in 24 hours, which we experimented. We enjoyed lively conversations, did a hiking trip to the nearby Evo forest area, picked mushrooms, and tasted them as an evening snack. Of course we enjoyed also delicious meals at breakfast, lunch, coffee breaks and dinner. The food was wonderful, and we could focus all our energy in writing. Evening sauna by the Pääjärvi lake was relaxing, and swimming in the fresh cold water kept our minds clear and sharp.

Refreshing summer trip in Suomenlinna

The Food Materials Science Research Group and the Carbohydrate Chemistry and Enzymology Group spent a refreshing recreational day at Suomenlinna World Heritage Site in Helsinki. On the way to the Suomenlinna ferry at the Market Square, the groups visited some of the University of Helsinki City Center Campus facilities, such as the beautiful main library and inspirational Think Corner. At Suomenlinna sea fortress, the groups attended a guided tour to learn about the complex and vivid history of the venue. After the exciting tour, we headed for a lovely three-course dinner and drinks at a local bistro. Lively conversations continued about Finnish history and grammar amongst other relaxed subjects.

European network for aerogel researchers was launched

Aerogels are ultra-light but very strong materials. They are studied for example as thermal insulators, controlled release for drugs, and templates for cell cultures for tissue engineering.

The European Union has granted funding for AERoGELS, a network of aerogel researchers with 36 participating countries. Finland is represented in AERoGELS by assistant professor Kirsi Mikkonen from the University of Helsinki and associate professor Henrikki Liimatainen from the University of Oulu.

AERoGELS is one of the EU-funded COST Actions and it provides funding for networking.

”Our meetings are scientific seminars where we present our research findings to other partners, learn about their work, and have the possibility to plan for potential future projects together. AERoGELS provides all aerogel researchers in Finland an opportunity to network with international experts, collaborate, and benefit from infrastructures offered by the partners”, says Kirsi Mikkonen.

She says that one of the greatest benefits of COST Actions is the funding provided for “Short Term Scientific Missions”, i.e., research visits between partner countries. “It was a wonderful opportunity for me already during my doctoral studies to visit and conduct part of my research at top international laboratories. Later, I have encouraged the doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers of my group to use this great advantage provided by COST Actions.”


The news in Finnish: 

Festive celebration for the Tandem Forest Values projects

The Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry (KSLA) organized their annual Commemorative Meeting at the magnificent City Hall of Stockholm on 28.1.2019. Her Royal Highness, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden delivered the Academy Awards, including diplomas for the Tandem Forest Values bilateral projects between Sweden and Finland. Assistant Professor Kirsi Mikkonen was happy to represent the ROCK project at this impressive ceremony, which ended with a festive dinner at the splendid golden banquet hall.

Conference in China

In May 2018, doctoral student Mamata Bhattarai and postdoctoral researcher Fabio Valoppi from the Food Materials Science group, and doctoral student Yaqin Wang and university lecturer Ndegwa Maina from the Cereal Science group participated as speakers at the 14th International Hydrocolloid Conference in Nanchang (China). Mamata and Fabio presented the last findings of our group on the factors governing the formation of spruce galactoglucomannans assemblies in aqueous solutions and the role of spruce galactoglucomannans soluble and insoluble fractions on the physical stability of oil in water emulsions.

The conference had more than 300 participants, more than 100 speakers of which 13 invited. The last day, the participants had the possibility to visit the State Key Laboratory of Food Science and Technology of Nanchang University.

Mamata and Fabio not only had a fruitful time listening to and networking with international experts in the hydrocolloids area but also enjoyed the delicious local food (especially hot pot!).

Two interesting events to come:

 “Battle for natural resources” –event @Think Corner

What is the future of our forests, water reserves and minerals? “Battle of natural resources” –event holds three interesting and feisty panel discussion about forest, water, and minerals.

In forest discussion the panellist are Olli Tahvonen, Kirsi Mikkonen, and Anni Arponen. Antti Belinskij, Janne-Markus Rintala, and Suvi Ignatius will discuss water. Anni Huhtala, Kai Kokko, and Petri Peltonen will discuss minerals.

Event will be held at Think Corner at Thursday 19th of April at 5 pm. The event is part of the Hope for Globe event (12.4-25.4).

More information about the event:

The language of the event is Finnish.


Partnerships for sustainable solutions -event @Think Corner

The event will bring researchers and stakeholders together to solve the most instant sustainability challenges through co-creation. The aim is to combine latest academic knowledge to innovations for concrete solutions to sustainability challenges.

In the event Kirsi Mikkonen is pitching about spruce gum and its role of stabilizing food in a sustainable way.

The event is held at Think Corner at Wednesday 16th of May at 2 pm.

Event is in Finnish and registration is needed.

More information about the event:

The event is part of the HELSUS Sustainability Science Days 2018, which will be held as a two-day event from Wednesday to Thursday on 16th-17th May 2018. There are several locations for the event.