Fresh ideas and collaboration – summary of Flavoria Innovation Festival

The first Flavoria Innovation Festival, organized in November, brought together students from various fields to solve real life company challenges related to the food chain. During the week-long event the student teams were sparred by expert mentors, got to know the Design Sprint -process and practiced pitching with a coach. On the last event day the got to present their ideas to the companies.

The week was coordinated by the Functional Foods Forum of the University of Turku, together with Yrityssalo Oy and Turku School of Economics. The other faculties of the Flavoria® research platform were also involved in the organization. The innovation week was a part of the Varsifood-project. The team wanted to focus especially on challenges related to food chain and sustainable development, which require multidisciplinary expertise:

– Developing the food chain is significant in reaching climate goals. By renewing global food chain we can prevent for instance climate crisis and loss of biodiversity, states the innovation week’s coordinator Emma Sivula from the University of Turku.

The week took place both in the premises of SparkUp Turku and Flavoria at the University of Turku. Hosting the week in Flavoria felt natural due to the multidisciplinary nature of the research platform:

– The research restaurant Flavoria offers just the right type of platform for collaboration between businesses and multidisciplinary student teams. The research and development conducted in Flavoria supports achieving sustainable food chain, describes development manager Mari Norrdal (University of Turku).

The company challenges of the week related to both product development, process renewal and improving customer understanding. The company challenges came from Sodexo OyOy Lunden Ab Jalostaja and Leipomo Rosten Oy.

Lightning talks to idea mapping and pitching

Student team working on their pitch.

The innovation week included presentation from different experts of the field, one-to-one mentoring and going through the current functions with company representatives. The week was kicked off with and opening event, where the participants heard serial entrepreneur Ronny Eriksson’s thoughts on transforming ideas into action, and entrepreneur and professor of practice Reetta Kivelä’s views on challenges of the food chain and their relation to climate goals.

The ideas were tackled with the help of Design Sprint –process, including for instance idea mapping, looking at challenges from an opportunity point of view, searching for information and coming up with solutions within a limited amount of time. The tasks were aiming to produce creative ideas, but also to gradually limit the options to one solution that the team focused on. The students described the week to be intense, but fun.

According to the students, one of the highlights of the week was pitching coaching by author and coach Juhana Torkki. During the session all the teams got to practice performing and got individual feedback. On Friday these lessons were put to practice when the final solutions were presented to the companies.

Juhana Torkki.

Fresh ideas, new acquaintances and positive vibes

In their feedback, the students agreed that the best parts of the week was learning new skills, collaboration with the companies and mentors, as well as a chance to make a difference solving real life challenges. A positive team spirit with the other participants was also praised. The teams also received help from the organizing team of Varsifood-project, Mari Norrdal, Hilkka Halla and Emma Sivula, as well as Samuel Piha from the University of Turku.

The company representatives felt they achieved fresh ideas by participating, but also confirmation for their previous plans:

It was amazing to see how within such a short time and with no previous knowledge of the field, the students began tackling our company challenge with an open-minded attitude. The students are also our customers and possibly our employees in the future. Therefore, it is very valuable to hear what they think and what kind of ideas they have for developing our business. Pirita Pohjanne, Sodexo Oy

The organizing team highlighted collaboration between the students and companies, which was also felt by the company representatives:

It was great to follow the work of a multidisciplinary student team. The collaboration gave our company new ideas for future product development. Ville Lyytikkä, Oy Lunden Jalostaja Ab

I hope the collaboration will continue in the future and we are pleased to take into practice the ideas born so far. Thomas Silfverberg, Leipomo Rosten Oy

The innovation week is meant to become a stable part of Flavoria’s activities also in the future, and the event will also be organized in the autumn next year with new company challenges. According to Emma Sivula the organizing team hopes to see students from multiple fields, whether or not working with challenges related to the food chain are previously familiar to them:

– The theme will continue to be challenges related to the food chain, and the reguest for multidisciplinary knowledge will continue to grow in the future. We will need knowledge for instance of product development, marketing, sales, administration, communications and logistics. The innovation week is a great opportunity to collaborate and network with students from different fields.

You can also take a look at the festival vibes from the video below: