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Hey you, forward-thinking startup founder! Aalto University wants to help you

Written by Elsa Snellman, Communications Coordinator at Aalto University. 


Aalto University is home to education and multidisciplinary research. But we also believe that a large share of societal impact happens via companies and businesses. Innovative and sustainable services and products are essential to achieving change. 

And in that context, startups are the most valuable asset. That is why we are developing Aalto University as Europe’s most vibrant startup platform. We’re providing cross-campus collaboration, hands-on experiential programmes, workspaces, mentorship and incubation services. Up to 100 companies are founded every year in our ecosystem and 50% of Finnish startups from universities come from the Aalto community.  

Whether you’re an Aalto alumnus or not, we are keen to hear about your idea or venture. Here are some concrete ways we can help you, whatever it is you’re working on. 


You’re good to go with just an initial idea

Do you have a bunch of great ideas bubbling under, but you haven’t yet taken the first concrete steps to turn those into a viable product? That’s not a problem – we’re all about transforming your ideas into a hands-on impact.

The Aalto University entrepreneurial ecosystem is built to support and foster budding entrepreneurs like you every step of the way. Our goal is to be the best place to start up, pick an idea, and run with it.  

So get out of that garage and get to know what we have to offer. 

Kiuas has been helping the most promising early-stage startups in Finland one way or another since 2010. Their recently-launched program, Kiuas Start, enables you to validate your idea, secure your first customers and push your progress to the next level. The best part? It’s completely free and zero-equity.

Startup Center, a hybrid accelerator based in Aalto’s creative entrepreneurial community center A Grid, offers incubation and acceleration services. 

You’ve probably heard the saying: if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. We don’t know about that, but we can be sure that you’ll encounter a pretty high density of great minds in A Grid, which is currently home to more than 150 companies. 

At A Grid, you’ll have plenty of peer support and opportunities to utilize the campus infrastructure to collaborate, create and learn together with people and teams who share your goal of becoming a groundbreaking founder. 

Enough encouragement? We hope so. All you need is a bright mind with a seed of an idea – we’ll provide the useful soil. 


We help you turn your research into business.

Are you a researcher who’s all thumbs when it comes to commercializing your research? We at Aalto believe that a researcher’s role is to maintain their laser focus on their inventions while we ensure that the great things you come up with do not fall under the radar. 

Aalto Innovation Services takes care of the commercialization of inventions, intellectual property and technology transfer at Aalto University. They help you convert your research results to applicable societal impact through assisting you to turn the results into impact, MVPs and eventually customers. You can also search for patents and technologies to not waste your productivity and creativity on the wheel that someone already invented. 

The most potential Aalto research-based teams have the opportunity to participate in the Aalto Startup Center and to benefit from their versatile entrepreneurship service – and the rest can be quite delightful history.  

One of Aalto University’s rising stars is ICEYE, a company developing and commercializing synthetic-aperture radar technology for satellites. ICEYE’s founding partners are both Aalto University alumni, and the company has been based on the campus since they started it in 2014. ICEYE grew out of a university-led nano-satellite research program called Aalto-1. 

It goes both ways, too: if you’re an entrepreneur whose startup could benefit from having access to a lab environment, we got you covered.


We unleash the true power of design

If you thought that design is just about shapes, colours, imagery and catchy descriptions, think again. Companies often have a rather superficial understanding of design, focusing on aesthetics and form. Or they have taken the next step and adopted a service design attitude, which encompasses end-to-end user experiences. But we want more! 

At Aalto University, we’re holistically approaching design, and we want to encourage companies to see design as something that infuses all aspects of your business.  Design allows you to develop your product or service not in isolation but in relationship with the need of end-users, the surrounding community, and the environment. It’s about people, planet and profit. 

Drop by Startup Center and spar with our designers-in-residence! 


You don’t need to become an entrepreneur to think like one

You definitely don’t need to be an entrepreneur-in-making to benefit from our community – being a “nonpreneur” will do just fine.

What’s a nonpreneur? 

We believe that applying entrepreneurial thinking skills to just about any given activity comes with terrific, unexpected results. Be it arts, design, politics, or journalism that your career path is leading towards, looking at things through an entrepreneurial lens can give you the perspective you didn’t even think of. 

Whatever lies ahead, we’d love to give you a little something for the road. That little something is a good bunch of practical tools and basic knowledge of what kind of building blocks and tricks it takes to build a startup or learn to think like an entrepreneur – at least sometimes. 

Last year, Aalto Ventures Program, alongside Kiuas, and Reaktor, created Starting Up: a free, open-for-all university course, teaching the fundamentals of startup entrepreneurship. 

Above all, by creating this course, we try to ensure that no lesson goes unlearned due to a lack of access to the entrepreneurial 101. We hope as many people who NEVER thought of themselves as entrepreneurs will take the course. 

It’s free and always will be – just remember the art of paying forward and tell someone unexpected about it.


Interdisciplinarity is our superpower

Our strength is in our diversity. As a university with roots deep in business, tech, arts and design, our foundation stone is already a multidisciplinary one. We firmly believe that the best ideas are born out of interdisciplinary innovation. When the going gets tough, it’s challenging to be “sufficiently” innovative with knowledge capital in just one field. Luckily, our whole existence is a solution to that very problem. 

Whatever your background is, we’re willing to surround all entrepreneurs and nonpreneurs alike with a supportive environment where you are exposed to unconventional things, ideas, and people daily. When unexpected things happen, good things will follow. 

Your future co-founder, first customer, or a best-selling product might not be at all who or what you think that they are. But they might very well be made in Aalto.


 At Node by Slush, we will be showcasing Aalto’s entrepreneurial mindset and versatile expertise linked to startups. And as always, we’re open to collaboration, discussion and radical innovations. Are you already part of our network?